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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)

Useless Landscape

D. A. Powell, 1963
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 endless.

Lugs of prune plums already half-dehydrated. Lugged toward
shelf life and sorry reconstitution in somebody's eggshell kitchen.
If you hear the crop-dust engine whining overhead, mind
the orange windsock's direction, lest you huff its vapor trail.
Scurry if you prefer between the lime-sulphured rows, and cull
from the clods and sticks, the harvest shaker's settling.

The impertinent squalls of one squeezebox vies against another
in ambling pick-ups. The rattle of dice and spoons. The one café
allows a patron to pour from his own bottle. Special: tripe today.
Goat's head soup. Tortoise-shaped egg bread, sugared pink.
The darkness doesn't descend, and then it descends so quickly
it seems to seize you in burly arms. I've been waiting all night
to have this dance. Stay, it says. Haven't touched your drink.

From Useless Landscape by D.A. Powell. Copyright © 2012 by D.A. Powell. Reprinted with permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

From Useless Landscape by D.A. Powell. Copyright © 2012 by D.A. Powell. Reprinted with permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

D. A. Powell

D. A. Powell

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

by this poet

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

That pip in the pear is a blackbird. Tussle on the grass a grackle. It is officially spring. Watch:

Some kids pulling up BURIED WATER PIPE flags. And next to them the little violets. Rain violets. The flags are blue.

The sycamores are just greening. "The world in fact is just," Chaos said. And

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,