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Joseph Powell

Joseph Powell

The Slow Subtraction: A.L.S.

Joseph Powell was born and raised in Ellensburg where he worked hauling hay, digging ditches, and cultivating corn. Inspired by dirt and sweat, he received degrees from the University of Washington, Central Washington University, and his MFA from the University of Arizona. He met Judith Kleck in a graduate English class at Central Washington University, and they became life-long companions. After teaching high school at Sequim for a year, he decided only the tough and the brave could put up with those demands, so he applied for a job at Central Washington University.

He has published six collections of poetry: Counting the Change, which won the Quarterly Review of Literature’s Book Award in 1986; Winter Insomnia, which was published by Arrowood Books in 1993; Getting Here, which also won the Quarterly Review of Literature’s Book Award in 1997. Two books, Hard Earth (2010) and Preamble to the Afterlife (2013), were published by March Street Press. Holding Nothing Back was published by Main Street Rag in 2019. His book of short stories, Fish Grooming & Other Stories, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award in 2008. He has also co-written a book on poetic meter with Mark Halperin called Accent on Meter, published by NCTE in 2004. For his poetry he has won a National Endowment for the Arts Award (2009), an Artist Trust Award (2005), the Tom Pier Award (2006), and eleven poems have been nominated for Pushcart prizes from ten literary magazines. An essay won the Victor J. Emmett, Jr. Memorial Award from The Midwest Quarterly (2007). He has been Central Washington University’s Phi Beta Kappa Scholar of the Year (2004), and was awarded Distinguished University Professor in Artistic Accomplishment (2009).

He taught in the English department at Central Washington University for thirty years. He lives on a small farm outside Ellensburg and is an avid gardener, flyfisherman, and scrounge—hunting mushrooms and agates, picking berries..


The Slow Subtraction: A.L.S.    $16.00

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Poem from The Slow Subtraction: A.L.S.

The Snake

The summer after your death our trees
which most years were frosted and fruitless
bear loads I have to unburden.

Each room in the house is booby-trapped
with memories of half-lost joys.
So much fruit impossible to thin.

An imposed simplicity takes on the feeling
of an exile. Abandoned in an empty Eden,
I pick raspberries, blackcaps, blackberries

and freeze them on cookie sheets.
Bags and bags of fruit arranged like prisoners,
each guilty of untimely bounty.

Yet the yellow-striped garter snake coiled
in the leaves of the raspberry canes,
waiting for grasshoppers, seems right,
and the thin-waisted wasps I flick

off the ripe fruit. Trying to blend in,
I too wait in the green and yellow leaves,
wound inside a fading abundance,
arbiter of thorns, guardian of sweetness.

Cover art by Beverly Ash Gilbert

A Break in the Storm

A Break in the Storm