Each Tree Could Hold a Noose or a House
2017 New Issues Poetry Prize
David Rivard, Judge
“Nina Puro so moves me, through both an open hearted, musical expansiveness and a self-honest skepticism about the ultimate powers of language and insight. Everywhere in this remarkable first book I feel the writing bringing me closer to the life lived—it speaks of and to that life with intimacy and vulnerability. But Puro is no confessional, and their perspective is not singular or merely personal. Each image is multiplied and transformed into another, and the opacity that results is complex. This is a poet with a 360-degree vision, especially around anything having to do with gender and sexuality: ‘we are all part of a current, it is said, but perhaps it is dark.’ Each Tree Could Hold a Noose or a House made me think of the poetry of both Adrienne Rich and George Oppen, in the courageous power of its imagination, in its will to change, and its refusal of the blandishments of the period style. It’s that good.”
“I love these poems. They are romantic, full of stuff, shape shifting, gendered, dark and political. And I am never bored. I have not read these poems before. They are not outside their canon yet they improve and expand it. Like this: often poetry is what you do instead of reading a novel but here you can just do both. And I don’t mean that formally. The pleasure is different but the same. They’ve got some pain and some weight. I mean they’re muscularly true. I want more so I’m going to read this book backwards now.”
“‘They’ve loved. We love. That one’s my favorite.
That’s the story I follow home.’
What does it mean to make a river out of words? What does it mean to run out of words except the words of a poem that goes on and flows around the wry epitaph on the plastic lunchbox sitting like a tombstone in the middle of the stream:
‘I am not waiting for love to come. I’m waiting for happy hour.’
Downstream, the multiplex eddies of Nina Puro’s words go round a silence, an invisible island. It’s the silence of a question being formulated: what is action? How do we know what to do? How-to: Nina Puro writes that we Have-to, there is no other choice.
Than to pose the if if if. Insist on asking the right question — as spell or tune or gesture or whatever—
‘I beat time with my hands on the sill.’
‘there are fists flying inside me.’
‘how much of grief is a performance to the dead?’
Poems that feel alive. On the run. Pretty soon it’s like you’re flying. The world is so articulated, so like our own: the whole 360 degrees. Incisive, a poetry newsreel — if H.D.’s “Heat” covered the Cuyahoga River Fire.
Singularity takes a poetic form: questionnaire and yearbook and guide, landscape and stage. An experiment in hope. Step down and up into the space of these poems with care and trust equal to their leap of faith.
‘I love being here
& every fossil
Reading Nina Puro’s book made me not afraid of fear.”
Nina Puro’s writing is in Guernica, the PEN / America Poetry Series, Witness, & others, including chapbooks from Argos Books and dancing girl press. They are a member of the Belladonna* Collaborative and recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Syracuse University (MFA, 2012), Deming Fund, & others.
Nina is a social worker in Brooklyn, NY.