“Is she a poet of history? ("Often I hear Romans murmuring / I think of them lying dead in their graves.")
Is she a Yankee eccentric?
An Irish free spirit?
A Language Poet? ("For we are language Lost / in language"). That is, are the poems non-referential? or simply oblique?
Is she a vocabulary poet? (Robert Duncan once warned a friend that that's what I am).
A feminist militant?
An alien immigrant? ("Across the Atlantic, I / inherit myself / semblance / of Irish susans / dispersed / and narrowed to home").”
Susan Howe’s innovative, sometimes challenging poetry combines many different themes and references, and often crosses different genres and disciplines. Previously working as an actor and visual artist before beginning her career as a poet, she combines in her work radical approaches to the use of the page space while at the same time toying with the sonic quality of language. Her poetry often draws on history and archive documents, weaving together quotation and original texts, and examining notions of authorship and voice in a way that has often lead her to be associated with the Language movement.
Howe’s many honours include two American Book Awards from the Before Columbus Foundation, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Bollingen Prize in American Poetry, and a distinguished fellowship at the Stanford Institute of the Humanities. She was a long-time professor of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo and held the Samuel P. Capen Chair of Poetry and the Humanities.
My response to Susan Howe’s poetry this week takes the form of a wall collage.