Fact and Fiction in Nate Pritts’ Poetry

This analysis is based on the second poem from “Pattern Exhaustion” (on page 12 of Post Human, if you have the book handy.)

After attending the Nate Pritts reading and buying his book, I began to notice in his writing the mixed elements of reality and dream, something that Pritts interweaves together wonderfully in his honest and post-modern poetry. I know from his reading that his poems are based on his own thoughts and experiences, making them largely nonfiction—but of course in poetry, elements of fiction and the unreal seep in to make the real more poignant.

In this poem, I see four spaces—looking at photographs online, envisioning a camera flashing, and the street outside. The action of looking at the photos hints of nonfiction because it is a mundane, daily activity that one would do everyday. And since so much of Pritts’ poetry is about the intersection of humans with technology, and he often relies on scenes of him being on his phone or computer, I get the feeling of “fact.” I was struck by the usage of “high resolution American hush” to describe this action, and could feel, hear, and see the din of the LED screen—packed into this line are images of high advanced technology, the notion of a nation (a nation, like an image being on the screen, something that is intangible and living in the imaginary), stopped with the action of a hush, creating a sense of hiding and secrets.

Then the most fictional element comes in—the moment when the photograph from computer screen is taken; an action that took place in the past. Of course, this is a fictional creation because I doubt Nate was there to witness whoever was taking this photograph and knows the exact time and method in which it was taken. The action of taking the photo is described as so:


“seeing the dynamic

moments stopped                 the camera


singling out only one thing

that happened to keep forever”


What’s captivating about these four lines interspersed in two stanzas is how well the form is able to manifest the action. Of course, one is immediately drawn to the spacing between “stopped” and “the camera”, a pause that reminds me of the moment in which a camera shutter makes that satisfactory, half-second click before the photograph is recorded. In the second stanza, the juxtaposition between “singling” and “forever” is an immense one—the taking of the photo is at the same time single and local while also being a cosmic event, a small but extremely important blip in the universe when something was being created and recorded for all time.


The last line of this poem is one I’ll never forget:


“I forget how to be solid.”


This statement itself is a real emotion that I think will resonate with anyone who can relate to Pritts’ poems—the feeling of emptiness, of floating, of confusion in the modern internet-driven world. Yet it is also a statement of fiction in that it implies that the state of being solid is something that human thought can control; it relies on extraordinary metaphor and the contemplation of the metaphysical. Being most literal, it must be fictional since our bodies are made of mostly liquid, and so implying that you could be solid would be especially presumptuous. But besides all that—I think we all forget to be solid sometimes, and it’s nice to be reminded that that’s okay.

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