Fallen from the Symboled World: Precedents for the New Formalism
Writing in the New York Times Book Review , Melanie Rehak has observed that Prunty has devoted his career to "examining the ways in which human experience is made up of small traditions bound together into a larger story—the subset of ritual within narrative. In writing about personal experience and family, as he often does, Prunty is not engaged in self-scrutiny but instead is seeking to connect with a larger set of meanings. The range of Prunty's poetry in form and subject is impressive. His impulse is usually narrative and ultimately philosophical. His poem "A Winter's Tale" speculates on the birth of his son, which signifies the completion of a cycle of death and resurrection:.
Ian, your birth was my close land Turned green, the stone rolled back for leaving, My father dead and you returned. His poem "Blood" meditates on the rhythmic participation of human life in an ancient process.
It does so in a way that is characteristic of Prunty's approach to a subject: he begins with the literal nature of a subject, in this case the fact that the circulation of blood sustains human life:. Blood brings oxygen to the body and keeps it alive. Having established this, the poem moves to symbolic and metaphoric properties:.
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Scripted in a secret and minute hand That writes itself and signs its origins In unrepeated blues and reds The blood holds to its systole and diastole. Blood, in this regard, is a link to our ancient origins, both in fact and in metaphor "bloodline". Prunty's longer narrative poems are especially impressive. In "The Depression, the War, and Gypsy Rose Lee" he muses over a photograph of his parents taken in , before their children were born.
The photo becomes a symbol of the mystery and uncertainty of life. The poet sees in the picture the history of everything that followed the momentit preserved, yet he knows also that the young faces in the picture suspect nothing of their future:. Locked arms to pose a photograph Surviving all these two survived No hint of what they saw ahead Making them smile. The poem is reminiscent of the work of poet Robert Frost, in such poems as "Out, Out" and "After Apple Picking," but while Frost usually drives toward a clearly enunciated theme, Prunty allows events to speak for themselves, without mediation.
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The boy finds the work difficult, but he persists and at the end of the day feels elated about what he has done. He stumbles across a nest of yellow jackets and is stung.
Fallen from the Symboled World - Precedents for the New Formalism (Electronic book text, New ed.)
The men take care of him, waiting for the doctor, apparently unconcerned, and the boy listens to their talk:. Lie there, boy, And listen to their neutral voices— Used for selecting seed, planting, calving, Used when wringing necks or cutting calves to steers, Used for harvest, slaughter, funerals, drought— And August always turns to drought, One baking gust that cures the grass Like a breath inhaled and held So long that light turns colors.
In some narratives Prunty more aggressively questions the meaning of events: "Falling through the Ice" describes how people tell and retell the story of a boy who drowns in a frozen pond. They do so:. Because it pulls us back again This side of what no man Has ever laddered over with a name A riddle, a story, a children's game. They know the event signifies something about human life, its capricious unpredictability; they are fascinated by their own powerlessness Unarmed and Dangerous.
His book of essays about modern poetry, Fallen from the Symboled World: Precedents for the New Formalism , was published in He has also edited or coedited several literary anthologies. Hide Caption. Wyatt Prunty.
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Unarmed and Dangerous. Further Reading. Contemporary Authors , New Revision Series, vol. James Press, , Cite This Article.
Similitude and Poetry
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Jennine Hough b. Zachariah Augustus Anderson II. Judith Priddy-Orr A florid nineteenth-century calligraphy becomes the perfect medium for conveying the lethal sentimentalities that lured a generation of very young men to death or disfigurement in the American Civil War.
The first presents death through a distancing, sardonic lens; the second presumes to speak the unspeakable—and succeeds. His first book of poems, Blue Norther , appeared in Your time at college is too important to get a shallow education in which viewpoints are shut out and rigorous discussion is shut down.
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