Review of Inheritance

It was a joy, in the midst of all my fiction-related activities, to find these generous words written by poet and University of Toronto professor Richard Greene, about my poetry:

“Kerry-Lee Powell’s Inheritance (Biblioasis) is a spectacular debut. Originally from Montreal and now in New Brunswick, Powell has lived in Australia, Antigua, and the United Kingdom. She studied at the University of Cardiff and experienced the extraordinarily vibrant poetry scene in Wales, where she received advice on her writing from Gwyneth Lewis and other highly accomplished poets. Powell is also an admired writer of fiction, publishing with Harper Collins. Inheritance is mainly inspired by her father’s experience of a shipwreck during World War II, his long years of post-traumatic stress disorder, and his eventual suicide. Powell typically writes in strict forms, which, in her handling, achieve an almost elemental solidity. “The Lifeboat” is a poem with affinities going back at least as far as William Cowper:

All night in his lifeboat my father sang

to keep the voices of the other men

who cried in the wreckage from reaching him,

he sang what he knew of the requiem,

of the hit parade and the bits of hymns,

he sang until he would never sing again

,scalding his raw throat with sea water

until his ribs heaved, until the salt

wept from his eyes on dry land,

flecked at his lips in his squalling rages,

streaked the sheets in his night sweats

as night after night the reassembled ship

scattered its parts on the shore of his bed,

and the lifeboat eased him out again

to drown each night among singing men.

I cannot imagine how such a subject could be better handled, and many more examples could be quoted. Good debut collections generally show skill but tend nowadays to rely on a torrent of marginally clever references to social media and pop culture, usually with the obligato adjective fractal, as if the poets were looking for a strangeness to hold place in poetry until some significant experience comes along. Powell seizes on a grief of terrible magnitude and renders it with technical mastery.”

from the summer issue of the University of Toronto Quarterly(vol. 85, issue 3)