Special Powers and Abilities

Poetry by Raymond McDaniel

October 23, 2012 • 6 x 8.9 • 100 pages • 978-1-56689-315-2

A futuristic, stunningly imaginative poetic exploration of superheroes, religion, and myth.

Inspired by The Legion of Super-Heroes, a comic series about a group of teenage superheroes in the future, McDaniel’s poems morph superheroes into religious and mythological narratives. Using a range traditional forms—versets, kennings, and sonnets, his poems consider the history of how we look at the future and takes on an almost Talmudic complexity.

About the Author

Raymond McDaniel is the author of Special Powers and Abilities, Saltwater Empire, and Murder (a violet), a National Poetry Series selection.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


“There’s nothing like this stellar—and also interstellar—collection. . . . These poems are like their comic book sources in many ways, all of them smart and most of them touching, but in one way most of all: pick it up and you won’t want to put it down.” Stephen Burt

“McDaniel doesn’t so much capture the voice of superheroes as he employs his special ability to render them—emotionally, psychologically—which is a super power in itself. These poems are at once sublime and imaginative, earthy and other worldly, philosophical and sensible. The future of myth and fable lies between these pages, a future we once believed ‘could be good, because/ once we believed a future could be.’ Read these poems and believe again.” A. Van Jordan

“In Special Powers and Abilities, Raymond McDaniel takes as his subject the perpetual allure of adolescence, where, like Ben-Day dots, emotions are simple, modular, primary-colored. . . . Out of these lurid tints and all-caps dialogue—the crude exuberance of youth—McDaniel constructs a subtle and haunting meditation on nostalgia, ‘stitched of silk & almost oblivion’ and ‘the world to which you cannot return’ is a universe in which unitards are donned for everyday wear and ‘foil’ can be used as a verb. To be ‘alien’ here is not to hail from an exotic planet, but instead to be stricken by adult self-consciousness: a ‘mind, worn smooth by friction.’” Monica Youn

“Witty language fun for comic book fans and non-believers alike can be found in McDaniel’s poetic homage to one of the greatest superhero teams in comics.” Shelf Awareness

“The poems in this collection are fun, whimsical, but hiding within a secret identity. . . . [McDaniel’s] poems have the only superpower a poet ever needs; they have something to say.” Pleiades

“These poems, by turns affectionate and furious, animate the loves and inner lives of the perpetual superteens who make up the Legion. . . . Don’t worry if you’re not a Legion reader, though. McDaniel takes pains to open up the universe to those unfamiliar with it and many poems manage to function quite successfully as both exposition and poetry-no mean feat. . . . The poems careen between clever rhetorical acrobatics . . . and moments where language grows elastic, gorgeous, uncanny.” I09

Special Powers and Abilities takes its inspiration from a long (and still!) running comic series about super-powered teenagers in a distant future. Through the intricate use of assorted poetic structures or devices, McDaniel investigates everything from teenage love triangles and last stands to mythological parallels and the limits of poetry and comics. . . . I found the arrangement of poems both magnanimous and exciting.” BOMB

“In Special Powers and Abilities, McDaniel—in vocabulary and forms moving between opulently whiz-band comics-inspired, deliberately and humorously mundane, and wistfully lyrical—narratives key episodes and the loves and yearnings of some of the characters. In the process, he finds in his source material a remarkable degree of pathos and insight.” Rain Taxi

“McDaniel uses these somewhat obscure characters, particularly Brainiac 5, to simultaneously critique and examine the universe of the comic, and also the human frailties common even to superheroes. . . . McDaniel’s affection for this comic-book world allows the reader to enter it with affection, too, and enjoy the poems whether or not they are familiar with the specifics of The Legion of Super-Heroes, or even comic book archetypes and tropes.” The Rumpus

“McDaniel flexes his poetic muscles, making it clear that, as dedicated as he is to the history of the Legion, he is equally well versed in the subtleties of his craft. . . . This collection is suffused with the wonder, excitement, disappointment, and grief felt periodically by many fans of long-running comic series. By its end many readers—comic fanatics and newcomers alike—may find themselves initiated into the Legion of Super-Heroes.” Los Angeles Review