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D.A. Powell

Douglas A. Powell was born in Albany, Georgia, but spent most of his youth in northern California. Powell attended the Sonoma State University, graduating with his bachelor's degree in 1991 and his master's degree in 1993.

Powell graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1996. His MFA thesis, Tea, (held in the University of Iowa’s Main Library) was written at Iowa during the aftermath of a relationship and was published in 1998. Powell has since written two more volumes to complete this trilogy: Lunch (2000)and Cocktails (2004). The poems in these three collections serve to immerse the reader in the environment of the poet, though Powell writes in his introduction to Tea, "This is not a book about AIDS…I do not deny this disease its impact. But I deny its dominion."

Powell's early work revolves around the lives of the people he knew that were affected by the AIDS epidemic by defining them in the context of the places they went and the people they knew. Powell's trilogy is stylistically marked by inventive syntax, long lines ("by pulling the line longer, stretching it into a longer breath, I was giving a bit more life to some people who had very short lives," Powell writes), and other forms of experimental poetics. In Tea alone, Powell refers to disco songs, gay clubs in the San Francisco bay area, and personal details, among many other details that root the poems in time.

In Iowa City

"For the first year I was at the Workshop, I worked odd jobs, including being a regular writer from the Museum of Art …[and] working at the Java House," Powell stated in an interview with the Writing University.

When Powell would meet with Marvin Bell, his teacher at the time, the two would conference at "a bakery called The Cottage [on South Gilbert St]. If I was meeting my own students for conference, we'd generally meet at the student union or at a coffee shop called Ground Zero…on Linn Street."

Powell also regularly "met with fellow classmates at the Foxhead or Georges. Sometimes the Deadwood. Usually the day of the workshop, we'd all go out afterward to the Mill to debrief."  Though he lived in Coralville during his time at the Workshop, Powell spent much of his time in Iowa City, spending time at the homes of both the novelist Julie Orringer and the poet Rachel Zucker.

The places Powell frequented were not limited to Iowa City. He explored the surrounding areas with curiosity: "Although I had a car, I'd walk most everywhere. I would even walk from my apartment in Coralville all the way to downtown Iowa City. I usually walked along the river to help trigger my imagination, or I'd go out to the cemetery and walk among the gravestones. If I got stir-crazy, I'd drive to Columbus Junction for Mexican food or out to the Amana Colonies."

Later Works and Accolades

Powell has also published two more collections, Chronic (2009) and most recently, Useless Landscape: A Guide for Boys (2012). Powell has also collaborated with poet David Trinidad in the work of prose By Myself: An Autobiography. Luxbooks has also released a bilingual English/German selection of Powell's poems also titled Cocktails.  Powell's work has been anthologized in the 2009 Norton anthology American Hybrid, edited by Cole Swensen, and Best American Poetry 2008.

Powell has served as a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer at Harvard. He has also held teaching positions at Columbia University, the University of San Francisco, and the University of Iowa. He has received the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Paul Engle Fellowship. Powell also regularly contributes to the Poetry Foundation website.

United States