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The Lover’s Guide to Trapping

, 72 pages
March 2009



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The Lover’s Guide to Trapping

Wyatt Prunty’s eighth collection, The Lover’s Guide to Trapping, opens with a Homeric mole who tunnels the yard then disappears, a nervous alpha dog convinced she gets less food than her sister because she eats faster, and a house wren whose loud expectation is that she be let in. And there are others who populate the pages of this book, one stray cat, one ghost, but many who are human—soldiers, prisoners, wide-eyed children, matriarchs, Verdi in despair over having cast a plump Violetta who cannot play her role as a consumptive. All of those described here are vulnerable, some of them searingly so, and all are acutely aware of just how angular their worlds can be, whether accompanied by terror or hilarity.

Wyatt Prunty is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently Unarmed and Dangerous: New and Selected Poems, also published by Johns Hopkins. His critical studies include Fallen from the Symboled World and a forthcoming collection of essays focused on poetry since World War II. He is the founding director of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and holds the Carlton Chair in poetry at Sewanee: The University of the South. He has served as the general editor of the Sewanee Writers’ Series, edited Sewanee Writers on Writing, and directs the Tennessee Williams Fellowship program. He is the recipient of numerous grants and honors, the two most recent being fellowships from the Rockefeller and Guggenheim foundations.

"These poems have depth and richness of observation that repels easy emotion and compel—and reward—repeated reading."

"In his eighth book of verse, Wyatt Prunty's low-keyed eloquence conveys an authentic ache that more declamatory poets sometimes miss."

"There are vast expanses of ordinary fabric, bejeweled by moments of existential clarity... Prunty holds everyday experience up to the light in such a way that it seems anything but. He has an exquisite hold on life."

"A distinct and distinctive voice... best looked at not amongst his peers but in the light of an earlier generation of elegant formalists, from Anthony Hecht, Richard Wilbur, and James Merrill, to the less well-known Edgar Bowers and J. V. Cunningham."

"Here is the music of our earth and its creatures—the field, the wren, the farm, the kit, the fawn, the insomniac, the soldier in his coffin, the trapper and the trapped. Individually, each of these poems finds its own ideal shape, its own ideal melody. But what gives this book its final, aching beauty is the closely mortised fit of the poems, one to all others, and the profoundly sane, faithfully tender voice of Wyatt Prunty. The concluding stanza of 'Time's Train' will endure in me forever: 'More fold than tear, so no one going anywhere,/Only seeming to. Rails parallel: time's train./ On the porch his wife sings, brushing her hair./ And everything he's thought he thinks again.'

What an incredibly beautiful piece of work.


" The Lover's Guide to Trapping includes a wonderful poem entitled, 'Incident in the Sublime' that distinguishes a human need from mere magnitude. And there is 'Fields,' which begins, 'Furrowed as the heaviest brow yet plain / As our forgetfulness,' or 'Addio del passato,' which beautifully begins, 'The final chord will not end without / Memories of dissonance.' This book brings us once again the poems of a considering mind, which eloquently contemplates both the momentous and the everyday, memorably distinguishing between such things as choice and will, history and myth. A fine new collection."

"Wyatt Prunty’s poems give a true sense and picture of American life of the last several decades, especially of life in the South. They are, you might say, exaltations of the ordinary, if we may understand the ordinary as, after all, one of the great and enduring subjects."

"Some poets write in a plain style and do it well. Wyatt Prunty does it even better—with wit, with narrative grace, and with modesty. His poems are wise and compassionate. He is a superb poet."

"Herein one may find the warmth of domestic subjects and the wit of the metaphysicals.... Wyatt Prunty is clearly a poet for all seasons."

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