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Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys

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4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  240 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
I have this rearrangement to make:
symbolic death, my backward glance.
The way the past is a kind of future
leaning against the sporty hood.
—from “Bugcatching at Twilight”

In D. A. Powell’s fifth book of poetry, the rollicking line he has made his signature becomes the taut, more discursive means to describing beauty, singing a dirge, directing an ironic smile, or quest
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Hardcover, 108 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Graywolf Press
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80th out of 95 books — 37 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 924)
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Michael Buckner
Feb 26, 2012 Michael Buckner rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
The book delivers poetry that is open and honest, which I like. There are times throughout each poem where Powell tries to let the imagery lead the poem, but it often fell flat with me. The poems that came from within and the personal experiences works much better as they don't seem to be laden with images that try to be crisp and beautiful. These more personals poems had a weight to them and a strong sense of character that I felt like the author was standing on a stage pouring out his emotions ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mar 24, 2013 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, read2013
I first heard about D.A. Powell when he was announced as the judge for the New Southern Voices Poetry Prize sponsored by the Hub City Writers Project. I have to admit to being unfamiliar with him previously, although he has been an award winner and nominee a few times over.

I am giving this three stars, which is my typical rating for solid enough writing that also happens to not really be my thing. My eyes glaze over when poets want to be overly descriptive. I found his shorter poems to be far mo
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James Murphy
Oct 26, 2012 James Murphy rated it it was amazing
Wow. Reading a review I was attracted to the book. I didn't understand that D. A. Powell is homosexual. I didn't make the connection from the subtitle or from the Boy Scout motif of the cover art. Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys is homosexually tuned. More, much of it is homosexual love poetry. Most of it is lovely. All of it is eloquent as well as powerful. This may be the best new poetry I've read this year. Powell's volatile images ring with such emphatic precision that they rise out o ...more
Benjamin
Nov 11, 2012 Benjamin rated it it was amazing
I'm currently a host of a radio show called The Weekly Reader, which interviews authors of new work every week. I was lucky enough to get D. A. Powell on the phone to discuss this book. I had never read his work before, but I got a big kick out of the humor in Useless Landscapes, as well as the more subtle poems--you know, the ones about landscape. Anyway, he's a really cool and incredibly smart guy. I won't be hosting this radio show much longer, but I'll be looking for his next collection when ...more
Shawn (ThatOneEnglishGradStudent)
The language in this collection is interesting--often striking, and occasionally dazzling--though I felt like there were instances in which the vocabulary got a little SAT/GRE (e.g., "campestrial," "mammillate," "exuviated"), and while at times these obscure words contribute to rhythm and sound, mostly it took me out of the poem because I'm immediately wondering "What the hell is that word?"

As is the case with any collection, I responded to some poems more than others. In this case, the ones I r
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Meredith
Mar 06, 2013 Meredith rated it liked it
The more personal poems about love and sex engaged me more than the ones about landscapes and flowers and shizz. His meditations on aging were darned fine. Why do we need to fall apart physically when we get it together mentally? It is unfair.
J.P.
Mar 26, 2012 J.P. rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt, poetry
D.A. Powell's writing is beautiful. Can't wait to pick up his other work.
Donovan Richards
Oct 25, 2012 Donovan Richards rated it liked it
The Who

Who are you? The defining characteristics of each person are often both varied and unusual. As humans we can all claim similar traits. We love; we laugh; we live; we die. Externally, we even define ourselves through the region in which we live. I am a Seattleite; I am Cascadian. My region defines me. I don’t mind rain but my smile beams widest when the bluest skies emerge during summer in the Emerald City.

I mention Seattle to illustrate the foundational ideas which kept circling in my min
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Stewart
Feb 04, 2013 Stewart rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
There is no doubt that D.A. Powell is a gifted poet. His verses are lyrical and beautiful and he creates vivid depictions of California landscapes in the early poems of this collection. At first I found myself in love with this collection until further in it because looser and more juvenile. Fantastic imagery was replaced by crude depictions of casual same-sex debauchery.

