From Publishers Weekly
Powell's debut Tea was a startling, sparkling, sexy book of sonnet-like constructions; its vast range of references and emotions, and its distinctively lengthy, chunky lines, created an original 3-D picture of a young gay man's life, loves and times. This similar but far-less subtle volume reads like rehearsals and rough drafts for Tea. Epigraphs and allusionsAto Frank O'Hara, Hart Crane, Hollywood cinemaAkeep Powell's sophisticated tastes (and his taste for collage) before us, but don't offset his frequent sentimentality. "once we kissed the world/ goodbye aware that it was dying," one poem opens; another announces "my soul he has no hours to waste/ but is a wasting word." Tea played high art, pre-Stonewall gay language, traditional elegiac modes and contemporary symbols of youth against one another to great effect. Bringing in piercings ("boys admired your jewels"), greeting a "slo mo. po mo. ho mo," "preparing for an antebellum barbeque," and deciding "I'll pick up your tab/ you got the cab," Powell's new volume attempts the same modes, but with less depth. (It hurts that almost all the new poems are shorter than the old; those juxtapositions need room to breathe.) The volume does offer some erotic power, and a flashily pleasing, fast-moving array of tropes: lovers are flower and insect, minotaur and labyrinth, dolphin and diver; a "song of the cinema" introduces "witchdoctors," "evil barbies," "caymans and gators/ written in an enjoyable present." And a closing set of poems about an HIV diagnosis gather weight and coherence the other work lacks. Powell's energetic talents clearly have more than Tea to offer; admirers put off by this quick Lunch should make plans now for an evening meal. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Written at a time when much poetry seems to rise from false emotion, D. A. Powell's poems – of love, lust, and the physical and psychological reality of sickness – are sincere. Yet authenticity is not their only virtue . . . these poems derive their power from a keen sensitivity to the potential of language to pun, sing, and give us experience, sometimes simultaneously. Powell never lets us forget that we are having a linguistic experience as well as a visceral one . . . Powell's work shows canonical influence – Williams, cummings, H.D., and Eliot most notably – and yet maintains its own predominant voice, that of a truth teller who metes out accuracy with a fierce but well-spoken intelligence." —BOMB Magazine
"His poems take place in the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, and their strange juxtapositions, at first glance devoid of overt emotionalism, sometimes bring you running around a blind corner straight into a fist."—San Jose Mercury News, "Bay Area's Best Poetry Books of 2000"
"The poems of Lunch [have] the dazzle of double-exposed film, but this style has substance, mimicking as it does the fickleness of memory itself. Powell's formalism is not only distended and sonic, but also the product of a subtly tailored typography and syntax . . . [a] polished yet troubling volume." —Boston Review