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Substrate: Poems Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 21, 2009

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Powell has a gift for using a series of lists that magically add up to a sum far greater than their parts." -- San Francisco Chronicle

“Together these poems are a marvel. Powell’s subject is nothing less than how energy and power rise, decay, then reconstitute themselves in the human and natural worlds. To learn how thrilling, how magisterial this can be, see ‘Temperament,’ see ‘Ghost Dance Witch Hunt Blues.’ An exhilarating book.”
—Frank Bidart, author of Desire

Praise for Jim Powell’s Previous Work

“I find it difficult to overpraise the ease of this writing, which in one act combines succinct physical presentation and explanation of it. Jim Powell not only understands the way in which opposites are necessary to one another, he achieves his knowledge in the poem, and se we grasp it as we read. In the meeting of opposites . . . he has tapped a subject matter that is endless ad important, and by the thoroughgoingness and the subtlety of his exploration shows he has the power to do almost anything.”
—Thom Gunn

About the Author

JIM POWELL is the author of It Was Fever That Made The World and the translator of The Poetry Of Sappho and Catullan Revenants. He was awarded include a CCLM Younger Poets Prize in 1986 and a MacArthur Fellowship (1993-1998, and he was the Sherry Memorial Poet at the University of Chicago in 2005. He is a fourth generation native and lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay region.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (April 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307377881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307377883
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,514,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By James D. Woolery MD on November 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On my online Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, the first definition of "substrate" is:

"the base upon which an organism lives..."

In the short poem "Rates of Combustion" Powell begins

The air thins and clears
above eight thousand feet and distances
draw nearer: a silver pine snag
falls in the forest and over decades

as layer under layer
the rings of yearly growth break down in fragments,
the fat years and the lean,
fissure and crumble slowly inward
toward heartwood...

The disintegrating silver pine has become substrate: anyone who has walked in the high Sierra has surely noticed, but perhaps never thought carefully through, what Powell here vividly brings to our attention: the death and slow disintegration of the pine, now over many years making soil for its descendants, destined along the way, it may happen, to provide fuel to cook a high country trout which nourishes a human being. The latter's only real function in this complex and delicate ecosystem may be to comprehend it, and to try to do justice to it, poetically and scientifically.

The poet Robert Pinsky writes of Powell's book:

"In Substrate Jim Powell has written unforgettable, fierce poems concentrating on historical, mostly 'ordinary' individuals whose lives, with their annals of depredation and survival, reflect the history of California from colonization to the present."

Robert Pinsky, New Yorker (Dec. 17, 2009)

I can't recommend this book too highly. I've purchased it as a gift for about twenty friends, and turn to it myself again and again, delighted and amazed.

Jamie Woolery
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Format: Hardcover
The poems in "Substrate" possess so much gravitas and subtlety of craft that they make most of contemporary poetry seem lightweight and artificial by comparison. Powell's command of the forms pioneered by Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Basil Bunting, Thom Gunn, and others is sublime and self-assured: the words reside on the page, and then in the mind, as if they were incised in stone. The primary subject is how avarice has all but destroyed the Earth, particularly Powell's native California, but by reclaiming one of poetry's primordial vocations -- giving the wilderness a voice in the human world -- Powell has accomplished something heroic and redemptive. An enduring book.
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