poem index

About this poet

D. A. Powell was born in Albany, Georgia, on May 16, 1963. He attended Sonoma State University, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1991, and his master's in 1993. He received his M.F.A. degree from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1996.

Powell is the author of the trilogy of books Tea (Wesleyan, 1998), Lunch (2000), and Cocktails (Graywolf, 2004)—which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His poetry collection Chronic (2009) received the Kingsley Tufts Award and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent book is Useless Landscape, or a Guide for Boys: Poems (2012).

His subjects range from movies, art, and other trappings of contemporary culture to the AIDS pandemic. Powell’s work often returns to AIDS, and his first three collections have been called a trilogy about the disease. As Carl Phillips wrote, in his judge’s note for Boston Review’s Annual Poetry Award, of Powell’s work, "No fear, here, of heritage nor of music nor, refreshingly, of authority. Mr. Powell recognizes in the contemporary the latest manifestations of a much older tradition: namely, what it is to be human."

Powell has received a Paul Engle Fellowship from the James Michener Center, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, among other awards. He has taught at Columbia University, the University of Iowa, Sonoma State University, San Francisco State University, and served as the Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Poetry at Harvard University. He currently teaches at the University of San Francisco.


Bibliography

Useless Landscape, or a Guide for Boys: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2012)
Chronic (Graywolf Press, 2009)
Cocktails (Graywolf Press, 2004)
Lunch (Wesleyan University Press, 2000)
Tea (Wesleyan University Press, 1998)

Abandonment Under the Walnut Tree

D. A. Powell, 1963
        "Your gang's done gone away."
                —The 119th Calypso, Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Something seems to have gnawed that walnut leaf.

You face your wrinkles, daily, in the mirror.
But the wrinkles are so slimming, they rather flatter.

Revel in the squat luck of that unhappy tree,
who can't take a mate from among the oaks or gums.

Ah, but if I could I would, the mirror version says, 
because he speaks to you. He is your truer self
all dopey in the glass. He wouldn't stand alone
for hours, without at least a feel for the gall of oaks,
the gum tree bud caps, the sweet gum's prickly balls.

Oh, he's a caution, that reflection man. 
He's made himself a study in the trees.
You is a strewn shattered leaf I'd step on, he says.
Do whatever it is you'd like to do. Be quick.

Copyright © 2010 by D. A. Powell. Used by permission of the author.

D. A. Powell

D. A. Powell

D. A. Powell was born in Albany, Georgia on May 16, 1963.

by this poet

poem
A lone cloudburst hijacked the Doppler radar screen, a bandit
hung from the gallows, in rehearsal for the broke-necked man,
damn him, tucked under millet in the potter's plot. Welcome
to disaster's alkaline kiss, its little clearing edged with twigs,
and posted against trespass. Though finite, its fence is
poem

I have had to learn the simplest things
last. Which made for difficulties...
—Charles Olson


We know from accounts of the judgment of Paris how Love took first: 
the apple burnished by—it turns out—her own husband, working the bellows,
forging to Discord's specifications, her
poem
the cocktail hour finally arrives: whether ending a day at the office
or opening the orifice at 6am [legal again to pour in californica]: the time is always right

we need a little glamour and glamour arrives: plenty of chipped ice
a green jurassic palm tree planted. a yellow spastic monkey swinging

a pink