Monday, February 16, 2009

Apocalyptic Poetry

At the end of the year, I noticed that Kevin Prufer's National Anthem was on several Best Poetry of 2008 type lists, so I added it to a recent Amazon order.

I read it in one sitting. I could not put it down. I find myself thinking of it often.

It has an apocalyptic theme, as it wrestles with issues of empire and the end of empire and death. For people who want their poetry to uplift them, this may not be the book for you. But if you want your poetry to make you see the world differently, read this book.

I know that many poets wrestle with the idea of how to put a volume of poems together, and this book would be a good example of a book of poems tied together by theme. I don't think I see any kind of narrative arc; the volume begins in bleakness and ends in bleakness.

It's strange that I found bleakness a reason to not fall in love with Slumdog Millionaire. I liked the movie well enough, but I didn't find it uplifting, the way some people promised that I would. The unrelenting depiction of poverty in the movie was almost enough to make me leave midway through; I thought, I just cannot take this anymore.

But I don't feel that way about Prufer's National Anthem. When I was young, my parents told me that words were less disturbing than images; thus I was allowed to read almost anything, but they monitored what movies and television I saw. I wonder if a similar dynamic is in effect.

Or perhaps it is that his figurative language is so breathtaking that I forget about the bleakness he's describing.

In my 2009 reading plan, I said that I would read a single volume of poetry each month, in addition to all the other books I said I would read. National Anthem was my book for February. Tomorrow, I'll blog about Denise Duhamel's new volume that I read in January.

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