Nate Pritts is the author of eight books of poetry, including Decoherence, which won the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award and will be published in the fall of 2017. His most recent collection is Post Human, which Publishers Weekly says “leads readers through a poetic dystopia that reveals the fragility of the human relationship with technology. Weaving his poems together as a meditative critique of technology and its numbing effect on the every day, Nate Pritts asks readers to imagine other possibilities amid ‘this daily flood/ of ephemera, this electronic life.'” Nate Pritts is Associate Professor at Ashford University where he serves as Curriculum Lead and Administrative head of the Film program. Nate Pritts lives in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. Please enjoy my interview with Nate Pritts…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
Briefly. Factually. Casual and offhand without any elaboration. Here’s what I’m more interested in: what does one do with the life that they’re living? Me: Everything, anything, sometimes nothing. I write.
I usually have a few books going at once. I just started on Mao II by Don DeLillo – he’s been writing a record of our society in the midst of apocalypse for so many years, cataloging the ephemera, itemizing the voices, the breakdown of identity and privacy and meaning itself. Bonus: this book is (at least partly, at least so far) about a writer! Olav Hauge, a Norwegian poet, the book Luminous Spaces, a massive selection of poetry along with excerpts from his journals – the poems are bleak, introspective, surrounded by a terrifying darkness but harboring some inner secret strength, like the light of a candle protected against the wind. Linda Gregg (another poet), her first book, Too Bright to See. Her voice is so urgent, so intimate, so haunted and fierce – and her line breaks are dizzying and visionary.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
I don’t have a specific earliest memory of reading, but I know how reading made me feel in those early days of it – brave enough to be alone, traveling to new worlds that were sometimes just different layers of the same world I was already living in and sometimes so alien and strange and vividly weird. Either way, it gave me a deeper understanding of my daily motions, a context. I became myself when reading, through reading.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?
I think books are like vitamins – each has a different effect, is composed of different nutrients. Books can help shape who you are, who you want to become. I read Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien when I was pretty young, maybe 8, and all the A Wrinkle in Time books by Madeleine L’Engle right around then too. Those books became part of me. But I suspect that those are not the right books for every young person. Meaning, I think, that I would be a different person if I had not read those books if I had read other books instead.
So, basically, I don’t want to answer your question! I think young people should read a book, read many books, read all the time. Read what you want and find out who you will become.
No worst job – I’ve loved them all! But I’ll tell you the first job I ever had, unpaid: I worked in my school library for many years, starting when I was in 6th grade. My duties mostly involved hiding out with a book in the farthest reaches of the library, pretending to shelve the returns. I distinctly remember reading Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler and hoping I was a telepath. I read Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and was convinced my bus ride home was going to go the same way.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
Yes. No. Different answers for different days, different weeks. I prioritize reading – I like to start the day reading, and I read throughout the day – but still there are times when I don’t get to read as often as I’d like, or times when I’ve read too much, swallowed by it, obsessed, leaving the rest of my life unattended.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
Of all of the books I’ve ever read, I suspect I’ve read at least half of them more than once. I keep going back, searching and clarifying, asking new questions. Books mean different things to us at different times in our lives – or they do to me, anyway, because I’m attuned to different nuances, different needs. I’ve had different experiences, the book carries new connotations and reverberations.
So I’m always revisiting, rekindling, trying to understand myself and my reactions, the world as it radiates around me. Memory, nostalgia, the past – these are part of the standard issue uniform for most poets!
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
I always grab a copy of Perfect Example by John Porcellino anytime I see it out in the wild, because I know I’ll want to give it to someone. And Radiant Action by Matt Hart – a poet of such verve and amplitude that you can’t help but be moved by his writing, both in your body and in your heart.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
The ones with words. The ones with pictures are pretty good too.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite books so I’ll defer here to Ray Bradbury’s vision of a world like that: an underground rebellion reading hidden books after dark, remote bands of people memorizing books and speaking them out loud to keep themselves warm.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
There are several. I’ve always been the type of person who listens to the record all the way through, from the first track to the last and that’s my modus operandi as a reader too. I go on kicks, on binges, reading everything in order, every single word, because I want to feel it all.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
I hope not because part of what I love about books is the physical reality of them. I love the different papers used and the different bindings, the imprint of the letterpress and the smudgy reality of newsprint. All of it, all of it! So much of my experience of reading is created and controlled by the delivery method itself – digital or paperback, pixel words on a screen or letterpress ink imprinted deep on handmade paper. We need all the books we can get, I think.
I read a lot of comic books. I have since I was very young. I have a massive collection, and I still buy new comics every week. So if I’m talking about books I love, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some comics. I recently re-read a big run of Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison, all the issues he wrote, and they are so much fun, so energetic, charged with kaleidoscopic menace. Overall they present a worldview that shows how crucial it is to be true to yourself, to nourish both your inner and outer lives, or else you risk annihilation. It reminds me that being dead and being boring is kind of the same thing.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I never really know until it’s happening. My reading takes a mostly intuitive and winding path – one book leads to another, one author opens a door/sparks an interest, all of it drives me to be a new me, picking up a book, looking at the pages in open wonder.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Ask Again Later.