In a review of Jim Powell’s first book, Thom Gunn praised his poetry for tapping “a subject matter that is endless and important . . . achieved in the poem, so we grasp it as we read.” Substrate gathers three new collections of Powell’s poetry, the work of a dozen years. These poems open inward windows on the world outward from indigenous habitat in Northern California. They include the past as an aspect of the present, and spirit as a dimension of the actual. The title poem summons twenty-five witnesses from oral and documentary history to focus through the lens of poetry an adult view, over their shoulders, of California history—a compound portrait or collage sampling the indelible strata that compose the cultural substrate of the region. Diverse in theme, stance, tone, genre, and form, the poems in this collection are characterized by lucidity and penetration, plainspoken intensity, compression, and depth.
Jim A. Powell
About Jim A. Powell
JIM POWELL is the author of It Was Fever That Made The World and the translator of The Poetry Of Sappho and Catullan Revenants. He was awarded include a CCLM Younger Poets Prize in 1986 and a MacArthur Fellowship (1993-1998, and he was the Sherry Memorial Poet at the University of Chicago in 2005. He is a fourth generation native and lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay region.
"Powell has a gift for using a series of lists that magically add up to a sum far greater than their parts." -- San Francisco Chronicle
“Together these poems are a marvel. Powell’s subject is nothing less than how energy and power rise, decay, then reconstitute themselves in the human and natural worlds. To learn how thrilling, how magisterial this can be, see ‘Temperament,’ see ‘Ghost Dance Witch Hunt Blues.’ An exhilarating book.” —Frank Bidart, author of Desire
Praise for Jim Powell’s Previous Work
“I find it difficult to overpraise the ease of this writing, which in one act combines succinct physical presentation and explanation of it. Jim Powell not only understands the way in which opposites are necessary to one another, he achieves his knowledge in the poem, and se we grasp it as we read. In the meeting of opposites . . . he has tapped a subject matter that is endless ad important, and by the thoroughgoingness and the subtlety of his exploration shows he has the power to do almost anything.” —Thom Gunn