The richly textured poems in Lunch, companion volume to D. A. Powell's acclaimed debut collection, Tea, tell the story of a life; like a conversation stretched out over many lunch breaks. Hailed as "formally innovative, disjunctive but tender and always emotionally expressive" by Forrest Gander, its poems are both masticatibly small and immensely satisfying. The life in question is bifurcated by the diagnosis of HIV; "time splits," in these layered and evocative poems, as the poet's memories of childhood and ...
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The richly textured poems in Lunch, companion volume to D. A. Powell's acclaimed debut collection, Tea, tell the story of a life; like a conversation stretched out over many lunch breaks. Hailed as "formally innovative, disjunctive but tender and always emotionally expressive" by Forrest Gander, its poems are both masticatibly small and immensely satisfying. The life in question is bifurcated by the diagnosis of HIV; "time splits," in these layered and evocative poems, as the poet's memories of childhood and adolescence are fractured by the knowledge of adulthood.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Written at a time when much poetry seems to rise from false emotion, D. A. Powell's poems – of love, lust, and the physical and psychological reality of sickness – are sincere. Yet authenticity is not their only virtue . . . these poems derive their power from a keen sensitivity to the potential of language to pun, sing, and give us experience, sometimes simultaneously. Powell never lets us forget that we are having a linguistic experience as well as a visceral one . . . Powell's work shows canonical influence – Williams, cummings, H.D., and Eliot most notably – and yet maintains its own predominant voice, that of a truth teller who metes out accuracy with a fierce but well-spoken intelligence." —BOMB Magazine

"His poems take place in the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, and their strange juxtapositions, at first glance devoid of overt emotionalism, sometimes bring you running around a blind corner straight into a fist."—San Jose Mercury News, "Bay Area's Best Poetry Books of 2000"

"The poems of Lunch [have] the dazzle of double-exposed film, but this style has substance, mimicking as it does the fickleness of memory itself. Powell's formalism is not only distended and sonic, but also the product of a subtly tailored typography and syntax . . . [a] polished yet troubling volume." —Boston Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819564276
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 10/27/2000
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 76
  • Sales rank: 1,489,702
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.26 (d)

Meet the Author

D. A. POWELL, author of Tea (1998), is a graduate of Sonoma State University and the Iowa Writers Workshop. He has received awards from the Academy of American Poets and the James Michener Foundation. He has taught at University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, and University of Iowa.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

[zof all the modern divisions: time splits]

of all the modern divisions time splits
you are the one: lunch
egalitarian in your traverseability

more than embargoes or frontiers or zippers
can torture with visible boundaries
you invite [spreading a blanket] to be taken
kissed reverently upon the lips

may not always have you. but we've had you
taken mementos. hurried away to engage
a dull career. meet you secretly. on the side

[maybe he wears my trousers: lagniappe]

maybe he wears my trousers: lagniappe
he is the same age as my memory of him. leaning
into the menial wage. the pockets tattered

sorghum and sour apples barely keep him
bony: an architecture of tentposts. supporting

constellations. the points where light
enters: frayed patches. weakening seams


was dying
two breaths
of me
             we kissed
of all
these lines
and you
             the world
that it
I'll keep
to one side
on the nightstand

[studs and rings: favors of the piercing party]

            "... andso he dug a hole deep in the ground,
and went and whispered in it what kind of ears King Midas had."


studs and rings: favors of the piercing party
hole in the head. you got your rightwrongright ear
sent out in a press release: post self disclosure

boys admired your jewels. for a time
you liked getting stuck. and advertised

when did you close your legs: no openings
available you whisper like a tease. but rumors
trail behind you in the reeds: "golden boy
has suggestive ears." you still can hear them

for Alec Anderson

[he pleasures me: a nasty flick. quiescent]

he pleasures me: a nasty flick. quiescent
the still of him. we set a long exposure

frame by frame: no candid voice over: the eye
so easily deceived requests a replay: how

many times the act can be performed
slo mo. po mo. ho mo. iris into a field of blue

[slashed his foot as a boy. heel to toe]

slashed his foot as a boy. heel to toe
on the living coral. attempted to cure the sore
in a mortal swabbing: iodine

catalyst: pink branches of exo-skeleton
informed the soft canvas of limbs

mollusks were pried from his barrier. feeding
frenzy of sharks at the jagged perimeter

polyps grown into a reef. trawling ships
keep the distance. he sings their sails away

[the mind is a shapely genital, faces: elaborate]

the mind is a shapely genital. faces: elaborate
fig leaves. disturbed by occasional gusts

modesty muh-dear. admits impediment. I don't
mind saying: like you better with your clothes
off. but sober and with all your wits about


