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)

To Last

D. A. Powell, 1963

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 need to break the spaghetti strands
of marriage, her undiluted vitriol, that oversaw his flux and foundry, 
guided the sparking hammer to its urgent deed.

Spoils of war.

Power, undeterred and wily as it always is, the figural eye and its agency,
took gladly the second chair, from which advantage machinations could be seen.
Advised, conferred, deployed the second wave of ships, provided mercenary aid
to every side and fanned the air, and made her counsel with all sides, supporting
every one and none, out-waiting tides.

If we believe the Greeks, the spokes of Fortune's wheel in constant turn would allow
the last to be the first—beatitudes bestowed upon the losing side, 
a draught of time in which the wily ones, by their equine portage made
the mind the victor over Love's inconstancy and strife,
and, over brute acts, gave thought dominion in a golden age. But that's just myth.

Wisdom, you are the last to whom I turn. Not for your spear, 
fashioned in that same fire as all bright jealous objects of desire. But for your shield.
Protect the least of us. Or lift me from this battlefield,
and take me home.

Copyright © 2012 by D. A. Powell. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2012 by D. A. Powell. Used with 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
and yet we think that song outlasts us all:  wrecked devotion
the wept face of desire, a kind of savage caring that reseeds itself and grows in clusters

oh, you who are young, consider how quickly the body deranges itself
how time, the cruel banker, forecloses us to snowdrifts white as god's own ribs



what
poem
        "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,