ARC Poetry

There’s a lovely and very perceptive review of Inheritance in Arc Poetry by the talented poet and writer Phoebe Wang:

Drawing from the painful legacy of her father’s trauma and death– her “inheritance,” so to speak– Powell transmutes these experiences into passionate elegies with chorus-like repetitions and singing lines. She explores how fathers become symbolic presences, omnipresent yet ultimately impotent. In the sequence, “In the Halls of My Fathers”, the speaker wanders through a psychic space with “no exits, only entrances and hallways.” It is a masculine and violent space with the music of muskets, portraits of dukes, philosophers and composers, “the Greats” who “swagger on the horizon” where a “whistling girl, crowing hen” is “graced and effaced by dead men.” Yet the speaker’s “bellicose heart” and strong stomach can cope with the tragic scope of her father’s death and the diminishment of masculine authority and power.

Conversely, a section of Inheritance depicts a chorus of fierce brides and “hen-nighters,” and the holy lives of make-up counter girls. Unlike the fathers with their expressions like masks, these females are vivid in floaty nightgowns and bits of sparkle. Powell refuses to let their uncelebrated lives slip beneath the surface. The poems feel like they are hauling something felonious or precious from the depths of forgetfulness, where it twists on the page. They are full of “dimly lit presences,” blurs and tricks that contrast the terse couplets and compressed rhythms. “Malefic,” about a murdered woman and her kidnapper and attacker, unspools in one long sentence, like the “loosely strung narratives” it contains. The reader becomes a complicit witness to these extreme lives. Like the audience to Electra or Antigone, we may feel horrified, then cleansed and purged with pity and fear at Powell’s portrayal of the human and the holy.

Read the rest of the review in the summer print issue of Arc or online here.