Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

On the Desire to Levitate

By Alison Powell

A Library Journal “Thirty Amazing Poetry Titles for Spring 2014” selection · Winner of the 2013 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize

“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

“In the second line of the title poem, which opens Alison Powell’s first col- lection, we encounter the word flight, italicized, set off by itself between a colon and a period as if framed for our notice. It is a useful clue, for the twenty-nine poems gathered here exhibit several kinds of flight.”

Scott Russell Sanders, Middle West Review

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.”

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.   More info →

Order a print copy

Paperback · $14.36 ·
Add to Cart

Retail price: $17.95 · Save 20% ($14.36)

Buy from a local bookstore


US and Canada only

Buy an eBook

Amazon Kindle Store Barnes & Noble NOOK Google Play iBooks Store

Availability and price vary according to vendor.

Cover of On the Desire to Levitate

Share    Facebook icon  Email icon


Desk Copy Examination Copy Review Copy

Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center


Retail price: $17.95, T.
Release date: March 2014
64 pages · 5½ × 8½ in.
Rights:  World

Release date: March 2014
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for On the Desire to Levitate

“This collection celebrates the humanity and surprise of being a child, being an adult, being fully alive in this strange and perplexing and magnificent world. It’s an inclusive story: angels mean something in this book, and are willing to look back at us just as hard as we look at them. Yet it’s never grim—corn grows; language brims; lives rise and glow. There’s often a delicious humor in this work, and always a deep and lasting integrity.”

Charles Hood, author of South x South, and 2013 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize judge


Sign up to be notified when new Poetry titles come out.

We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.