I just finished Meghan Privitello’s A New Language for Falling Out of Love. I had a student this past semester who was vehemently opposed to prose poems, so it’s made me sensitive to reading them recently… giving me both pause and a sense of defensiveness. I think reading this book full of them has helped reset my love for prose in poetry.
One element I argued with my student is that prose poems aren’t stories, aren’t prosaic, are leaning heavily on language since there are no line breaks. Privitello’s poems are beautiful in their language and mystery. The opening of “The Good Life” is a good example. “The heart tires of being a radio. It wants to rock itself to sleep at night. It wants to roll off its shelf and become a stone.” Of course, in a book of love poems, the heart can’t be ignored, but the metaphor felt fresh to me, and developing into a further metaphor of a stone, while hearkening to a cliché, felt different again, coming from the aspect of a machine turning silent and hard.
Nature filters through all these poems, cows in fields and earthquakes, katydids and constellations. There are everyday, mundane objects that shine out from their placement in the poems. “It would be easier to suck on butterscotch candies than memorialize every last breath.” “Your onion memory makes me cry bitter milk when I cut it through.” There’s also humor, “You say heaven is within us, but how could we hold onto so much sky and still wear the same pants size?” Every poem had some gem that sparkled.
I have a hard time writing love poems, so I always enjoy reading how someone interprets relationships and romance. Privitello’s book gave me plenty to sift through and think about. I’ll be going back to it again, I’m sure.