Susan Howe

'In poetry all things seem to touch so they are.'

In what will be my last “a textile poetics” post, I return to some familiar themes or where I started: tactility and weaving and language. This time, I proceed by way of a weaving and writing workshop I lead in Kuwait, an essay by Tyrone Williams on ecopoetics, a brief consideration of Susan Howe’s work, and a mention of a lecture on exile by Costica Bradatan. Also on my thought horizon: a project I am working on called “last book” which is a drawing sequence accompanied by a book of random, highly excerpted entries from twelve years of notebooks. This book will be “published” with no cover art, title, author, other marks of publication, and will be made — printed locally — in an edition of 99.

There it was (PoemTalk #83)

Wallace Stevens, 'The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain'

Left to right: Susan Howe, Dee Morris, Nancy Kuhl

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Among the last things Wallace Stevens wrote was a metapoem, a poem in which a man — a reader and presumably a poet too — does not write a poem but picks his way among the aspects of an old poem, the poem that had once helped him by standing in for a mountain. He composes (or rather “recompos[s]”) the objects and perspectives of the way or path up the mountain. It had been a “direction.” Was it now again?

Witness Mark Booth

A prosodic variable is the type of constant

Mark Booth, from T.S.I.R.B.A.I.S. (2)

Susan Howe’s recuperation of Emily Dickinson’s visual prosody marks a pivot point in American poetics, insofar as it calls attention to the long effaced but paradigmatically American enterprise of self-invention that Dickinson’s practice depicts. And in depicting her work, the picture is the work, hence the holograph images that for the most part replace block quotes in texts like Howe’s My Emily Dickinson and the essay from which I’ll cull this epigraph, “These Flames and Generosities of the Heart.”

This space is the poem’s space. Letters are sounds we see. Sounds leap to the eye. Word lists, crosses, blanks, and ruptured stanzas are points of contact and displacement. Line breaks and visual contrapuntal stresses represent an athematic compositional intention.

Howe, and by extension Dickinson, are reference points for discussing the work of Mark Booth, printmaker by training, a painter, who also works in sound and performance, but whose practice is in some sense reducible to writing.

Eight introductions to Creeley, 1961-1996

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The 27th podcast in the “PennSound Podcasts” series features an anthology of eight introductions to Robert Creeley, culled from PennSound's many recordings of Creeley’s readings over the years. The introductions are, in order: by Paul Carroll (Chicago, May 15, 1961), at the Berkeley Poetry Conference (Berkeley, July 22, 1965), by Ed Saunders (New York, October 24, 1966), in the Woodberry Poetry Room of Harvard (Cambridge, October 27, 1966), at MoCA Los Angeles in 1983, by Reed Bye at Naropa (Boulder, July 1984), by Diane Wakoski (Washington, DC, 1984), and by Susan Howe (Buffalo, October 11, 1996).

This PennSound podcast is hosted and introduced by Amaris Cuchanski and edited by Nick DeFina. Be sure to listen to other PennSound podcasts. And find us on iTunes by typing “PennSound” in your iTunes music store searchbox.

Howe interviews Bernstein and Andrews in 1979

from left: Susan Howe, Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein

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On March 14, 1979, Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein visited the studios of WBAI in New York and were interviewed by Susan Howe, host then of the Pacifica Radio Poetry Show. This installment in the PennSound podcast series, introduced again by Amaris Cuchanski and based on editing done by Nick DeFina, features an excerpt from that interview focusing on a discussion of opaque as distinct from transparent language and of language’s materiality.

Susan Howe's 'Thiefth'

Susan Howe’s “Thorow” and “Melville's Marginalia” performed by Howe along with music and sounds composed by David Grubb. These recordings are available on PennSound. Click here.

Thiefth was the first collaboration between Howe and musician and composer Grubbs. The two were brought together when the Fondation Cartier proposed a collaborative performance. Grubbs had been an ardent reader of Howe’s for more than a decade, and the opportunity to work with Howe’s poetry and her voice immediately intrigued. In late 2003, the two set about to create performance versions of “Thorow” and “Melville's Marginalia,” two of Howe’s longer poems. Drawing from the journals of Sir William Johnson and Henry David Thoreau, "Thorow" both evokes the winter landscape that surrounds Lake George in upstate New York, and explores collisions and collusions of historical violence and national identity. "Thorow" is an act of second seeing in which Howe and Grubbs engage the lake's glittering, ice surface as well as the insistent voices that haunt an unseen world underneath. “Melville's Marginalia” is an approach to an elusive and allusive mind through Herman Melville’s own reading and the notations he made in some of the books he owned and loved. The collaging and mirror-imaging of words and sounds are concretions of verbal static, visual mediations on what can and cannot be said.

Talkin' Politics of Poetic Form (the recordings)

25th anniversary

New at PennSound (site link for these recordings)

a series of talks I curated in 1988 at The New School (New York) and collected in The Politics of Poetic Form, Roof Books (1990)

Susan Howe

58 printed pages in Jacket 40

Susan Howe; courtesy Electronic Poetry Center, SUNY Buffalo
Susan Howe; courtesy Electronic Poetry Center, SUNY Buffalo

The last of the old Jackets, Jacket 40, had a 58 printed-page feature on poet Susan Howe:

Susan Howe reads from 'My Emily Dickinson' & discusses with poets

New York Talk: 1984 series at Segue Foundation

series curated and moderated by Charles Bernstein

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