By Kevin Prufer
2008; 82pp; Pa; Four Way Books, P.O. Box 535, Village Station, New
York, NY 10014. $15.95
"There is nothing so lonely as an empire detached from its people," writes Prufer in his poem "What We Did with the Empire." If anything, that line could well serve as the thesis statement for this collection of more than 40 poems by the English professor at the University of Central Missouri and editor of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing. In two sections, the slim book collects poems that consider the failings and foibles of politics and government, urban life and consumerism -- belated wakeup calls for citizens of a police state that's constantly at war with other nations (and itself). The tenor and tone is largely one of careful but unavoidable and perhaps understandable neutrality and distance -- reminding me slightly of the prose of Ben Marcus and the comic books of Peter Milligan -- and Prufer's imagery is strong but subtle: birds and boats, coins and coffins, snow and soot. This is a poetry of decay and decline, and there's little hope in the book outside of the occasional lines like, "and the office towers bending down to us as if they'd cup us in their hands and warm us, / as if they'd lift us from the streets before we froze." ("We Wanted to Find America") Too little, too late, for now, and for that, I am thankful.
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