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Starred Review. SignatureReviewed by Brenda ShaughnessyMarie Howe's books of poetry materialize once a decade and are big news and cause for celebration. Both of her previous collections moved me to tears and have continued to move me. Reading her third is like finally having a very long thirst quenched. Howe's debut, The Good Thief, contains a poem, Part of Eve's Discussion, which remains one of the most breathtaking out-of-body experiences in contemporary poetry: ...when it occurs to you/ your car could spin/.../ it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only/ all the time. When I teach poetry classes, this is what I start with: it makes young poets want to write. Then there are the rapt, anguished poems about all-too-corporeal experiences in What the Living Do, which struggles to reckon with a beloved brother's death from AIDS as well as a rough-and-tumble childhood. Howe finds the flash point of illumination in the chaos of grief and murky memory. This book has become a classic text in coping with life, love and loss. How do we save each other, or how do we watch helplessly? How can we live with our memories or with losing them, or each other? Howe is the rare poet who offers answers to these questions. This third book unites and develops all the strength and beauty of the previous two. Metaphysical aspects of Thief find advanced life forms in mind-benders like Limbo (Do I have an I?/ One says to another... ) and Easter. a brilliant short poem about reanimation (And the whole body was too small. Imagine/ the sky trying to fit into a tunnel carved into a hill). The earthbound qualities of Living also find new form here: political, indeed global concerns are posited with signature clarity, expressing, through simple observation and empathy, the hope for more humane systems. A cycle of heartbreaking poems about motherhood, called Life of Mary, looks back on the speaker's own dead mother, while other poems look straight into the moment, joyfully, reverently and always with a pause for reflection and amazement, with her daughter.Howe is a careful and soulful alchemist. She makes metaphor matter and material metaphysical. She becomes magic with her transforming perspective that is part mother, part muscle, part music, part mind. This book has the amazing thing that Howe always seems to pull off: the miracle. I saw it./ It was the thing and spirit both: the real/ world: evident, invisible. (Mar.)Brenda Shaughnessy is the author of Interior with Sudden Joy (FSG, 1999) and the forthcoming Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon, 2008), which won the 2007 James Laughlin Award. She is poetry editor of Tin House magazine.
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The speaker in Howe’s pleasant, somewhat scattered new collection of poems is a woman of around 50 trolling the supermarket aisles, going to movies, parenting her daughter, doing a spot of reading here and there—living, in short, an ordinary life and wondering what it means. At times there’s a hint of dread it might not mean anything, or at least nothing beyond its surfaces. More often, there’s a quiet determination to detect, define, describe what’s significant in an existence that might seem largely mundane. Still, she doesn’t find much. Howe’s is not a poetry of transcendence, grounded instead in the muck of the stubbornly material. Even its occasional approaches to religious themes—including “Easter,” in which the poet imagines Jesus’ spirit reinhabiting his formerly dead body, and a sequence called “Poems from the Life of Mary”—are strikingly free of metaphysical trappings. What’s left is a gentle sifting, an eye avid for the glint of gold, and a resignation that it might never come. --Kevin Nance --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Editorial Reviews
I only recently found out about Marie Howe, and as a person who does not usually read poetry I found her writing to be absolutely delightful.Published 7 months ago by trickstavic
Simply magnificent. To be read slowly and over again and again.Published 10 months ago by Mary Magner
A most engaging collection of impressions. Ms Howe has a rare and wonderfully textured voice for her story and it's many facets. Thank you so much for sharing your gift with us. Read morePublished 10 months ago by T. Beach
I read this with a book club. There was animated discussion and we really enjoyed it.Published 10 months ago by Anna C Johnson
Marie Howe's poetry is highly evocative and thoughtful. She is one of the finest American poets writing today. Read morePublished 11 months ago by CMathewson
Marie Howe's ability and gift for telling stories and using her words and insights to evoke beautiful and deep thoughts through poetry is remarkable. DonPublished 13 months ago by Jim Gray