Thursday, June 14, 2012

D. A. Powell, Donna Summer, and the Finality of Prose



"It's hard for me to say anything in prose, because it seems so final."

So writes my tender friend, inspiring hero, and supporter D. A. Powell (Doug, among his friends). He's writing that lyric essay / prose poem / who-friggin-cares-what-label, which is offered as a tribute to Donna Summer, but it's not. It's about dancing, sex, and sorrow. It's about living while you get the opportunity, even if it kills you. There's a reason he's celebrated as one of the greatest poets of his generation. You want duende? Read Doug Powell. Now.

Now! I constantly feel a sense of urgency in myself around his work, despite the fact that he is such a gentle, leisurely fellow. His work itself isn't fast paced or struggling, rather it accepts inevitabilities. His latest book, Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys, is rife with bittersweet nostalgia, and it lives and breathes in the realm where regrets suck, so why don't we just look back as fondly as possible? This book breaks my heart.

I feel this sense of urgency, no sugar coating, because Doug has HIV. He's had it for quite some time, and man-o-man has he put up a good fight. The sense of disease and dis-ease permeates his work. His previous poetry collection was titled Chronic, for Heaven's sake. I project my fears directly onto him. I have a neurotic fear that I'll turn on my computer one morning (because no one's going to call me) and I'll read on Facebook, the in-flight meal of tasteless single servings, that he's died. Just gone. No more Doug. Ta ta.

And I know that Doug doesn't want to be celebrated as a "dying" genius. How petty and self-serving of his fans. He doesn't even ask for much attention. I don't want to fetishize him or objectify him or "other" him any more than he already has been. But facts are facts. He's a damn genius, an amazing poet, a supportive friend, a kind and gentle soul, and he is ravaged by illness. He's just so damn special, and I don't want him to leave. But that's not my choice to make.

If you've never heard of him, you should do something about that.

Staying as lovely as possible,
EJP

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