When I read Jana Prikryl’s The After Party* last week, I struggled to connect with most of the poems in the collection. I felt this was a failing on my own part; Ms. Prikryl is a senior editor at the New York Review of Books, my favorite non-book publication, and she has contributed poems to some of the best magazines in the world.
Still, while I respected the craft at work in these poems, and the ingenuity of “Thirty Thousand Islands,” a long poem in forty-two parts that makes up the second half of The After Party, it wasn’t until I read Dan Chiasson’s thoughtful review in The New Yorker that the collection really opened up for me. He examines The After Party through the lens of loss (Ms. Prikyl’s older brother died suddenly in 1995), while I’d been trying to understand the poems in the context of migration and exile.
I went back and re-read most of the book, and was rewarded.
This week I recommend Jana Prikryl’s “New Life,” which you can read at The Baffler**.
Its imagery is arresting (the opening lines are: “From the fields of a calendar, its snow / packed firmly into squares, I farmed you.”) as is the speaker’s address to the brother who lives in her memory. The form is unobtrusive, but underscores, I think, the control it takes to examine a deep loss.
What poems are you reading this week?
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes, which did not affect the content of my review.
** Full disclosure: I occasionally work for The Baffler on a freelance basis.