Chasing the Gods: Prose Poems

Chad Prevost

Pudding House Chapbook Series, 2007 

81 Shadymere Lane, Columbus, Ohio 43213 

27 pages, $10 paper


Reviewed by Claire Keyes



The gods of Chad Prevost’s Chasing the Gods are rockers like Kurt Cobain or Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin (“I’m a golden haired God.”) or The Grateful Dead. An escape from Christianity, these gods take Prevost on a heady trip, but the underlying current of these prose poems is the consequent disillusion for himself and others. We might call his gods unorthodox, just as we might call his preferred genre, the prose poem, unorthodox. Yet the hybridity of his chosen genre allows Prevost the freedom to explore diverse subject matter and to take us on a journey from the California of his Baptist preacher father to locales as diverse as East Tennessee or Easter Island and then back to California for an adult reckoning with Christianity.


Prevost’s prose poems maintain the intensity of any good poem—the sharpness of focus, the reliance on imagery—while abandoning the stricture of the poetic line. Take, for example, the hallucinatory “Fever” which appears early in the volume. In it, he captures what it’s like to be ill and profoundly disoriented. He wonders what life he’s in: his present as “Professor, Husband, Father, uncapitalized Capitalist” or his childhood with his “father come to take me back” to being a preacher’s son. Wherever he is, there’s a sense of wandering. He’s taking off: “In the visible depths, the bay is a universe filled with jellyfish the size of baby fists. We’re tacking into the headwind, the choppy spray, the fog, the barely visible world.” I like those jellyfish; they surprise. I like the sailing motif; it tells us we’re on a journey both exciting and a bit dangerous.


Prevost, despite his Christian roots (or maybe because of), gets taken up by rock music like many teens, like Jeremy who appears in “Jeremy Looking for a Miracle.” He was someone Prevost knew when he was young and he addresses this poem to him. Once, he followed the Grateful Dead; later, he’d “fallen apart.” He didn’t find his miracle only dissolution. As a kind of remembrance of Jeremy, Prevost tells him that he and his brother “Sometimes . . . take those same back streets, crank your music, and squeal donuts in the parking lots where we all slugged beers and peeled away, the burning rubber hot in our noses.” The imagery allows a vivid picture of the poet’s close connection with Jeremy while also raising the question of how he escaped a similar fate.


Prevost pursues this question in poems like “Eulogy,” a piece about a woman who “was dying from some disease she’d never name, and all she wanted was a good time.” In “The Dead Among Us,” those who have died young—like Jeremy and the unnamed woman—appear to haunt the poet: “You can hear them singing together, arm in arm.” While he admits their vociferous presence, he cautions himself, “Better not to get involved . . . better ignore the moonlight peering through the shades.”


Prevost gives himself good advice, but can’t ignore that moonlight just as he can’t resist the beauty of his student in “Cathexis or On Trying Not to Peek at the Cleavage of My Iranian Student Who Says Her Grandmother Was a Persian Princess.” Coming about mid-volume in Chasing the Gods, “Cathexis” takes advantage of the prose poem’s adaptability and freshness. A full page, it’s new material for the poet, and it’s funny. The opening line draws the reader in: “Her body is a temple where men come to bow.” Yet she is his student. What is a professor to do? “Avert the eyes, think of Buddhist monks praying for nothingness, St. John of the Cross becoming ego-less as a landscape of windswept dust, or bury oneself in sweetness like a bee making Heaven in a fallen pear.”


Yes, there are some clunkers in this chapbook: the overwritten “Screenplay Plot” or “Composition Professor to a Confused Personal Pronoun.” Still, other delights like “Cathexis” await the reader of Chasing the Gods. Whether Prevost redeems himself or not, I won’t reveal, but don’t miss “Letter to [Brad] Pitt from East Tennessee” or “Recording Our Time,” for Prevost takes us on an haunting journey, the prose poem his sleek yet capacious vehicle.




Claire Keyes has published reviews and poems in Calyx, ReviewRevue, The Women's Review of Books, The Georgia Review, Zone3, and Blueline, among others.  Her chapbook, Rising and Falling, won the Foothills Poetry Competition. She lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts with her husband, Jay Moore.