Susan Howe

Susan Howe was born in Boston in 1937. Winner of the Bollingen Prize, she has been acclaimed as “the still-new century’s finest metaphysical poet” (The Village Voice). Thirteen of her books are published by New Directions.


Poetry by Susan Howe

“Only artworks are capable of transmitting chthonic echo-signals,” Susan Howe has said. In Concordance, she has created a fresh body of work transmitting vital signals from a variety of archives. “Since,” a semiautobiographical prose poem, opens the collection: concerned with first and last things, meditating on the particular and peculiar affinities between law and poetry, it ranges from the Permian time of Pangaea through Rembrandt and Dickinson to the dire present.…
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Poetry by Susan Howe

A collection in five parts, Susan Howe’s electrifying new book opens with a preface by the poet that lays out some of Debths’ inspirations—the art of Paul Thek, the Isabella Stewart Gardner collection, and early American writings. She also addresses memory —its threads and galaxies: “the mystery of strong music in the soul.” Following that prose preface are four sections of poetry: “Titian Air Vent,” “Tom Tit Tot” (her newest collage poems), “Periscope,” and “Debths.…
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The Birth-mark

Nonfiction by Susan Howe

In this classic, groundbreaking exploration of early American literature, Susan Howe reads our intellectual inheritance as a series of civil wars, where each text is a wilderness in which a strange lawless author confronts interpreters and editors eager for settlement. Howe approaches Anne Hutchinson, Mary Rowlandson, Cotton Mather, Hawthorne, Emerson, Melville and Emily Dickinson as a fellow writer—her insights, fierce and original, are rooted in her seminal textural scholarship in examination of their editorial histories of landmark works.…
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The Quarry

Nonfiction by Susan Howe

A powerful selection of Susan Howe’s previously uncollected essays, The Quarry moves backward chronologically, from her brand-new “Vagrancy in the Park” (about Wallace Stevens) through such essential texts as “The Disappearance Approach,” “Personal Narrative,” “Sorting Facts,” “Frame Structures,” and “Where Should the Commander Be,” and ending with her seminal early criticism, “The End of Art.” The essays of The Quarry map the intellectual territory of one of America’s most important and vital avant-garde poets.…
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Spontaneous Particulars

Nonfiction by Susan Howe

Great American writers — William Carlos Williams, Jonathan Edwards, Emily Dickinson, Noah Webster, Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, Henry James —in the physicality of their archival manuscripts (reproduced here in the beautiful facsimiles)—are the presiding spirits of Spontaneous Particulars: Telepathy of Archives. Also woven into Susan Howe’s long essay are beautiful photographs of embroideries and textiles from anonymous craftspeople. The archived materials create links, discoveries, chance encounters, the visual and the acoustic shocks of rooting around amid physical archives.…
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Poetry Pamphlets 1–4

New Directions is happy to announce the publication of a new series of Poetry Pamphlets, a reincarnated version of the “Poet of the Month” and “Poets of the Year” series James Laughlin published in the 1940s, which brought out such eclectic hits as William Carlos Williams’s The Broken Span, Delmore Schwartz’s poetic play Shenandoah, John Donne’s Some Poems and a Devotion, and Yvor Winters’s Giant Weapon, among many others. The New Directions Poetry Pamphlets will highlight original work by writers from around the world, as well as forgotten treasures lost in the cracks of literary history.…
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Sorting Facts, or Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker

Nonfiction by Susan Howe

Poetry and cinema collide in Susan Howe’s masterful meditation on the filmmaker Chris Marker, whose film stills are interspersed throughout, as well as those of Andrei Tarkovsky. Sorting word-facts I only know an apparition. Scribble grammar has no neighbor. In the name of reason I need to record something because I am a survivor in this ocean.
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That This

