paper • 130 pages • 16.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-945588-72-3
Pub Date: February 15, 2021

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The Art of Fiction

Kevin Prufer

Editor’s Pick for Library Journal
Featured in Library Journal‘s “Books and Authors To Know: Poetry Titles To Watch 2021”

In this his eighth collection of poetry (and fifth with Four Way Books), Prufer’s career-spanning talent for estranging the familiar—and also for recording the unthinkable with eerie directness—recurs, enhanced and transformed by the collection’s meta-level attention to the role of fiction in our civic lives. Prufer describes, often through personae, a near future, tracing there the political gambit of Fake News and the role of the imagination in our self-understanding (whether it’s cogent or delusional). Via both satire and direct address (to the point of reader-squeamishness), Prufer aims to understand the ugly-casual atmosphere of our often racialized, pervasive distrust. The Art of Fiction fundamentally understands that fictions are deployed to divide us, and they work: they get under our skin. Prufer powerfully explores the roles of imagination and art in how we explain ourselves to ourselves.

“And He Will Guide My Craft” 

that is not a burning building it is a bonfire on the beach
and those are not soldiers they are fishermen
I am rowing us closer you will see
how those are not guns but fishing poles
a star is not a fighter plane
an island is not an aircraft carrier
and can you see the fishermen cooking their catch in the fire
I am rowing us closer
do you hear their laughter on the wind
yes it sounds like people crying but it is not
do you hear the fire popping yes it sounds like pistols
taking prisoners to the afterlife but it is not
I have always been with you
these are my hands rowing your boat
we shouldn’t be on open water when the sun rises
we will dock here this is a peaceful island
you can rest you can eat
that is not smoke it is mist wrapping the cliffs
while the fishermen tend their fires
those are not bodies they are people sleeping
we will leave our boat behind when I say run
we will run as fast as we can across the sand
don’t look back you will disappear into the woods
and I will disappear into your mind

About the Author

  • “Prufer considers the complex relationship between beauty and violence in his remarkable seventh collection of poetry, tracing the barely perceptible ways that industrial modernity ‘gilds us until we glitter.’ . . . An accomplished, highly nuanced inquiry into spectacle and spectatorship.”
  • “Prufer writes with deceptive calmness. No other poet in the U.S. so effectively employs unembellished language in the service of wildly inventive renderings as he does, and How He Loved Them, his seventh collection, is a confessional, hallucinatory warning about the future we are constructing....”
  • “A gothic extravaganza featuring alligators, avalanches and medical devices left inside bodies, delivered largely in long, musical free verse lines. Poetry at full boil, poured with deliberate abandon.”

Also by Kevin Prufer