Lunch

D. A. Powell, Author Wesleyan University Press $14.95 (76p) ISBN 978-0-8195-6427-6
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 allusions--to Frank O'Hara, Hart Crane, Hollywood cinema--keep 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.)
Reviewed on: 10/30/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
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Hardcover - 76 pages - 978-0-8195-6426-9
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