HETERO LIFE WANTED: me to move in. share
a double entendre. 2 fireplaces and a kid
spacious: a must see. soon I'd be having my eggs

poached. because that's the way I would like them
toast: cut to triangles. napkins: folded to hats

but could we stand to grow up together. learn
ABC's and respectable manners. would I have to shake hands
with the guy pals: firm. longing for the visegrip of thighs

[a conch: I washed ashore on more than one atoll]

a conch: I washed ashore on more than one atoll
no shipwrecked soul traced my steps. archipelago
of private beaches. I sought no rescue from maroon

yare sloops would nestle in my coves: come
to suck hermetic creatures from their shells. girls
opened sweet blossoms for me: boys rubbed firm
nipples into my back. buried me head in the sand

a youngster lashes himself to a raft. classic
romance. catches the drift: especially away

[my father and me making dresses: together]

my father and me making dresses: together
we debutantes. cruel in lace bodices

we swoon to saxophones and rich husbands. late
afternoon: shots of brandy in our cocoa

aren't I blessed with a young father firm
and flouncy: giggling in his petticoats

the other boys sigh when he mows the lawn
they fumble with their pockets and blush

while we two chums. in a workshop of taffeta
never tire of chat: rugby or crushes or appliqué

I put my knee in his back. I cinch and cinch
as preparing for an antebellum barbeque

where an ashley longworth could be filled with regret
and atlanta explode its host of scarlet poppies

[my father and me in hollywood: fading and rising starlets]

my father and me in hollywood: fading and rising starlets
look at me as sandra dee. and he: the drugstore lana turner

how life imitates "imitation of life." we were of two minds

the actress and her actress daughter mirror the actress/daughter
dynamic of the father/son mother/daughter charade

I tweedled as dumb as sandra dee was. and as sandra dum
doted on daddy I doted on daddy's boyfriend. and daddy

that has-been with his porcelana skin creme and his mafioso
brought out the bitter lezzie in me. oh: as in "we were white."

but he could have been the patient dark-skinned housekeeper
a cut above a mammy mommy dearest daddy. and I
the bitchy high yellow ungrateful child who passed as easily
as white. as I was a white black child actress anywho

at the end of my father. the end of the hollywood star
at the end of the fifties. at the end of beauty itself

I cast myself as myself on his/her casket while mahalia
jackson sang sweet swing low sweet cheryl crane
sandra dee daughter/son black & white technicolor refrains. oh sweet
mommy/daddy oh poor porcelana turner I love you. get up

for Peter Gizzi

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Table of Contents

second fugue 6
of all the modern divisions: time splits 8
maybe he wears my trousers: lagniappe 9
triptych 10
studs and rings: favors of the piercing party 11
he pleasures me: a nasty flick. quiescent 12
slashed his foot as a boy. heel to toe 13
the mind is a shapely genital. faces: elaborate 14
personal 15
a conch: I washed ashore on more than one atoll 16
my father and me making dresses: together 17
my father and me in hollywood: fading and rising starlets 18
my fingers have performed their services: church steeple people 19
simple endings overlap: grief is interference 21
the sad part of living is eating and dying 22
sounding the depths: she slides into the bath 23
attended by miracles. every man has two angels 24
sheet wrapped as a burnoose. about his head 25
the agricultural application of burial 26
your torso: enticing to insects like me 27
remembering the taste of skin: dim prehistory of dives 28
choose equal weights: berries and sugar 29
the minotaur at supper: spare the noritake and the spode 30
darling can you kill me: with your mickeymouse pillows 31
thinking the think that falls away: my soul he has no hours to waste 32
you're thin again handsome. in our last 33
always returning: holidays and burials. not every week 35
not the treats of quince blossoms. in this rainy cycle the yards 36
autumn set us heavily to task: unrooted the dahlias 37
splat in the oatmeal: granddaddy facedown 38
here comes the welcome wagon with its 39
women stitching apron corners together neighborly 40
the future rose: an a-frame on the cumberland 41
splitzville for ann and mark: the tourniquet 42
he achieved his escape: john wesley 43
orphans of career day: the choicest lives already 44
down with the chickenbumps you came: kerplunk 45
he imitates his wife: no young drop from the gap 46
dearest perdition. your sweet peach kisses lost 47
baby's on a pallet. in the screenporch you iron 48
sonnet 49
the rain deliberately falls: as an older boy's hand 50
old age keeps its reservation. nostalgia 51
we all carry signs of our obsessions 53
third-world hunger strikes you. midtown bus 54
in the new genesis: a part of his skeleton became me. shaped me 55
you don't have syphilis. the doctor says 56
because as lives are aching I am lucky: a poisonal cup 57
in the course of travel: strychnine every few hours. some italian art 58
when dementia begins: almost makes sense like hamburger translations 59
cherry elixir: the first medication. so mary poppins 60
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