Churches explores the way our experience of the world is shaped through the stories we tell about ourselves. These poems braid multiple narratives that often take place in different times, or are seen through the eyes of various speakers. Here, Prufer explores the interior and subjective nature of time as he engages with mortality, both as a cultural construct and a deeply personal, unarticulatable anxiety: “In this filtered light, / my brain is a nimbler thing, and strange. It loves / the slow derangements distance brings.”
“Poetry,” from Churches:
That car was burning. Are there any questions? It rested on its roof, flipped. Are there any questions? The windshield had scattered its pointed little thoughts over the pavement. Hello? The wheels were muscle only and knew little, spinning pointlessly against the air. The radio glowed like my heart, and it sang like my heart. Even now, the man inside tries not to sleep. Anyone? How darkness makes beautiful the same fire daylight ignores. How that queer flower blooms best at night. I saw the whole thing. Here I am. Up here.
It’s a rickety balcony I’m standing on. Then the car crash turned the houselights on, so there you all are gathered at your windows. The ambulance purred to a stop, its great red heart flashing over the houses. It warms the skin, and when I move, the planks below me want to break– Won’t you cut his seatbelt with those clippers? Won’t you haul him out so I can see? –then down I’ll fall past my neighbors’ windows, down I’ll tumble to where the car is burning, to where that man sleeps inside it and the column of smoke is invisible in the night and you won’t notice my descent, no, you won’t cry out, you won’t turn and gather around me, you won’t ask me any questions at all.
“Kevin Prufer is one of our best poets from the younger generation who still believe in the pure power of the lyric, the rhythm, and the force of the voice … This is one of the best books of 2011.” – Bloomsbury Review
“A rare poetry collection: as angry and ironic over the state of contemporary America—figured here as a great classical empire in decline—as it is funny and perversely pleasurable.” – Publishers Weekly, Best Books of the Year
“Churches (Four Way Books, 2014) is a collection that dazzles with sound and macabre landscapes where anything is possible….Prufer is a poet that you can trust with your mind. He may bring you to the reaches of subjective reality but you always return somehow more whole and with a greater understanding of the human conditions of suffering, grief, love, and fear.” Read the full review.
“Prufer (In a Beautiful Country) suffuses a landscape of strange, near-apocalyptic Americana with off-kilter religiosity and consciousness of mortality, featuring statesmen, children, lovers, a dying father, and the scepter-like presence of a young daughter.” Read the full review.
“Many of the poems in Churches, by Kevin Prufer, are full of fire, smoke, and broken glass. Their speakers often find themselves in a world figured as a womb of violence, forced to face—without the solace of religious abstraction, and often under the harshest of conditions—human mortality. Out of these wombs is born, for the reader, a necessity to contemplate the role of faith in our attempts to survive and understand the harm done to us by circumstances, or by others, but also to consider that the harms we suffer are often of our own doing. These poems frequently illustrate the failure of the coping mechanisms that we have come to rely upon in a post-Nietzschean world where religious faith is either absent, or, even worse, destructive.” Read the full review.
“The poems in Churches are composed of materials that, in lesser hands, could become prescriptive and moralizing. But what makes these poems so ephemeral and tough is the way Prufer lets his stories and subjects speak for themselves, eluding any attempt we might make to reduce them to their constituent parts.” Read the full review.
“Kevin Prufer’s sixth book, Churches, weaves narratives past and present into graceful, sprawling poems. Most poems in the book, such as the first one, ‘Potential Energy is Stored Energy,’ use a split narrative structure. In that poem, the heat of bomb in train is juxtaposed with the heat of a fever in a baby. It is a powerful device and Prufer puts it to good use in the collection.” Read the full review.