|From Publisher's Weekly:
The Lamont Poetry Selection for 1989,
this hard-edged and provocative collection takes its title from the North Carolina statute
under which Pratt would have faced criminal prosecution as a lesbian had she fought for
legal custody of her children. The book centers on the poet's painful decision to give up
her two young sons ("I paid for my freedom with my children'') and her coming to
terms with a choice forced on her by an unforgiving patriarchal system. Never sentimental
or histrionic, Pratt's poems deal directly and explicitly with issues of anger, shame,
sexuality and injustice. Thematic concerns of self-denial, separation, loss and the
mother-child relationship are powerfully reinforced by recurring images of a
"splintered'' and "divided'' self and Pratt's fragmentary narratives. By staying
true to her lesbian identity, she earns the respect and love of her sons, who, although
not in her custody, are not alienated from her. Here Pratt is finally able to tell her
"version'' and, ultimately, see herself not as victim but victor: "In my
version, I walk / to where I want to live.''
From Robyn Selman, The Village Voice Literary Supplement:
In Crime Against Nature, Pratt takes up with both hands what was perhaps too
painful to hold in We Say We Love Each Other. . . . Although this collection is a
novel in poetry, it is anything but prosaic. Many of the poems here explode in staccato
lines. . . . I don't want to give away the details of this riveting story, but Pratt, who
sometimes alludes to being tired of telling it, also obsessively anticipates criticism of
her actions: "The first question is: What do your children think of you?"
"Women ask:/ Why didn't you--?/ like they do of women who've been raped.". . . .
In "Seven Times Going, Seven Coming Back," Pratt writes, "In the dark I
pray to somebody (is it myself?)/ who will not divide self from self, self from
life." Much of this prayer, it seems, has been answered. Pratt is out as a lesbian, a
mother, and a person. Her relationship with her sons is intact. Crime Against Nature
is evidence that freedom is a hybrid--imperative, punishment, and poetry.
From Leonore Gordon, American Book Review:
[This] is not an easy book to read; it does not soothe the senses or reassure. . . . It
is impossible not to grieve and rage with Pratt. . . . [She] is never self-pitying nor
self-indulgent, leaving us with an enormous admiration for both her courage, and her
poetic artistry. In language reminiscent of the sharp, defined intelligence of Adrienne
Rich, she forces us to recognize, with new clarity, that the personal and the political
are unquestionably intertwined when a parent is legally expected to deny herself the
pleasures of adult love, sexuality, and companionship if she is to have custody of her own
From Jan Clausen, Women's Review of Books:
Deprivation of custody [is the author's] punishment for the "crime" of loving
women. Through the prism of this trauma and its aftermath the poet examines her own
history and desires, and the interwoven legacy of a racist, militarist nation. In a number
of ways, the book is heir to the feminist poetry tradition which began in the late
sixties, with its ambition to stand the "male" (white, Western) tradition on its head. . . . .
In "My Life You Are Talking About," Pratt rages at those who do not see the
anguish of her interrupted motherhood, like the straight colleague who blurts in ignorant
disbelief, "But how could that happen to someone with a Ph.D.?" "How can I
make any of this into a poem?" she asks, mocking . . . imagination itself. The anti-poetic strategy is well worn by now in
the feminist tradition, but it works brilliantly here. . . . This is an earnest, effortful
book, packed with thought, dense with craft.
Ploughshares description of Crime Against Nature
from Crime Against Nature
about Crime Against Nature
Crime Against Nature by Minnie Bruce Pratt
is currently out-of-print.
Occasionally copies can be found at the used book site
An extensive selection of poems from this book is available in
The Dirt She Ate: Selected and New Poems by Minnie Bruce Pratt
(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003).