Book Review: "Useless Landscape or a Guide for Boys"
Across fields and men’s bodies—his own included—D.A. Powell’s fifth collection of poetry is a semi-translucent swirl of memory, nostalgia, and imagination. He revels in various interpretations of landscape. Proper care is given to each line, word, and allusion, as Powell slowly reveals a greater picture.This style makes for a rich reading experience, especially since the overall nature of Useless Landscape or A Guide For Boys exudes eroticism. At times, it reads like a little black book of lustful secrets as Powell plays dangerously with others. He gets around, so don’t expect him to remember your name, “Bryan/Excuse me. Ryan.”
While Powell engages you in many indulgent moments, not every poem is a triumph. He’s not oblivious to the fact that hubris leads to downfall. He writes about his deteriorating body and the pill cocktails he takes every day to keep his HIV in check. He’s also not getting any younger, you know.Yet he still tries to reason with death, with heaven, and with the angels: “They try their best. But we’re such shits./And it’s not because we want to screw them./We screw everything. We’re mankind. It’s what we do.”
That’s the beauty of Powell. He scrutinizes the human condition with complete honesty. It’s better to read each poem slowly, and more than once, to savor its full, crisp taste. But you find yourself reading ahead to see where he leads you.To Satiate. Line by line, to the beyond.
-- Sarah Lamar