I met Nate Pritts at a chapbook festival in NYC several years ago. He was representing H_NGM_N, the small press he created in 2001. We spoke briefly about the poetry of William Heyen, the possibilities of the lyric essay and chapbooks. I remember feeling totally at ease in our conversation. It was honest: no academic fencing, just two people talking about what poetry could be. Since then I’ve been interested in his work, and when the opportunity came to talk about Nate Pritts’ most recent book (he has five previous full-length books and many chapbooks), I couldn’t resist. Like our brief conversation, Right Now More Than Ever is honest, engaging and inspiring.
The title suggests an urgency that charges the entire collection and is repeated as the heading for each of the book’s three section breaks. The primary concern for Pritts here is the ephemerality of existence — the need to know things in their layered presences, and love them, before they’re gone. I was reminded of the “saints and poets” from Wilder’s Our Town: those who “realize life while they live it…every, every minute.” This is a standard poet’s call, to carpe diem, to love life, but in Pritts’ hands, it achieves urgency with a tenderness and luster that makes it real.
In his words, from the longer poem, “Rise Time”:
Here Pritts invites at least three perspectives: the speaker’s (presumably his own), the friend’s, and the reader’s, who in turn might assume the role of the speaker seeking “deep attention” or the friend that takes in all at once. These multiple perspectives enhance the layered feeling of the poem while inviting the reader to participate in its meaning. Pritts’ juxtaposition of real and abstract elements and his use of fractured lines, takes in everything from toys to planets while making a place for us at his kitchen table.
The images in these poems also extend an invitation. They are clear and accessible while achieving a kind of universality that allows the reader to claim them. From “Locomotive In Autumn”:
Simple concepts are enflamed by the setting sun as we have all seen our world aflame at the end of the day and wondered at it, more perfect in its passing. Pritts enters the poem as goldenrod, then as a tree trying to stave off the inevitable, or at least hold on to what he can for as long as possible. The language is sincere and affecting; it achieves the quality of late afternoon light.
Pritts best offers and celebrates his world as a layered experience, lived through multiple perspectives at once. These lines from “In Memory of My Feelings”:
The poetry in this book drew me in and held me for several todays of reading and thinking. That’s what I want every book of poetry to do — to inspire me to “deep attention,” to make sense of right now in my own way. The book is full of epiphany and rapture and the quiet falling of leaves. Get two copies of this book. Give one to a friend so that when you have both read it you can talk about what you’ve found. As Pritts says in the brilliantly titled “Origami Bird in October Monday Light”:
Right Now More Than Ever is available from H_NGM_N Books
Peter Vanderberg served in the US Navy from 1999 — 2003 and received a MFA in Poetry from CUNY Queens College. His work has appeared in CURA, Assisi and Newtown Literary among other journals and is featured in collaboration with his brother James’ paintings in their book, Weather-Eye (Ghostbird Press, 2011). He teaches at St. John’s Preparatory School and Hofstra University and lives on Long Island with his wife and three children.