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May 1, 2015
9781421417141
English
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9781421417158
9781421417141
English
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10149
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5.50 Inches (US)
$18.95 USD, £14.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Couldn't Prove, Had to Promise

In his ninth collection of poems, Wyatt Prunty explores the comic and lyric intersection of the realms of childhood and middle age.

In Couldn't Prove, Had to Promise, Wyatt Prunty ushers readers into a seesaw world, one that teeters between small fables of childish misgivings and adult assurances. Alternately shadowed and illuminated by nostalgia, this deft, witty volume brings together seventeen of Prunty's recent poems, seven of which have been previously published in Poetry, the Hopkins Review, the Kenyon Review, and Blackbird.

In "Crescent Theater, Schenectady, NY," a silent-movie accompanist reads his foreign newspaper after work as he listens, ever the outsider, "to his children using English / For everything they wish." In "Rules," a small girl, told she can't go to the school nurse "every time some bad thing happens," plaintively wonders, "Where do you go?" And in "Making Frankenstein," a boy who has cajoled his parents into letting him see The Curse of Frankenstein wakes to a nightmare. His father bans horror films as "too anatomical"; "What's anatomical?" the boy wonders. Given a book that catalogs diseases, the worst of which come "from intimate contact," he is horrified by his father's explanation of grownup intimacy: "That's how you made your way into this world."

Moving from a wry portrait of a husband—musing on mortality—whose Christmas tie lands in the gravy, to "Reading the Map," which grapples with the cartography of love, to "ad lib," a farewell that redefines farewell, these poems burnish the small triumphs and fears that fill our daily lives with humor and pathos. The book closes with a long, four-part poem, "Nod," which transports readers to a parking lot in July: an asphalt-as-inferno where Cain the cracker, or adversary-as-initiator, the pleuritic voice of disappointment, names the ways inversion makes a lie reliable and works people best as, like a joke or discount price, "It makes you feel you're getting more by giving less." Funny, raw, and colorfully musical, "Nod" plays what teeters, like a tuning fork.

About the Author

Wyatt Prunty is a professor of English at Sewanee: The University of the South and the founding director of the Sewanee Writers' Conference. He is the author of nine collections of poems, including The Lover's Guide to Trapping, and two critical works.

Reviews

"In these intimate confessions of—as the jacket says—'childish misgivings and adult assurances,' Wyatt Prunty brings a grace and dignity to the speaking voice, as well as ironical humour in the case of the adult assurances."

- Times Literary Supplement

Endorsements

"Wyatt Prunty is a classic poet in the tradition of Frost, Wilbur, Merrill, and Justice. His work involves a wry sanity toward the world and an impeccable ear for both prosody and the rhythms of American speech. Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise features his breakout Dantesque poem, 'Nod,' about an encounter with a lost soul in the parking lot of an Atlanta shopping mall around the 4th of July. Its unnerving pleasures are inseparable from Prunty’s ear for language. There’s a connection between that perfect fit of language to meter and the sense of necessity and brutality in the world described. The effect is both comic and terrible, and makes you know you are in the hands of a master."

- Robert Hass
Johns Hopkins University Press
Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction
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9781421417141 : couldnt-prove-had-to-promise-prunty
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Other Titles by Wyatt Prunty

The Lover’s Guide to Trapping

Wyatt Prunty
Jun 2009 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$25.95 USD - Hardback

Unarmed and Dangerous

Wyatt Prunty
Jan 2003 - Johns Hopkins University Press
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The Run of the House

Wyatt Prunty
May 1993 - Johns Hopkins University Press
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Other Titles from Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction

A Longing for Impossible Things

stories by David Borofka
Mar 2022 - Johns Hopkins University Press
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Water / Music

poems by Peter Filkins
Apr 2021 - Johns Hopkins University Press
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Fabrications

Pamela Painter
Nov 2020 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$21.95 USD - Paperback / softback
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Other Titles in POETRY / American / General

Her Birth and Later Years

Irena Klepfisz
Dec 2022 - Wesleyan University Press
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Hounds on the Mountain

James Still
Jul 2022 - University Press of Kentucky
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Finalists

Rae Armantrout
Mar 2022 - Wesleyan University Press
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Other Titles in Poetry by individual poets

Her Birth and Later Years

Irena Klepfisz
Dec 2022 - Wesleyan University Press
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In a Few Minutes Before Later

Brenda Hillman
Sep 2022 - Wesleyan University Press
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Finalists

Rae Armantrout
Mar 2022 - Wesleyan University Press
$35.00 USD - Hardback
$16.95 USD - Paperback / softback
$13.99 USD - Electronic book text