Kallisto Gaia Press 2020
Powell's chapbook is an impressive undertaking, Beginning with the evocative title, Super Blood Wolf Moon, the collection takes us through rocky pitfalls of life with wit and poignance. "On Learning of the Death of an Old Girlfriend on Facebook Before Finishing Your First Cup of Coffee" uses repetition to make its point, in a a chant or wail of sadness in which the narrator bemoans the loss of an old love while performing the odd tasks of a life, walking the dogs and remembering that annual flowers are just that: they always come back, but that she won't. Age and accident rule us all, and it's never easy to take.
Another poem which uses repetition to its great advantage is a poem titled "Crowder Peas." The first and last stanzas are identical: "Remembered picking crowder peas/for the first time in years." Yet in the middle, contrary to the first poem, the narrator catalogues the natural elements that remind him of a girl and her father, the doilies his grandmother crocheted, and the bark of a dog on his father's farm. It's a lovely, if sentimental, perhaps because it deliberately and bravely risks sentimentality, poem.
"Super Blood Wolf Moon" is the most representative poem here in its descriptions and mood, so I'll discuss it at length. from the first third of the poem
. . .You've seen this first, full winter moon before,
hanging like a lantern over Indiana corn fields,
floating like a Mardi Gras mask over Lake
Pontchartrain, rising like a New Year's'
ball over Lake Michigan, and riding
like a horseman over Iowa prairie.
I admire the way the poet gives us four different views of the moon, not any of which you would normally take to look like the other, so it's a fine piece of writing that brings together disparate looks at the same thing. And later on, "You've seen a lot because you're retired, now,/ like the winter copperheads burrowed beneath/these stones, and you have plenty of time,/. . . . The narrator has plenty of time of course, but these snakes probably don't, and this the fragility of life retired or otherwise offers itself up for our consideration. The remainder of the poem describes the meaning behind super blood wolf moon, and I find myself interested in it only as a way for the retired narrator to give us his thoughts on what it means. The technical definition, eh, not so much.
Poetry collections like Powell's serve to show how much there is to discover about American poetry. In all its hives and cells and uni programs and community centers, there are beating hearts of poetry each so different from the other it beggars belief. Kallisto Gaia Press may be one such locus. I do know one thing, of all of them Gary V. Powell deserves much more recognition than he currently has, and the poetry world at large, in all of its multifariousness, could use his wisdom.