CUTBANK REVIEWS: Honorary Astronaut by Nate Pritts

Honorary Astronaut by Nate Pritts Ghost Road Press, 2008

Review by Emily Thomas

Nate Pritts' Honorary Astronaut speaks the truth about what it means to be a human. A reader who finds herself inside of these poems feels as though she's in a cozy room with a ceiling open to a snow-spotted night's sky. The speakers in Pritts' poems are warm and insecure in the same moment, often dwelling momentarily within spaces that emphasize the loneliness of living in the world. "I am full of missing" defines this work: "Surrounding each of us is a vast cushion / of something missing & we're all / honorary astronauts sent into the vacuum to report back." Pritts' poetry never shirks from the implicit. In fact, his speakers transform the implicit into the explicit; they exist in the liminal spaces that most people deny in favor of a more conventional method for locating the self.

Pritts' poems also meditate on the sides of the self that are foreign. In "Circus," the speaker recognizes the multivocal nature of the self: "Then, the giant green bubble that bounces / around the sky & sounds like all voices together, / like the tv & traffic & noise & noise, / distracts both of them & leaves them together / separate, staring & then a flash / of green light & the giant green bubble expels / the pale gray man who looks lost & homeless / &, yes, helpless." The two subjects of the poem, a "yellow fish girl" and her "blue water boy," are separate, together, torn apart, helpless, and in love and noise. We are the people we love and they are us, which is strange and comforting. For Pritts' subjects and speakers, getting closer to the self means connecting with the world in a state of disarray. Rather than turning away from the loneliness and impossibility of existence, we must remember that the most honest and terrifying method is, quite simply, to "stay and sing beautifully."


Nate Pritts is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Sweet Nothing which Publishers Weekly describes as “both baroque and irreverent, banal and romantic, his poems […] arrive at a place of vulnerability and sincerity.” He is the founder & principal editor of H_NGM_N, an online journal & small press. He lives in Syracuse, New York.

Emily Thomas has lived on both coasts of America but never in between...until Arizona. She spends most of her time teaching--sometimes humans, but primarily unicorns, on how to stay mysterious and obscure. She lives in Tuscon.