Boats in the Attic is a sweeping, poignant exploration of what it means to be an individual and, in particular, what it means to be a parent of young children, in our current time of crisis. Errands must be run, the radio plays, and the child wants the birthday girl’s balloon—all while sea levels are rising and wild wolves roam the acres of Chernobyl, “developing a cryptography to a century / to which we are not invited.”
In this dynamic collection, Powell intersperses lyric flight and prose fragments with metacommentary, nuance, and a beguiling sense of humor. At the same time, these pieces are securely tethered to the material difficulties of being a human in today’s world, where a child must participate in a lockdown drill at his preschool and a dying woman turns to Reddit to fund her efforts to be cryogenetically preserved. Conversations between the speaker and her children trace the beauty and terror of existential indeterminacy: “We begin to consider other planets — / Will they have us?” In a long piece titled “Book of Revelation,” the speaker dreams that “below the bed / is an encyclopedia of lost things,” a phrase that captures the collection’s wide range and its categorizing eye. Powell turns to astronomy, Alice in Wonderland, Millerism, and culinary cruelty, with a uniquely celebratory and elegiac voice, all in an effort to understand the depths, and effects, of the human appetite for pleasure, power, and escape.