Nate Pritts is the author of The Wonderfull Yeare, Honorary Astronaut, & Sensational Spectacular. His writing has also appeared in The Southern Review, Jacket, Gulf Coast, DIAGRAM, Rain Taxi Review of Books, Octopus, & Forklift, Ohio among many others.
"Nate Pritts's Big Bright Sun probably feels so thoroughly lived because reading it feels so like living in it."
"[Pritts's] poems quietly say disquieting things, carefully, patiently, for the love of poetry.”
Since this isn't a review, I think its OK for me to tell you some things about myself, not that I will reveal much. That is, if everything should work out, I won't be hiding or pretending, but I won't be telling you anything more than Nate Pritts, who names himself here and there in his book, is telling us anything about himself. Besides, what are we beyond what happens to us? Is there a child born in these pages? A marriage allowed to spoil, then molder? An abandonment, hitchhikes into irresponsibility? Bad faith and friendships broken by the blunt ax-edge of passing time? Sure; maybe. And this is one of the reasons why I want you to read Big Bright Sun, so you too can squint into the realizations that stream out, center and edge, from these poems.
They sing, the poems in Big Bright Sun, and they sing in such a way that you might imagine someone singing along. Rising and falling in them all feathery with soft blacks, withdrawn, a Cure fan and true believer in operatic Disintegration mope. Only occasionally slipping hits of Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me ecstasy, even though those indulgences aren't easy to admit to, much less confess. There are exclamation marks blossoming everywhere in Big Bright Sun, and affirmations embracing their own vulnerability. I never doubt this person, or his voice, even in its "awesome!"-ness, or take his excitements for ironies. This is delight, being absolved from cringing at escape pods and deflector shields borrowed from Star Wars and lines like these:
as if the past was something
that just happened yesterday & the future
will be something like a tin saucer landing in your front yard.
I can smile at lines like those and mean it. Which is not to say Big Bright Sun is a book defined by ease. Work has a place in these pages. I mean, I can say that I like Big Bright Sun because, in hoping from, poem to poem, that I will like whatever I read next in its pages, I find in me who is capable of such enjoyment . . . not untrammeled, certainly not unadulterated, sometimes even ragged and wraith-like, but nevertheless a person who can admit "I can."
So, yes, there's happiness in the book, but much of the time, that happiness assumes the form of some haunting. Is happiness really just an intense desire to be happy? Could it be that happiness has an accomplice in nostalgia, that longing for moods that were once more intense, that broken if healing recall not of any specific feeling, but the capacity to feel at all? One poem in Big Bright Sun is entitled "Monday, Monday," and cycles, line by line, though an entire year of what might be beginnings but speak more in the language of false starts. "Monday, Monday"'s form is a kind of whimsy, but the words themselves are sad, sometimes even desperate. Inside this charm is heartbreak, and you don't even have to crack the former open to find the latter.
I make a sandwich. I drink grape juice. I peel an orange.
Today I am a lute in a window & there is no breeze.
Today I am a window with a lute in it. No breeze.
I am a breeze not blowing: over there: a window, a lute.
I peel an orange. I eat.
Is this a chronicle? What are we peering into? Maybe you can read these as letters, open but one-sided. Or postcards (which hardly anyone remembers), chatty but also somehow abrupt, in the way people who are moving on often must be. The someone singing all over Big Bright Sun is tracking and covering a specific distance, a distance that looks like hope, that weird blend of expectation and endurance. If Big Bright Sun has a refrain, I have to paraphrase it: "This is how far I am from being the person I want to be."
Big Bright Sun is also making notes for a map. A map whose meridians and isotherms and orthogonals all point to how achingly between becoming is. Becoming hurts, but becoming doesn't suck. I mean, becoming is too elastic, too organic — which is maybe another way of saying "necessary" — to bend back on itself to the point where it breaks. Yet there's no way becoming doesn't accelerate as you grow older. The poems here understand so much about aging, and they act out that understanding on our behalf. (There are selves who long pre-date us who believed the sun would not take its radial course unless impelled by sacrifice.)
The sun, for instance, is a big idea.
A big, doomed idea. It burns itself out
trying to keep us happy & warm.
Please realize that this is my goal too [. . .]
Maybe you will weary yourself on Big Bright Sun's endless waning summers, its spectrum of 70's shag carpet colors (oranges and purples), its gardens and aviaries, its transcendent imminences, its incandescence, how pleased these poems can be by their own analogies and tropes, their flourishes, their long sentences staging grand productions crossing line breaks and the gulfs between stanzas on beautiful deus ex machina crescendos of "and " and "&", their reliance on the comforts afforded by the notions that experiences are "things," enumerable, convertible. Me, I'm comfortable with it all keeps me cozy in my awkwardness. And because Big Bright Sun hums and rumbles with so much that is, yes, good, the fan in me will be rooting for the fan in you to make your own big deal of its sounds and its sympathies, throbbing like the high numbers in a pair of good, clamping headphones, or the black light in that room that will always be yours.
So, like this someone calling to us out of Big Bright Sun's pages, let's respond by resetting ourselves in sensation. Doing so is not giving into a siren's song. Rather, its recognizing that some songs are living only for singing along.
I know the flowers will sing in the loud sunlight
& what they sing will sound so right it won't matter if it is.
What are we joining? Since it is no use in injuring ourselves with speculations, let's return to noticing these worlds whose lives don't really need us, for maybe they aren't all that indifferent. Maybe they just propose an attitude that we can't name but, in our trying to describe it, can free us from needing ourselves.