Poetry can be a lonely place. Those who write and publish it are burdened with the unwelcome advice: Poetry doesn't sell. Those who study it find it to be a history of movements -- Beats, Confessionalists, Language School --a subcontinent peopled by warring factions. Those who enjoy it may do so secretively, as if they'd have to make excuses if caught.

If only all poets could be D.A. Powell. The author of multiple poetry books and winner of several prestigious awards is remarkably down to earth. A model of the artist in service to the community, Powell may be the hardest working man in po' biz. He will be in Minneapolis Tuesday to read at the University of Minnesota with Northfield poet Josie Rawson.

An associate professor of English at the University of San Francisco, Powell received the Kingsley Tufts Award this year from Claremont Graduate University of Southern California for his most recent book, "Chronic," from Twin Cities publisher Graywolf Press.

"I was truly surprised to win. I've never counted on any kind of recognition," Powell said recently. "It's a huge honor, and I'm glad to get the extra boost." The award includes a stipend of $100,000, the world's largest monetary prize for a single collection of poetry.

"'Chronic' is a much more personal and direct collection," than his previous three books, Powell says, "since so much of it is informed by my relationship with my former partner." The poems range from serious meditations on the environment to the hilarious "Confessions of a Drama Queen," written as a sendup of the critical impulse to read autobiography into poetry.

Born in Georgia in 1963, Powell had a Christian fundamentalist grandmother, with whom he felt at odds. In an interview with "Poetry Flash," he described coming to terms with his faith: "I felt like it's more radical for me to go back into the church and to say, 'I am a Christian,' than to just turn my back and say, 'OK, well, I'll be something else.' I'm not going to be something else; I'm going to be who I am, and uphold Christian values," including "Judge not lest ye be judged also."

In his third book, "Cocktails," Powell draws inspiration from another source -- contemporary cinema. "For my generation, we have learned so much of our poetic technique from the poetic gestures of film: fade, jump cut, montage, long shot, close up, match edit."

Always pushing boundaries, Powell includes a pullout section -- a poetry centerfold, of sorts -- in "Chronic." His innovative spirit has led him to unlikely territory in his newest poems -- following standard conventions. "I've been writing in traditional sentences, capitalizing things that should be capitalized, punctuating as one might punctuate anything punctuatable. I suppose I'm often just more interested in walking in the snow if there aren't a billion tracks already there."

For Powell, "the upside to the future is the imagination of today," whose active service in the community makes poetry a far less lonely place to be.

James Cihlar is a St. Paul poet and the author of "Metaphysical Bailout" and "Undoing."