Follow Harriet on Twitter
“Excavating the History of Words”: On D.A. Powell’s New Collection
Today’s poetry is packed with unpoetic stuff: dirty words and references to disposable pop culture. So, how do you tell great, lasting poetry from the ephemeral?
For an answer, read the poems of D.A. Powell, whose masterful fifth book, Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys, digs deep into the tar pit of language. The poet tells us about ourselves in today’s terms while excavating the history of words.
Powell’s previous collections, especially his groundbreaking debut, Tea, mourned those lost in the AIDS crisis in the 1980s gay community (Powell himself has HIV) and explored the intersections between pop and classical culture — and how even the Bible can be a bit campy.
His latest is his most personal book. Powell looks back at his club-going youth in California, offering a cautionary tale for those who might follow in his footsteps. And while the language is fresh and modern, this is a book about the oldest themes: how quickly time passes, how the past can be regained — if only momentarily — in art, and how to accept the finality of death.
There’s more after the jump. And there’s this, too, from Brian Spears at The Rumpus.