On the Desire to Levitate — 2014


By Alison Powell

“By turns tough, talky, triumphant, and tragic, like the Midwest itself, Alison Powell’s On the Desire to Levitate lifts us above the lush landscapes of her vision. Hers is an elegiac imagination that, in its very lyric confidence, manages to affirm that flight is never simple—all while making it look effortless. In love with language, folk song, the raw fields, and eminence, these poems sing while conjuring. Presto!”

Kevin Young, author of The Grey Album, (New York Times Notable Book, 2012)

“The great strengths…of the book, are vividness, striking images, a sense of place, and a forthright approach to the normal ambivalence in families' experience of age and death.”


“I’ve always felt that the true test of a poet lies in his/her love poems—whether to nature, god, art, the beloved, it hardly matters—for therein lies the driving force of human experience: to release oneself from the limits of the self, to cross, as one poem puts it, “that bridge of disbelief / between who someone is and might, someday, be.” The hungers of sexual experience, the imaginary heavens of childhood, the mythic yearnings of Orpheus and Eurydice—this book abounds with examples. I suppose it goes without saying that the lyric gift required to invoke that world is an uncommon thing for any book of poems; for a first book, it is truly rare. Alison Powell’s On the Desire to Levitate marks the beginning of a brilliant career.”

Sherod Santos, author of The Intricated Soul: New and Selected Poems

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On the Desire to Levitate is the first collection of poems by Alison Powell. This striking collection includes vivid, unflinching meditations on aging, mythology, poetry, and family. In tight, elegant lines that alternate between homage and elegy, these poems explore known subjects with a rebellious eye: a defeated Hercules and a bitter Eurydice, a sympathetic Lucifer, and generations of adolescent girls as mythical adventurers moving within a beloved but confining Midwest. Yet in Powell's skillful hands, hardship never overtakes: as judge Charles Hood writes, “There's often a delicious humor in this work, and always a deep and lasting integrity.”

Picture of Alison Powell

Alison Powell received an MFA in Poetry from Indiana University in 2005. Her work has previously appeared in journals including Boston Review, AGNI, Crazyhorse, Black Warrior Review, Puerto del Sol, Antioch Review, and other journals, as well as in the anthology Best New Poets 2006. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.

  • A Library Journal “Thirty Amazing Poetry Titles for Spring 2014” selection
  • Winner of the 2013 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize
Cover of 'On the Desire to Levitate'


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