Synopses & Reviews
The award-winning poet returns to his homeplace in the Pacific Northwest, where the neighborhood simmers with the chemical presence of human trouble and sparks of beauty coexist with danger.
This image-driven, sound-driven collection carries us to the working-class Portland neighborhood of Lents, where Dickman was raised by a single mother. Here, as a skateboarding boy practices his kickflip on the street, enlightenment simmers under the surface of both the natural world and the human constructions that threaten it. The rivers shrinking to a trickle, the unaddressed crisis of homelessness, the drug use in a local park: these run side by side with the efforts and structures of families, created mostly by working mothers, with their jumbled bottomless purses and full-time jobs; Dickman's own mother worked at the power company of the title, PP&L. His exquisite, ultrareal narratives take us down through these layers, illuminating the way we've treated and should treat one another, seeking integrity and understanding in the midst of a broken world.
"This riot of nature, always troubled by the artificial, conjures a green thought in a green shade. Only in Dickman's landscape, nature's green spectrum turns corrosive, and veers towards a shade that glares and discomfits. No one sees and hears the world quite like this poet whose every line thrums with specificity." Jhumpa Lahiri, author of Roman Stories
"'Motion sensor in the primrose' captures both Michael Dickman's capitulation to our ghastly modern world and his nostalgia for the civilised past. Home is the place he sees through a maelstrom of drugs, a place where his mother's dogs' paws 'are formal and cross at the ankle', where 'the driveways here are very short and end in elegy.' Like Rilke's 'You must change your life, ' Dickman abruptly announces, 'I have wasted so much time.' These poems are full of lovely domestic memories seen through greasy clouds of methadone. 'It's half you and half me, ' the poet tells us generously." Edmund White, author of The Humble Lover
"Michael Dickman's Pacific Power & Light possesses a cumulative effect where small, fragmented moments culminate. The title works on the reader's psyche as a subplot; yes, we remember what happened in Paradise and Dixie. The poet names seemingly routine moments of everyday lives, but the astute reader knows these collective details linger in the heart of America. The poet's imagistic symbols and emblems create a postmodern intrigue, as one stands in daily humdrum. Dickman paints a portrait — moments that make us happy or sad — beckoning us into a psychological weather. Pacific Power & Light's knowing ellipses color a fiery backdrop." Yusef Komunyakaa, author of Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth
About the Author
Michael Dickman was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He is the author of four collections of poems, including Flies, winner of the 2010 James Laughlin Award, and Days & Days, a New York Times Best Poetry Book of 2019. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he lives in Princeton, New Jersey, where he is on the faculty at Princeton University's Lewis Center for the Arts.