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D. A. Powell

D. A. Powell (born 1963) is an American poet.

Life and career

Powell was born in Albany, Georgia. He lived in various places growing up, then graduated high school from Lindhurst High School in Linda, California. He then worked in a number of jobs before eventually settling in Santa Rosa, California, where he attended Sonoma State University. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1991 and a master's in 1993. Not long after completing his graduate work at Sonoma State, he entered the presitigious Iowa Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa. In 1996, he graduated from Iowa and began a career as a poet and university professor. Powell has taught at a number of different universities, including Columbia University, Sonoma State University, San Francisco State University, and Harvard University, where he served as the Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Poetry. In 2004, Powell left Harvard for The University of San Francisco, where he teaches in the English department.

Awards and recognition

In addition to serving as the Briggs-Copeland Lecturer at Harvard (itself a recognition of both creative and scholarly talent), Powell has won the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, a grant for the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Paul Engle Fellowship. His second collection, Lunch, was a finalist for the National Poetry Series, and his most recent book, Cocktails, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry.


Considered by some an experimental poet, Powell mixes both conventional and non-conventional techniques. For example, his poems do not have titles; the first lines serve as the poem's working title. He also does not caplitalize the first letter of a new sentence. In this sense, he is reminiscent of E. E. Cummings; however Powell's poems are more edgy. His work often moves back and forth between popular culture like movies and music and more complicated themes like religion and AIDS. Some consider Powell's first three books of poems a kind of trilogy on the AIDS epidemic.

Powell's publications include Tea (Wesleyan, 1998); Lunch (Wesleyan, 2000); and Cocktails (Graywolf Press, 2004). Powell is at work on a fourth collection to be published by Graywolf.

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