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Showing 1-10 of 31 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 56 reviews
on April 23, 2014
In the poem "What The Living Do," Howe writes: "I'm gripped by a cherishing/so deep/for my own blowing hair, chapped face,and unbuttoned coat that I'm/speechless:/I am living, I remember you." Though these lines appear on the penultimate page of the book, they might as well function as a sort of spiritual and artistic thesis statement for its entirety. There is something exquisite in almost every poem here.

As in her collection The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, Howe rescues the sacred trapped in the husk of the profane. The collection reads almost like a novella, as repeating and subsequently familiar "characters" appear in dreams and doorways, talk in italics, die after painful illness, leave her and return.

Howe's poetry is at its strongest when she allows her imagery to do much of the meaningful heavy lifting. Luckily, she's at her best quite a lot here as in "Reunion," which "tells" about Howe's partner coming back to her after a separation. But Howe is too great to just tell, and so we get this: "The very best part was rowing out onto the small lake.../the long sigh of the line through the air,//and the far plunk of the hook and the sinker-/lily pads, yellow flowers//the dripping of the oars/and the knock and creak of them moving in the rusty locks." Howe knows that when there is so much to say, it's best to say little and show the beauty she's after through close attention to concrete detail.
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on April 19, 2014
I think one thing that makes these mostly elegiac poems so gutting and powerful is the directness of Howe's observations. She's an astute observer of internal and external realities and recounts what she sees with simple and direct language. If she ever resorts to using a metaphor it is only rarely and her best poems shun them altogether. The cumulative feeling is that of hard-won bravery, a willingness to look both life and death squarely in the eyes. This is, after all, what the living must do if they are to have any kind of life at all. While this collection can easily be read in an evening, I recommend reading them over the course of several days. Like most poetry, each poem should be read aloud several times.
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on November 10, 2014
Marie Howe is a wonderful poet, teacher and mentor. I took a class with her and appreciate her craft and insight. These poems are raw and beautifully written, chronicling her family experiences (childhood, parental alcoholism and abuse, the death of her beloved brother, love). Bittersweet to be so inspired and moved by such dark topics but she catches you and does what she does so well.
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on July 5, 2014
Simple, beautiful, heartbreaking. She isn't writing about high moments, but peering deep into the nitty gritty of daily life. These are about how to live daily life.

If you're not sure, listen to her interviews with Terri Gross or Krista Tippet.
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on June 2, 2017
lovely and thought provoking
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on April 3, 2017
Good
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on June 4, 2017
I believe she said somewhere that, "Poetry should hurt a little," and hers does featuring pin prick to jab reminders of our ordinary existence on earth however exceptional or shabby
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on May 20, 2017
Amazing. I've read this at least three times and I am still spellbound by these poems. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
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on April 28, 2014
This is the first book of poetry of Mary Howe's that I have read, and it will not be the last. I could not put this gem of a book down.. The poetry is a narrative of the death of several significant people in Mary Howe's life and the effect that their lives and deaths have had on her. I will read and reread this book of poems again and again!!!!!
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on September 12, 2015
A great book of poetry. What the Living Do is a poem that has stayed with me since I first heard Howe read it at Dodge. Recently my friend's uncle passed away and I shared this poem with her and her mother and they were both so touched by it.
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