Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Muse: New York's New State Poet

. . . I've grown up in love with the voices that have been singing
from this land: the gorgeous din: the poets who have spoken
and the poets to come.
~ Poet Marie Howe

Marie Howe was appointed in late August to serve as New York's tenth State Poet. Her term runs through 2014. She succeeds Jean Valentine, who served from 2008 to 2010, the subject of this post.

Information about the position of State Poet is found in my post about Valentine.

* * * * *
Poetry saved my life. . . 
It's an art that addresses the truth that we are living
and dying at the same time. . . .

. . . [It's] a way of experiencing life
so that everything can be contained in the human heart.
Nothing is excluded.

Marie Howe has published three collections of poetry: The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (W.W. Norton & Co., 2008; paperback, 2009), a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book PrizeWhat the Living Do (W.W. Norton, 1998; paperback, 1999), an elegy for her brother John who died from AIDS, named by Publishers Weekly one of the five best books of poetry published in 1997; and The Good Thief (Persea Books, 1988), winner of the 1987 Open Competition, National Poetry Series.

Howe also is co-editor (with Michael Klein) of In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (Persea, 1995), an anthology of essays, memoirs, and letters. In addition, she is a contributor to The Writer's Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House (Tin House Books, 2009) and Crossing State Lines: An American Renga (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011), proceeds from sales of which benefit America: Now and Here.

The Rochester-born Howe, who was 30 when she began writing poetry "seriously", was mentored by the late Stanley Kunitz, New York's first State Poet and the 10th and 22nd U.S. Poet Laureate, who called her work "luminous, intense, eloquent". Howe's writing is lyrical, often deeply personal, yet also straightforward, encompassing the everyday, the broken, the ordinariness of life, the physical, experienced world. Broadly, her subjects and themes include family, relationships, motherhood, attachment, illness, loss, grief, joy and pain, living and dying, love, community, sin and redemption, time and its use, remembering, change and transformation.

While she has been tagged "metaphysical poet", Howe grounds her poems in details of domestic life: the kitchen sink "clogged for days" and "crusty dishes. . . piled up / waiting for the plumber I still haven't called" (from "What the Living Do"), driving "on bad ice, when it occurs to you / your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin" (from "Part of Eve's Discussion"), "the garbage trucks outside / already screeching and banging" (from "Prayer"), the copper beech  that "wore that yard like a dress, / with limbs low enough for me to enter it / and climb the crooked ladder to where / I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone" (from "The Copper Beech), the cocktail party where "someone. . . is skewering / a small hot dog with a toothpick" and  "the hostess emerges carrying a tray / and announcing a game of charades" (from "The Fourth Visit").

Note how, in just seven lines, she evokes setting, emotion, both the intimate and the ineffable:

The very best part was rowing out onto the small lake in a little boat:

James and I taking turns fishing, one fishing while the other rowed
the long sigh of the line through the air,

and the far plunk of the hood and sinker—
lily pads, yellow flowers

the dripping of the oars
and the knock and creak of  them moving in the rusty locks.
~ "Reunion" from What the Living Do

Poems by Howe have appeared in many print and online literary journals and periodicals, including The Agni Review, The American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, New England ReviewThe New YorkerThe Partisan Review, The Writer's Almanac, Harvard Review,  Ploughshares, and Poetry. Her essays and brief articles have appeared at O, Ploughshares, and elsewhere.

Howe is the recipient of fellowships or grants from the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College, Guggenheim Foundation, Massachusetts Artist Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts. Her other awards include the Peter I.A. Lavan Younger Poet Prize (Academy of American Poets). She was the 13th Florie Gale Arons Visiting Poet, Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University (2011), and a resident at The MacDowell Colony (1987).

The poet teaches at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Columbia University, from which she received her master's degree, Sarah Lawrence College, and New York University.


Photo of Marie Howe by Marion Roth

All Poetry Excerpts © Marie Howe

Office of the Governor, "Governor Cuomo Announces State Poet and Author", Press Release, August 29, 2012

"Brighton Native Marie Howe Named State Poet", herRochester, August 31, 2012

"Cuomo Announces State Author Alison Lurie, Poet Marie Howe", Capitol Confidential, TimesUnion, August 29, 2012

Marie Howe, "The Hard-Times Companion", August 2009, and "Not To Look Away", August 2008, Essays, O, The Oprah Magazine

Interviews with Marie Howe at Agni Online (2008),  Fresh Air/NPR (October 2011), (Audio and Transcript), BOMBSite/BOMB Magazine (1997), Cerise Press, The Living Writers Show (mp3 download), University of Vermont (2011; Video)

Marie Howe Poems Online: "After the Movie", "Part of Eve's Discussion", and "What the Living Do", All at Marie Howe Website; "Prologue" at Blue Flower Arts; "After the Movie", "Part of Eve's Discussion", "The Moment", "What the Angels Left", and "What the Living Do", All at; "Apology", "Hurry", "Lullaby", "Practicing", "The Copper Beech", "The Fourth Visit", "The Gate" (Video), "What Belongs to Us", and "What the Angels Left", All at The Poetry Foundation; "How Some of It Happened" at A Little Poetry; "My Dead Friends", "Reunion", "The Game", "Marriage", and "Prayer", All at The Writer's Almanac (Audio Available); "How Many Times" at Poetry 180 at The Library of Congress; "The Star Market" at The New Yorker; "How Many Times", "Watching Television", and "The Last Time", All at The Poetry Center at Smith College; "What the Living Do" and "The Game", Both at The Atlantic Online; "After the Movie" on Tumblr; "What the Living Do" at Panhala; "Sorrow" at Stillgreen Tumblr; "My Mother's Body" at Our Guide for Growth; "What the Living Do" and "The Attic", Both at Ellen Bass The Human Line (Truth and Beauty Workshop); "After the Movie" at Poem-A-Day, Knopf Doubleday; "Prayer" at Poetry Dispatch & Other Notes from the Underground; "Annunciation" at Crashingly Beautiful and Slow Muse; "The Last Time" and "The Promise" at UMBC; "My Dead Friends" at Writing Salon Mistress Muses; "The Boy" at Read a Little Poetry; "The Moment", "Hurry", and "Prayer", All at Still Amazed; "Prayer", "What the Angels Left", and "What the Living Do", All at Open Salon; "Keeping Still" at poetry grrrl; "Buddy" at Doggerel; "the kiss" at you shall love your crooked neighbor; "Hurry" at American Life in Poetry

Video Recording by Howe of "The Gate" at Poetry Everywhere, PBS; Background Essay on Teachers' Domain

Video of Howe Reciting Her 10 Lines from Crossing State Lines

Averill Curdy, "Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?", Review of The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, Poetry Magazine, February 2009


Louise Gallagher said...

A metaphysical poet -- how lovely! making dishes and clogged sinks poetic is a miracle! :)

Anonymous said...

i want her hair.

S. Etole said...

The lines you have included cause me to want to read more.