March 4, 2013 Useless Landscape


You’ll have noted that over the weekend poet D.A. Powell won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry, honoring his 2012 book Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys. Remember that kid in sophomore English who said that poetry was gay? Well, I’m sorry, he was right. Powell’s new book is about growing up and growing up gay, and some of his previous books have been said to form an “AIDS trilogy.” Cocktails, for example, from 2004, made a pun out of the things an HIV patient can take to dull the pain. Lucky for me there was plenty of description of real, boozey cocktails in that book, so that I, a drifting, dipsophiliac, semi-professional could read them with wicked self-conscious delight at Cambridge and Somerville bars after my working hours. Since Powell was then teaching and I was slinging books at an academic library, I was fortunate enough to meet him one day.
I like Library Journal‘s description of his writing: “Poems by Powell are the Apple products of the literary world: sleek, urbane, well-designed marvels. . . . Powell is as good a technician as anyone in the business, and his latest book, both smart and accessible, will have award panels queuing up to sing its praises.” Here’s the title track of his award-winning book, well-designed, urbane, and accessible. -ed
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.


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