paper • 120 pages • 15.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-935536-11-6

In a Beautiful Country

Kevin Prufer


In a Beautiful Country, Kevin Prufer’s fifth collection, examines America’s suburbs and exurbs where “The thrown newspaper fails / to reach the steps.” Taking place beside hospital beds and amid outlet malls, within earshot of military bases and in light of horror movies, these poems mourn the loss of parents, friends, and our sense of our nation. A follow-up to the critically acclaimed National Anthem (Publishers’ Weekly 5 Best Poetry Books of 2008, Poets’ Prize Finalist), In a Beautiful Country takes us into the new century carrying our gasmasks and our pulsebombs. “Give them to your children, they’re useless now” intones a God as unable to understand human dejection as we are to comprehend His plans—or to know the lives of distant strangers who have “fallen that morning or early afternoon, / according to numerous conflicting reports.”

In a Beautiful Country offers a bittersweet love song for the possibility of a country that has become a military complex where familiarity makes the gun’s “click of metal in the chamber” sound softer than “the plummet of leaves.” Yet amid causes for despair, these poems hope for futurity and posterity. Turning to the ballad-like rhythms of Thomas Gray, Prufer critiques romanticized visions of art while asserting poetry’s role in citizenship. In the final poem “Post Script,” poems and receipts and secretaries and snow flakes blend together: “Here are the poems I have gathered / and this is the receipt.”

“Love Poem,” from In a Beautiful Country:

I’ll make you a bomb. First the booster gas canister,
then the heat shield, then the radium case, which, yes,
is shaped like a peanut. I’ll make you a bomb,
first the heat field, then the lenses that drive
the implosion, and last the radiation space, which,
yes, is shaped like a peanut. I’ll make you a bomb,
first the space filler, then the glass lenses,
which, careful, may implode. I’ll make you a swan,
first a crease here, then a crease there, a quick tuck
for the wings, an explosion of flight. I’ll make you a swan,
one-two-three folds and now it’s done, but it will not fly,
its wing tips burning like fuses. I’ll make you a dress,
don’t you love me? a nip and a tuck and three pins
to hold it tight. I’ll make you a little white dress,
inside it your heart says bang, bang, bang, your mind
like a swan’s. Careful, it’s shaped like a peanut,
careful of when it decays, careful, it may implode.
Don’t you love me? Look what I’ve made you.
Praise by Publisher's Weekly
Praise by The New Yorker
Praise by David Doran

“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.”

The America of Prufer’s fourth collection is an empire in decline, a medicated landscape (“snow like little tranquilizers all over the yard”) […] the thin wire between political failure and personal grief is taut throughout.”

“A beautiful poetry… like the best love songs, the poems in this book are absolutely fearless, and demand respect.”