D. A. Powell on the Energy Transfer of Poetry
In Conversation with Paul Holdengräber on The Quarantine Tapes
Hosted by Paul Holdengräber, The Quarantine Tapes chronicles shifting paradigms in the age of social distancing. Each day, Paul calls a guest for a brief discussion about how they are experiencing the global pandemic.
Paul Holdengräber is joined by poet D.A. Powell on Episode 219 of The Quarantine Tapes. They dig into film, living through pandemics, inspiration, and so much more on this incredible two-part episode.
Powell talks about his experience of the early days of the pandemic and delves into how he approaches writing about grief and loss. They discuss Iris Murdoch, John Cage, Mark Strand, and much more before Powell ends the episode by reading the brilliant poem he wrote back in March of 2020, “Palm Sunday.”
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From the episode:
D. A. Powell: Bad writing can often make us think that the words themselves are the problem, and they’re not. Any word, if used at the right time and in the right context, can create a moment of intense illumination. Just knowing that words have that way of comforting us when we need comforting, inspiring us when we need inspiration, challenging us when we are being complacent, setting fire to the word. It all begins with the power of language, and the power to convey our emotion.
Charles Olson says the poem is energy transferred. And so I sometimes like to tell my students that a poem is an opportunity to take whatever energy you’re feeling and to put it someplace else, to put it into a poem so that other people can feel that energy as well. And I think for myself, sometimes what I’m doing is trying to get that energy off me and put it in the poem, where I can close the book and where I can sort of have it safely in some other context where it doesn’t eat away at my heart or brain.
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D. A. Powell is the author of five collections of poetry, including Chronic, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and Repast: Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails. Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys received the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. He lives in San Francisco.