Kevin Prufer's arresting fifth book examines the possibilities of and for love within a deeply complicated cultural moment. A natural follow up to the themes in his previous collection, National Anthem, the poems of In a Beautiful Country are meditations on one's connection to faith, love, and country— and the loss of all three of these ideals.
In the poem "To the 20th Century" Prufer personifies the period, ending on a stark note:
And if it finds no comfort from your visit,
put a pillow to its mouth, and, so, be done
Poetic tradition is also front and center in the collection; in terms of subject matter, Prufer critiques a romanticized view of art while asserting it as an essential value in our country's history. Also notable is Prufer's skillful use of traditional form; the presence of rhyme, meter, sonnets, and ars poeticae creates a complex and rich collection.
This book review originally appeared in American Poet, Fall 2011, Issue 41.