DA Powell & John Isles
Wednesday, February 18, 2009, 7:00 pm
D. A. POWELL is the author of Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. He teaches at the University of San Francisco and lives in the Bay Area.
Part Baudelairian flâneur, an Arcadian shepherd, the speaker in John Isles's brave new Inverse Sky encounters a fragmented history. It is nineteenth-century California, and the missions are still burning after the Americans establish the Bear Flag Republic; it is the twenty-first century, and the miners of 49 are relegated to a mural in an arcade. Both a loner and a lover, Isles's pilgrim-poet takes us on a journey where Native Americans are "missing persons" outside a diorama of their ancestors, then sets us adrift in settings ranging from film noir to the clear-cut hills of modern-day California landscapes, under siege but not defeated.
John Isles is the author of Ark (Iowa, 2003) and coeditor of the Baltics section of New European Poets. He received an award from The Los Angeles Review in 2004 and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005. His poems have appeared in such journals as American Letters & Commentary, the Boston Review, the Denver Quarterly, and Pleiades. He teaches at City College of San Francisco and lives with his wife, the poet Kristen Hanlon, and their son, Liam, in Alameda, California.
Inverse Sky establishes John Isles as one of the most accomplished poets of his generation. Isles has reinvented pastoral, and the pastoral is political. He has given us American public space and a wider, and visionary, American consciousness (sky), in which 'The truth went out / Wandering burnt hills in the pitch / With reeds in its pockets': Isles's poems restore us to an original relation to nature (to the city) (as Emerson demanded), even as they enact a powerful elegy for community."—Joseph Lease, author, Broken World
"Inverse Sky is the continuously interrupted poem of an American who moves through encroaching and inaccessible properties as a stranger. A rhythmic and sonic self-enclosure is finally his only safe space. His is a caravan made of language that travels by music; it carries him and the reader along through 'vehicular gleam.' The reader climbs on board because there is warmth and love inside."—Fanny Howe