While it is undeniable that Powell has a way with words and can make any situation musical and witty, I personally didn't fin
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Nan
Jul 13, 2013 Nan rated it liked it
The writing here was dense and solid, but the collection felt uneven. Some of the landscapes were useless. I often felt like a voyeur, pulled into the scene in hopes of making a connection. The connection would break, and I would have to stop looking and turn away. It's hard to empathize with Narcissus when all he can see or talk about is himself. I loved Powell best when he pulled away from that reflection or stuck his hand into that reflection, distorted it, and found something new. I loved so ...more
JS Found
Nov 11, 2013 JS Found rated it it was amazing
Desire, sex, change as filtered through Nature. These are lyrics where man's lusts have their correlative in natural wonders and processes. These are also funny, playful poems about weakness, place (in the towns rural of California) and people. They're sexually explicit puns. They're stories about illness that recall Aids. Powell has an incredible vocabulary and he uses a lot of nature jargon--bring a good dictionary with you. Many poems deal with childhood and the change both in the person and ...more
Christina Rau
Aug 28, 2015 Christina Rau rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Separated into two parts, this collection is exactly what its title says. The first part uncovers, discovers, and recovers landscapes in "Useless Landscapes." The poems incorporate imagery and natural imagery. They make a rugged landscape themselves, each poem's structure unlike the others surrounding it. Some poems have pop culture allusions while others seem to reside in D. A. Powell's personal history. The second part offers instructions, process, and outcomes in "A Guide For Boys." Here the ...more
Debs
Jun 17, 2012 Debs rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2012
It is rare that I find a collection of poetry which I love in its entirety. The best I can usually hope for is three or four individual poems--and a few more lines or stanzas--that move me. These I copy into a word document for further reflection and examination. I think my favorite poem from this particular collection is "Tarnished Angel," although there were a number of single lines which struck me still.
Steven Tomcavage
Jan 19, 2013 Steven Tomcavage rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
The books starts out with some interesting poems about the landscape of California, which I enjoyed, but then it turns into poem after poem about troubled gay sex encounters. Those poems tend to employ wordplay of the type I would expect from a snickering schoolboy. I imagine Mr. Powell laughing to himself at the inclusion of every double entendre, but I just found it more and more childish.
Christine
Mar 20, 2012 Christine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2012
Though Powell's departure from his own form requires a bit of adjustment on the part of the Powell devotee, I genuinely loved the majority of poems in this book. I kept rereading them and I wanted to share them with others. I grew up in the Sacramento Valley region of Northern California, and Powell manages to capture that landscape—both its fertile beauty and its seedy underbelly—for me.
Darrell
Nov 27, 2013 Darrell rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Poets, Humor
This collection has some solid humorous moments. And for me the humor is based upon the audacity of the speaker to be so deliberate with allusions and references. Those points made me laugh. Also there were really short and impactful poems as well. I feel the collection petered out near the end, but there are some really strong poems in this collection. Would recommend.
Andrew
Feb 06, 2013 Andrew rated it it was amazing
There is a graceful languor to many of these poems which makes them a tremendous pleasure to read. Powell's characteristic wordplay and wit are in full flower, and he solidifies a growing pastoral strain from Chronic, his last volume, which has added a gorgeous new dimension to his already quite rounded repertoire.
Ie
Jan 30, 2013 Ie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2013
I'll probably regret or change this rating later, but fuck. As a collection, Useless Landscape is uneven. Some poems are so so, but there are a good number of poems here (maybe ten, give or take a couple) that make me wish I have the range and the audacity to write something similar.
Derrick
Aug 05, 2012 Derrick rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star
Maybe a book I'll revisit later in life but I simply couldn't understand a good portion of the poems. It is abstract and geared towards the more intellectual sort. The ones I could comprehend I did like though, and hopefully just reading more poetry will eventually help me understand more. :)
Patti K
Apr 23, 2013 Patti K rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
This volume was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2012. Powell writes a
rather dark meditation on gay sexuality and loneliness. Many poems deal with
Landscapes of.... He uses a lot of very naturalistic detail and the reader is
introduced to a variety of natural areas.
Laura
Feb 22, 2013 Laura rated it liked it
My first book of poetry in a looonnnggg time. To evaluate my own reading: I understood maybe more than a little. And I enjoyed the words. But I expected something less sentimental. And while I could reasonably expect darkness, what I found was often small, and sad of course.
Luis Correa
Mar 01, 2012 Luis Correa rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Not my favorite of his. Depends a little too much on the double entendre, which had me giggling when I saw him read, but maybe I'm just in a bit of a funk (and no, not in Funkytown). Some transcendently brilliant poems in here though, especially the two title poems!
Kathleen
Jul 10, 2012 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
What a gorgeous collection of language and song. These poems explore all sorts of landscapes, pulling the reader into place with the density of the music and the detailed descriptions. "Tender Mercies" is one of the very best poems I've read this year.
Kristin
Dec 04, 2012 Kristin rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Favorite Poems: "The Fluffer Talks of Eternity," "Landscape with Sections of Aqueduct," "College City Market, College City, CA" and most of the others in the first section of the book.
Lila Brantley
Apr 04, 2012 Lila Brantley rated it liked it
Received this through First Reads and it was delightful. The writing was vivid and nostalgic. Good stuff that would be very appealing to the LGBT community but others as well.

Liam
Apr 27, 2012 Liam rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is one book that I will probably not finish, and sell to a used book store. A later reading has me changing my mind, but maybe others were put off by some of the first few poems.
Mark Ward
Jan 14, 2013 Mark Ward rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbt, poetry
Will need to go back and re-read the whole thing at least twice. Densely packed poems. It's really 3 and half stars (at the moment) but there's no button for that.
Michael Odom
Aug 06, 2012 Michael Odom rated it liked it
I am a Powell fan, but somehow I never love an entire book at a time. He's incapable of writing poorly though, so I will always seek out his new work.
Bev
Jun 08, 2013 Bev rated it it was amazing
This one reminded me how awesome poetry is as a tool for going where other kinds of writing can't and coming out unhurt.
John Isles
Feb 16, 2012 John Isles rated it it was amazing
DA Powell keeps getting better. Useless Landscape is absolutely amazing.
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D. A. Powell is the author of Tea, Lunch, Cocktails, Chronic and Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry in 2013.

Repast, Powell's latest, collects his three early books in a handsome volume introduced by novelist David Leavitt.

A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, Powell li
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More about D.A. Powell...

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