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Selected Poems of Fanny Howe

Fanny Howe (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 213 pages
ISBN: 9780520222632
April 2000
$26.95, £22.00
One of the best and most respected experimental poets in the United States, Fanny Howe has published more than twenty books, mostly with small presses, and this publication of her selected poems is a major event.

Howe's theme is the exile of the spirit in this world and the painfully exciting, tiny margin in which movement out of exile is imaginable and perhaps possible. Her best poems are simultaneously investigations of that possibility and protests against the difficulty of salvation.

Boston is the setting of some of the early poems, and Ireland, the birthplace of Howe's mother, is the home of O'Clock, a spiritually piquant series of short poems included in Selected Poems.

The metaphysics and the physics of this world play off each other in these poems, and there is a toughness to Howe's unique, fertile nervousness of spirit. Her spare style makes a nest for the soul:

Zero built a nest

in my navel. Incurable

Longing. Blood too—

From violent actions

It's a nest belonging to one

But zero uses it

And its pleasure is its own

—from The Quietist
Fanny Howe is Professor of Writing and Literature at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of more than twenty books of fiction and poetry (most recently, One Crossed Out, 1997).
"Fanny Howe's strangely hushed but busy landscape keeps leading us into it until we realize we're lost but wouldn't want to be anywhere else. This book is a strange joy."—John Ashbery

"This complexly articulate writer uses poetry as a final resource. All the authority of her power becomes explicit in these poems, the musing, twisting thoughts and persons woven into a meld of great force and beauty. This is life if it could speak. Here it does."—Robert Creeley

"Fanny Howe is a sly, wicked poet, always shifting between the social, the political, as well as the linguistic and literary concerns of an artist always writing from the cutting edge."—Quincy Troupe

"Fanny Howe is the closest thing to Emily Dickinson since Dickinson herself. These taut and sometimes witty poems are centripetal; they inscribe moments of a spiritual and psychological quest, word by packed word, image by edged image."—Albert Gelpi, Stanford University

"Fanny Howe writes against the grain of language and the mind. These serial works, collected from a lifetime's steady contemplation, weave piece by piece a texture of such difficulty. Most religious poetry stands on faith, emotion, or certainty; Howe's work begins and ends with questions, and immense interiority in the shape of the physical world itself."—Norman Fischer, Co-abbot, San Francisco Zen Center

"Fanny Howe employs a sometimes fierce, always passionate, spareness in her lifelong parsing of the exchange between matter and spirit. Her work displays as well a political urgency, that is to say, a profound concern for social justice and for the soundness and fate of the polis, the ‘city on a hill.’ Writes Emerson, ‘The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty.’ Here’s the luminous and incontrovertible proof." —Michael Palmer, author of The Lion Bridge

Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, Poetry Foundation

Gold Medal for Poetry, Commonwealth Club of California

Chapter One

I'd speak if I wasn't afraid of inhaling
A memory I want to forget
Like I trusted the world which wasn't mine
The hollyhock in the tall vase is wide awake
And feelings are only overcome by fleeing
To their opposite. Moisture and dirt
Have entered the space between threshold and floor
A lot is my estimate when I step on it
Sorrow can be a home to stand on so
And see far to: another earth, a place I might know

* * *

Hide the name away in the Secret
Jesus of the little Brothers and Sisters
Those born on the last day will have no name
But Mother, Father and the above
Till now the lips of hardened hearts used politics
To speak of love until they lost it
You couldn't argue with their logic
The oppression of realism is consensus
To those who raise what they value
Out of reach until it's magic

* * *

Sea mist surprises my heavy eyes
I know at last I don't exist
This register is only a certainty
If evolution's over and the created world
Is done developing this place
And its laws. Always fixed and free
You never know what you were or are
Like mathematics around a head
On rising from a siesta

* * *

Small birds puff their chests and feathers
With the pleasure that they know better
High morning clouds unload themselves
On the world. Blue peeps through
Sunny boys have spacious souls but killers
Build war zones in the sky where they go to die
Blue poems. Blue ozone. A V-sign
Sails into the elements: an old ship
Named Obsolete though Lovely is easier to see
Now visualize heaven as everything around it

* * *

Concentrate on the top of the mast, father
Arms up. You won't be needing them
On the swaying sea to heaven. One last goodbye
Makes each hand impotent
Like false mirth or some stupid mutant
I'm off to see people because you don't need me
Yet, where don't doesn't ever mean never
And I'm crossing my own stony ocean
Consciousness has nothing to do with me either
I'm just moving inside it, catch as catch can't

* * *

There is nothing I hear as well as my name
Called when I'm wild. The grace of God
Places a person in the truth
And is always expressed as a taste in the mouth
Walking with your arms wide open
And 263 days to follow, four morning stars
And Yuri Gagarin orbiting Earth
I know I may never be found or returned
When Peter, Henri or Mary call me
Fanny, as if they know who owns me

* * *

Come, tinkers, among droves of acorn trees
Be only one third needful, O
Name the things whereby we hope
Before the story scatters. A cardinal
Is red for fever where you passed
The suffering world's faith
Is a scandal. Tests of facts
Bring dread to aptitude
You who loved the people and the world
Tell us our failings and if we're home

* * *

I am the people never so alone
As when abiding
in history, broken
No God but a causality moral
As a socialist. Success
Hardly ever exists on these nights
Which intervene in secret with a don't
and a so! For then I can't lead
The little into the day but run
Like a heart blind to advice

* * *

The sea at last lies over this place
And registers expressly
During my siesta
I know evolution is done developing
Its laws of mathematics must be correct
In my created head I don't exist
As rising bed-heavy the mist
Is fixed though always full of surprises
And the world in my eyes
Is hardly a certainty

* * *

If you have to die
Puff and visualize
The ozone of heaven
As easy seen high as seen through
And peep on the world as if it's obsolete
An old ship in new elements
Everything will sail into pleasure then
Unload your spacious soul
Whose chest full of killers is zoned
For the sun now in its feather blue building

* * *

When mirth sways like a mast
On top of a goodbye
I don't need oceans to move myself over stones
One hand up and arms
Which show I'm impotent
To people or some false father
Who have nothing to do with what I'm here for
Inside I cross myself
And concentrate on the consciousness
The sea comes out of

* * *

I'll pay and bow out
For not hardship but the judiciary
Connected the test of time
To penalty
I in my life spent my days
Escaping the creator, seedy as a man
Who disappears from his tricks
Now I ache at the strange
Creations, mine, which like women
Look new in the Court of God


* * *

We moved to be happy
Like a remote sensing tool each body
in the family
adapted to earth's urbanity and travelled
When the water went south for the winter
it carried us down like storm-driven gulls
to this crash that we call a city

* * *

One black wing was blowing down the road
(Rain-washed road)
In the old days horses wearing green shoes
would trot on that grass
Our caravan has sought a remedy for memory
by moving over the same path

* * *

Snow rises as it falls
on small seaside resorts and on capital
premier personal country castle and well-equipped hotels
on pullmans flats canoes and fishing boats
on a fairy house and a crack house
on holiday and airport inns on tents and crypts and cars
and caravans
Roads end where only trees greet them
like brides in terrified feminine dress

* * *

I was sick of my wits
like the kids in Landscape In The Mist
hammered down into a sequence
like climbing onto a train
and sitting down
I had to keep moving the books around

* * *

After a good beating on a cold day
slowed my recovery
Cotton replaced my lace
and peals of laughter
only overcame me later
when the ground covered
the way to my door like lava
and I really hoped
the hoping was over
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