Toronto Star

The Toronto Star has called Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush one of the five finest collections published in the last few month. Here’s the write-up. I do like that she finds the stories quixotic:

“The men and women who inhabit Kerry Lee Powell’s vivid and quixotic stories are often grasping the fringe — strippers, bullies, drunks, addicts and outsiders of all ages. Even when her characters are holding it together, their lives are interestingly off-kilter. In the title story, a relationship goes off the rails during a vacation to L.A., when he starts talking in weird voices, she endures a hair-raising roller-coaster ride and he is assaulted in the LAX departure lounge. These 15 stories represent the New Brunswick writer’s first story collection; singly, several of them have been awarded prizes and praise in recent years — and this collection is on the longlist for the 2016 Giller Prize.”

49th Shelf September Recommends

Acclaimed author Caroline Adderson has recommended Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush on the 49th Shelf blog. She wrote some really lovely things, and I’m so glad she ‘got’ my jokes. The review in full is posted below, read other reviews in the Recommends series here.

“Set in grody strip clubs and greasy spoons, peopled with “tramps and lunatics,” “an assortment of creeps and lowlifes with bad breath,” battered girlfriends, and Soviet-scarred chamber maids, this energetic collection presents a “raw humanity defiantly festive in the face of poverty and despair.” Powell, also a poet, is a painterly prose writer, not just in her many references to visual art, but her gorgeous images. One character lives alone in a sagging house “surrounded by the upturned scarabs of old snowmobiles.” A husband lurking in a dark corner is “filleted by shadows from the Venetian blinds.” But what makes this book so striking is how Powell sets up certain expectations, then, like the roller coaster in the title story, banks sharply and plunges us into an entirely unexpected narrative. The hilarious one-liners contribute a tonal juxtaposition that adds to the surprise. “You can tell a lot about people by the shape of their ass,” one character asserts. “It’s like a second face.” A soon-to-be bride returns to her hideous hometown intent on starting a coven, but only manages to sign up a fellow waitress who sees the coven “like a kind of mystical Tupperware party. A local hockey star had started a burger chain and now had a row of vintage Corvettes. Who knew where the coven thing might end?”

“So many awful things happen when you’re not even looking,” Powell writes. So true! But the grim material in these stories is leavened by dark comedy, the author’s hard-boiled irreverence, her dazzling prose, and, miraculously, an undercurrent of comic book and fairy tale enchantment. The way you look at life determines how you’ll get through it. Powell stares right into the grimy places and whoops.”

Rave review in the National Post

“There are certain, rare story collections that sit on the shelf as a kind of gem box rather than a book: Salinger’s Nine Stories, Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Raymond Carver’s Short Cuts, Lorrie Moore’s Like Life, to name a fewWillem de Kooning’s Paintbrush is of a piece with the work of these old guard masters – authors of ten-page epics that call you back again and again with their ringing lines and luminous images. Within Powell’s 15 stories, it is impossible to pick a crown jewel. Each one feels like the favourite until the next.” Here’s the rest of this fabulous review.

CBC Writers To Watch: 2016

It’s an honour to be included on the CBC’s list of Canada’s next great writers!


Here’s what they said about Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush: “The stories in Kerry Lee Powell’s darkly funny debut collection, Willem De Kooning’s Paintbrush, have picked up multiple awards, including a Boston Review fiction contest win and the Malahat Reviews Far Horizons Award for short fiction. Powell has previously published two books of poetry, Inheritance and The Wreckage.”

Winnipeg Free Press Review


“In several stories, characters mired in difficult situations look to the mystical to help them escape, and Powell’s delicacy in these stories is wonderfully successful.”

A lovely review of Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush in the Winnipeg Free Press, although it seems like the reviewer was occasionally taken aback by some of the darker themes.

Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush in the Globe and Mail

Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush had a fabulous review in The Globe and Mail last week. I was wondering if anyone would pick up on my cheeky nod to Alice Munro’s Royal Beatings in my opening chapter. Thanks, Steven Beattie, for some really insightful comments and thanks to the Globe and Mail for a beautiful near full-page spread in their Saturday Arts section. He also later and very kindly advised people on Facebook to look for my book, as it was “an early contender for one of the books of the year.” High praise from a demanding and incisive critic! Read the review, alongside a review of Laura Trunkey’s intriguing-sounding Double Dutch here:

Inheritance reviewed in the TLS

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 9.32.45 AMInheritance has received a really fabulous review in this week’s Times Literary Supplement to end the old and start the new year with. Here are the first two sentences: “Kerry-Lee Powell’s poems are full of lively vignettes in which realism strikes lyrical sparks off harshness. “Russian Brides” thriving on air and vodka are at once predatory girls on the make and fairy-tale princesses “luring icons and stars/from clifftops”, and a bald old man by a murky pond is mesmerized in “The Encounter” by his own death’s head reflection “smirking at him in green-flecked slacks/from his cave beneath the lilies”.

The Wreckage Reviewed in the TLS

There’s a brief review in the Times Literary Supplement of my poetry pamphlet The Wreckage, which was published by Grey Suit Editions in the UK a couple of years ago. I’ve been told by the editor that a full review of my collection Inheritance will appear early in the new year:

“Kerry-Lee Powell’s The Wreckage, published by the same press, is a collection of clear-eyed, slow-burning lyrics inspired by the psychological struggle and suicide of her father , “his heart full of holes”.