D. A. Powell’s fifth book of poetry, Useless Landscape, or a Guide for Boys, turns undesirable places into sultry Netflix-and-chill spaces: arcades, parking lots, questionable bathhouses, the boonies. The smell of sewage plants, libations poured from gas pump nozzles, limbs lost in the hopper — you find it all quite comfortable.
Powell makes geography sexy using location as a container for memories, particularly those of youthful wildness. Whether or not you subscribe to a YOLO sort of lifestyle, the reader recognizes these encounters as ones that become pride-filled proof of how you were once reckless and freewheeling. Powell’s poems never look back with waxy nostalgia. That said, the fleetingness of each moment is what turns them to treasure.
This collection is autobiographical and it’s hard not to read it that way. Most impressively, Powell confronts aging, sickness, and death without a peppering of fear. Oftentimes, he uses self-deprecating humor: – He makes fun of his desires as he’s quick to take a seat from a young man whose “rear fill[s his] horizon like a khaki-colored sun.” Most of all, these poems remind the reader not to waste time fearing their own death.
Read the title poem from the book on poets.org.
D. A. Powell will read brand-new work commissioned by Hugo House at the Hugo Literary Series on Feb. 12, also featuring Heidi Julavits, Seattle poet Sierra Nelson, and musician OCNotes. Purchase tickets here.
Kellen Braddock joined Hugo House in April 2015 after working at Shunpike, where she was the fiscal sponsorship manager for 200 emerging arts groups and projects across Washington State. In that role, she helped artists with all aspects of the “business of art.” Kellen received an MFA in Arts Leadership through Seattle University. During that time, she served as the finance and development director for APRIL, a small press and independent literature organization that was shortlisted for a Stranger Genius Award in 2013. Prior to that, she completed her BA at the University of Michigan, sub-concentrating in creative writing where she received literary honors and awards for her work (including the Hopwood Award, Cowden Fellowship, Caldwell Poetry Prize, and the Virgina Voss Scholarship).