Saturday 29 February 2020

For 2020, the StAnza Blog is hosting DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – who as reviewers in virtual residence on the StAnza Blog will post excerpts from their selection of reviews of titles by poets on the StAnza 2020 programme, including this one in today’s blog. The full review can be read on their website at  https://dura-dundee.org.uk/category/poets-stanza-2019-reviews/. Written by staff and students, DURA is keen to promote the diversity of artists and art forms in the UK context, supporting especially (albeit non-exclusively) independent cinema outlets, exhibitions, theatre, film and publishing. 

D.A. Powell, Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys reviewed by  Dominik Szczepaniak

I can only give you back what you imagine.
                  (‘The Fluffer Talks of Eternity’)

It’s true, every poem in Useless Landscape gives the reader only what they can imagine. However, in reality Powell gives his readers anything and everything they can imagine. Across its 100 pages, this collection surprises the reader at every turn of the page, refusing to submit to boundaries or expectations, and with surgical precision dissecting its images, stories and sounds.

Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys is D.A. Powell’s fifth poetry collection and has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. He has taught at Harvard University, Columbia University, and the University of San Francisco.

Powell’s passion for stories is evident across the collection – he tells each of them with effortless poetic flair but also carelessness, as if it was some kind of game. There’s no regularity, no way to predict the structure or the topic of the next poem. Yet one common element underlying the collection is Powell’s absolute devotion to evoking beautiful descriptions even when his objects are perfectly ordinary....

Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys is exceptional for its variety. It is sure to surprise the reader even after several readings of every poem. Mixing darkness with humour, Powell establishes himself as a poet who ventures beyond the conventional boundaries of what language is expected to achieve. As if words were child’s play for him, he bends them in new ways, and trading his pen for a brush he paints a new story with every page.