Sweet Nothing by Nate Pritts (A Review by Brian Fanelli)

Lowbrow Press

107 pages, $13

 American poet and critic Ezra Pound once described a poetic image as something that should capture an emotional and intellectual complex in an instant of time. Nate Pritts’ latest collection of poems, Sweet Nothing, is filled with images that do just that, while also capturing the beauty of the everyday, including the feel of the sun in one’s hair or its reflection on a lover’s shoulders. His latest work is also a celebration of language itself and trying to find the right words to capture wonderful, but often fleeting moments.

Pritts’ collection covers a sweeping range of emotions, including longing, love, and even frustration, but as a whole, the poems remind the reader to appreciate the everyday and the small moments that we sometimes take for granted. In the poem “What it Means to be in Transit,” he writes, “I see the street from bird level because I like to feel/the sun in my hair/because this is temporary this moment/this is my time & now/it is gone already.”

The idea of appreciating the moment and the ordinary reoccurs again and again in Sweet Nothing, including in the poem “The Purport of this Advice,” when the speaker marvels at bright sunlight reflected on a lover’s shoulders, which becomes a burning afterimage. The poem is also punctuated with the description of a cluster of flowers that are “sweetly pink” and graze the speaker. Pritts does a wonderful job associating beauty with common nature images.

There are times throughout the collection, however, when the striking sunlight sparks an intense longing in the speaker. In the poem “Throttling,” the sunlight only reminds the speaker of a lover who is not there.

Wake up          there is sunlight

all over morning

I am sitting        in a place          where you are               not

sitting with me

this is an absence          correctable       or else

life is a spent thing         withered

then      I am


all these particles           to nothing

with my loneliness

that is a loneliness         for you             & an ache

for my own       burning lights                             & more people


Some of the other poems depict a similar sense of ache and want. In “A poem for early summer,” the legs of girls exposed in sunlight also evoke longing in the speaker. In another poem, “Peace,” the speaker bemoans a “big empty world” that is “too much full of noise” and misses the familiar voice of a lover. Even a simple hello would bring happiness.

There are also several poems in the collection that are celebrations of relationships. The poem “(letter to her, with map, terror & excitement)” does an accurate job depicting both the excitement and fear that comes with new relationships. The poem’s speaker reminds me of an adolescent, struggling so hard to think of the right words to say to a new girlfriend or even a crush.

I meant there is no way

to express the complex architecture of

what you are to me – the you you are in words,

the body of you, the you I don’t even know.

I know what I hope for. This afternoon

brightness, this blinding flood, this thing

we’ve built up, this heaviness masquerading

as lightness & I just don’t know

what to say.


Pritts takes on the struggle to find the right words to describe complex emotions several times throughout the collection, and the challenge in saying the right words or putting the right words on a paper is something any writer can relate to.

Along with addressing a diverse range of emotions in Sweet Nothing, Pritts also employs an impressive array of forms, including fragmented lines, some narrative poems, and poetic sequences entitled “Sky Poems.” The varying forms, deep images, and language play showcase Pritts’ prowess as an established poet.

Sweet Nothing is a delightful collection that often uses the sun and other familiar images to address a wide range of emotions, including happiness and love in some poems and longing a few pages later. The collection also serves as reminder to appreciate and live in the moment before it is gone.


Brian Fanelli’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Solstice Literary Magazine, Harpur Palate, The Portland Review, Rockhurst Review, Inkwell Journal, and elsewhere. He is the author of the chapbook Front Man, and his first full-length book of poems, tentatively titled What Remains, will be published in 2013 by Unbound Content. Brian has an M.F.A. from Wilkes University and currently teaches at Keystone College. Visit him at www.brianfanelli.com.


  • I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I absolutely loved every bit of it. I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post…