Poems by Powell (Chronic) are the Apple products of the literary world: sleek, urbane, well-designed marvels. They are so startlingly hip that one can almost be excused for not noticing that they are slowly infiltrating the mainstream. The homoeroticism that lies at the center of this work is tongue-in-cheek, proceeding via allegory and dispensing with much of the campiness that characterizes earlier (and some current) queer writing. But as a literary artifact, this book's slick veneer and perfect lines sometimes seem at odds with the awkward and exciting messiness of adolescent sexuality, as if the poems had been disassembled and shipped off to Iowa City to have the rough edges sanded out. Powell's treatment of sexuality lacks much of the transgressive power of a Dennis Cooper or Kathy Acker, both of whom manage to transform eroticism into something as dangerous as it is transformative. VERDICT Powell is as good a technician as anyone in the business, and his latest book, both smart and accessible, will have award panels queuing up to sing its praises. [See Prepub Alert, 8/18/11.]--Chris Pusateri, Jefferson Cty. P.L., Lakewood, CO[Page 108]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Powell has now turned the corner from promising new poet into established power. This fifth collection condenses his obsessions into poems clearer and more compact than ever, some scathing and others comedic, some based on life stories and others built on puns. Now living in San Francisco, Powell grew up in California's agricultural Central Valley; the impoverished spaces of his youth stand out among his backgrounds and metaphors for ecological disaster, for gay sexual awakening, for sex itself, for illness, and for love. "The Kiwi Comes to Gridley, CA," for example, recalls "this... overgrown berry with its easy sway/ and pubescent peel, how it will proffer its redolent fruit." Another poem delights in "Having a Rambutan with You": "Sometimes, I forget to spit out all the seeds." Among other culturally omnivorous poets of gay American life, Powell, with his range of form and line, his dark but vivid humor, and his commitment to Romantic traditions, is set apart. Disneyland, high school marching bands, 1970s funk and disco, "donkey basketball," and planetary astronomy join his expanding universe of figures for sexual pleasure, and sexual sadness; erotic experience serves as a lens through which Powell--a passionate lover of puns, like Shakespeare--views life and death, body and spirit, youth and advancing age. This book will belong on many lists of the year's best. (Feb.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC