Everybody's Vaguely Familiar by Jack Powers (Paperback)
Jack Powers powerful debut collection, Everybody's Vaguely Familiar, grapples with existential questions of death, illness, and love. Yet it is one of the most life-affirming collections I have read. Powers' precision of language, his enormous empathy, and his razor-sharp sense of humor allow him to walk the treacherous tightrope of sentiment without ever falling into the abyss of sentimentality. He makes the reader care passionately about the quotidian troubles of his characters. Powers' command of language and his unique voice offer a profound and affecting glimpse of dashed dreams; boyhood exploits; a miscarriage; dementia; deaths of parents, students, friends; and a unique brush with death at age twenty-nine. The persona is as nuanced as the characters in a novel. This collection lives at the intersection between the dueling world-views of the book-- "In Praise of Heart Attacks" and "In Fear of Heart Attacks." While reading this engaging collection, the reader ultimately understands that despite the arguments Powers posits in favor of a swift and painless death, life with all its disappointments and heartaches is undeniably gratifying. This book reminds me how grateful I am to be alive.
The poems in Jack Powers' debut collection Everybody's Vaguely Familiar are as human as it gets, maneuvering through the emotional landscape of life with wit, a no-nonsense clarity and a touch of sarcasm. These poems are immediate . . . as if each one is talking specifically to you, the reader, creating a bridge of instant friendship. So when Powers explores fatherhood, the death of a parent, or how we can get the most out of the time we do have, these poems offer a past, present and most importantly a future. So read this collection and celebrate what it really means to be alive.
Everybody's Vaguely Familiar is a funny and poignant ride through the vivid details of our everyday lives. From adolescent smoking to philtrum guards to a miscarriage, Powers captures a male voice in search of what it all adds up to--if anything. In this carefully observant collection, he appears to suggest that even though we fail the ones we love and death claims us all, the struggle is worth it, especially when family shares it with us: "I will.../ remember a beach in Rhodes// where stars littered the sky/ like luminescent river stones/ so close// we could pluck them/from the heavens, / offer them to each other...." Powers' book shows us how to "wish for more."
I love Jack Powers' light touch and deep vision. Everyone's Vaguely Familiar is brilliant, humanistic, quick-witted and fast-paced--but the cameos of family, high school, pop icons and suburbia open seamlessly onto the sacred ground of tragedy: mortality, suffering, how we create ourselves out of nothing and are undone. In "Smokin' A Real Cool Brand," Powers' zinging lines arrive at an epiphany--"an acute awareness of my good fortune"--but that's not where the poem ends: it ends in the human predicament: illusion, desire, cussedness, our need to flirt with disaster. Everyone's Vaguely Familiar is a book that will last.
Number of Pages: 78
Publisher: Golden Antelope Press
Age Range: Adult
Book theme: General
Author: Jack Powers