Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In a Beautiful Country Reviewed in the California Journal of Poetics

Reviewed by M. Zobel.

Kevin Prufer’s fifth collection of poetry, In a Beautiful Country, depicts a startling landscape that is eroded by war, violence, grief, and alienation. Prufer populates this landscape with a variety of voices–a merciless God, a grieving son, a war veteran, and speakers alternately buried alive and witnessing decay. The wide vocal and thematic scope of this collection speak to Prufer’s breadth of vision, something he addresses directly in the poem “Distant Strangers” when he urges the reader, “Take a catalog, if you’d like, / though the color reproductions / can’t quite capture / the scope of my enormous project.” The enormity of his project does not startle the reader as much as the moments when Prufer transforms familiar images into unsettling starkness. In his country of charred trees, falling angels, missiles and bombs, and perpetual snowstorms, “boys idle in pick-ups / while a spring rain dots their windshields / with a million tiny bombs.” Over the course of the book, the poems themselves become the angels that “crashed through the trees, / so the yard was a scatter / of bent, failing bodies.”

At the center of Prufer’s honest observation of contemporary American society lies the image of falling, a motion both literal and figurative ...