D.A. Powell: A Nonconformist Poet

D.A. Powell

On October 26, award-winning poet D.A. Powell came to Woodruff Library as the first speaker in this season’s Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series. A Guggenheim Fellow, winner of the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Prize and two-time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Powell is well known for his first three collections of poetry, often considered a trilogy on the AIDS epidemic. Although he was born in Georgia, Powell does not conform to the stereotypes typically associated with Southern poets. He draws inspiration for his diverse poems from his personal background, popular culture, and the world around him.

His reading engaged a wide range of emotions, from somber to humorous. Powell read several poems from his various collections, including selected works from Chronic and Useless Landscape, or a Guide for Boys. Useless Landscape, Powell’s latest collection of poems, is to be released in February and was largely inspired by the idea of native landscapes being affected by invasive beings.

Author and fellow poet Laurel Snyder had previously attended a Powell reading. She mentioned that she had never been to any of the other poetry readings in the Danowski series but “made the drive just to hear him speak again!”

Carly Landa, a sophomore at Emory University, was extremely impressed by Powell’s poetry and thought of him as the perfect mix of a “gay Charles Bukowski and Walt Whitman.”

Senior Ariel Levin had never heard any of Powell’s poems before but was “pleasantly surprised” by his reading and thought that Powell “tackled taboo topics eloquently with a sparse yet melodious feel.”

Eric Solomon, a first-year graduate student and long-time admirer of Powell’s work, owns several of the poet’s collections but never had the opportunity to hear him speak. He marveled at the difference it made to be able to hear the poet read his own work, especially considering the often unconventional format of Powell’s poems. “It’s amazing to hear how Powell intended for the poem to be read as opposed to how I personally interpreted it,” he said.

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