Nate Pritts’ chapbook Sentimental Spectacular contains five poems, a short collection, even for a chapbook. Though slight, Sentimental Spectacular mines the sentimental for careful, specific image and sound, crafting a work that’s, yes, deeply sentimental, but one willing both to celebrate its sentimentality and to search for a major key of resonance in its reader.  “Darling, darling, darling,” reads the title poem, “there’s something sensational in the way / my heart takes on different forms.” (It is probably worth noting that the poet has also published a book called Sensational Spectacular.) We encounter the speaker’s heart—large, lush, loudly beating—in each of these image-rich poems.

Pritts engages with other poets in Sentimental Spectacular, including Frost in his poem “Frost at Midmorning”: “…me, a proud honorary / astronaut sent out as a lover of uncontained / & immortal beauty but, O, just a chump in love / with the ground…Frost in autumn, frost at midnight, / Frost on a hotel bed, telescoping from mountains to buzzsaws…” Here, we find a wisp of a reference to Frost’s “Out, Out–”, an arguably unsentimental tale of a young boy’s lost hand, as well as ever-sentimental Whitman, with his exultant and emotional O’s and preoccupations with lovelorn “chumps.”

In the final poem “Inarticulate Bird in Befuddled Blooming Bafflement,” Pritts upends his moment-driven sentimental explorations, challenging memory and nostalgia as stable vehicles of sentimentality. “You can’t bring [this poem],” states the speaker, “to the waterfall you made up, // you can’t show it to the rainbow you see when you / close your eyes.” Where imagination and desire intersect with memory, Pritts shows, sentiment becomes longing, and Sentimental Spectacular veers in an unexpected direction, as startling as it is beautiful. “Some handy flower to dip into,” the speaker calls this shadowy memory, this longing for a past self that did or didn’t exist, “a struggle to remember the sweetness.”

Rachel Mennies