Poetry by Susan Howe

“What treasures of knowledge we cluster around.” That This is a collection in three pieces. “Disappearance Approach,” an essay about Howe’s husband’s sudden death—”land of darkness or darkness itself you shadow mouth”—begins the book with paintings by Poussin, an autopsy, Sarah Edwards and her sister-in-law Hannah, phantoms, and elusive remnants. “Frolic Architecture,” the second section—inspired by visits to the vast 18th-century Jonathan Edwards archives at the Beinecke and accompanied by six photograms by James Welling—presents hauntingly lovely, oblique type-collages of Hannah Edwards Wetmore’s diary entries that Howe (with scissors, “invisible” Scotch Tape, and a Canon copier) has twisted, flattened, and snipped into inscapes of force.…
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My Emily Dickinson

Fiction by Susan Howe

With a contribution by Eliot Weinberger

For Wallace Stevens, “Poetry is the scholar’s art.” Susan Howe—taking the poet-scholar-critics Charles Olson, H.D., and William Carlos Williams (among others) as her guides—embodies that art in her 1985 My Emily Dickinson (winner of the Before Columbus Foundation Book Award). Howe shows ways in which earlier scholarship had shortened Dickinson’s intellectual reach by ignoring the use to which she put her wide reading. Giving close attention to the well-known poem, “My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun,” Howe tracks Dickens, Browning, Emily Brontë, Shakespeare, and Spenser, as well as local Connecticut River Valley histories, Puritan sermons, captivity narratives, and the popular culture of the day.…
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Souls Of The Labadie Tract

Poetry by Susan Howe

Souls of the Labadie Tract finds Susan Howe exploring (or unsettling) one of her favorite domains, the psychic past of America, with Jonathan Edwards and Wallace Stevens as her presiding tutelary geniuses. Three long poems interspersed with prose pieces, Souls of the Labadie Tract takes as its starting point the Labadists, a Utopian Quietest sect that moved from the Netherlands to Cecil County, Maryland, in 1684. The community dissolved in 1722.…
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The Midnight

Poetry by Susan Howe

In The Midnight’s amply illustrated five sections, three of poetry and two of prose, we find—swirling around the poet’s mother—ghosts, family photographs, whispers, interjections, bed hangings, unfinished lace, the fly-leaves of old books, The Master of Ballantrae, the Yeats brothers, Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, Lady Macbeth, Thomas Sheridan, Michael Drayton, Frederick Law Olmsted: a restless brood confronting, absorbing, and refracting history and language. With shades of wit, insomnia, and terror, The Midnight becomes a kind of dialogue in which the prose and poetry sections seem to be dreaming fitfully of each other.…
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The Europe Of Trusts

Poetry by Susan Howe

The Europe of Trusts contains three brilliant, long-unavailable books which Susan Howe first published in the early 1980s: The Liberties, Pythagorean Silence, and Defenestration of Prague. These are the landmark books––following her volumes from the previous decade (Hinge Picture, Chanting at the Crystal Sea, Cabbage Gardens, and Secret History of the Dividing Line)––which established Howe as “one of America’s foremost experimental writers” (Publishers Weekly). “Her work,” as Geoffrey O’Brien put it, “is a voyage of reconnaissance in language, a sounding out of ancient hiding places, and it is a voyage full of risk.…
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Poetry by Susan Howe

Pierce-Arrow, Susan Howe’s newest book of poems, takes as its point of departure the figure of Charles S. Peirce, the allusive nineteenth-century philosopher-scientist and founder of pragmatism, a man always on the periphery of the academic and social establishment yet intimately conjoined with them by birth and upbringing. Through Peirce and his wife Juliette, a lady of shadowy antecedents, Howe creates an intriguing nexus that explores the darker, melancholy sides of the fin-de-siècle Anglo-American intelligentsia.…
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Frame Structures

Poetry by Susan Howe

In Frame Structures, Susan Howe brings together those of her earliest poems she wishes to remain in print, and in the forms in which she cares to have them last. Gathered here are versions of Hinge Picture (1974), Chanting at the Crystal Sea (1975), Cabbage Gardens (1979), and Secret History of the Dividing Line (1978) that differ in some respects from their original small-press editions. In a long preface, “Frame Structures,” written especially for this volume, Howe suggests the autobiographical, familial, literary, and historical motifs that suffuse these early works.…
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The Nonconformist’s Memorial

Poetry by Susan Howe

The Nonconformist’s Memorial is a gathering of four long sequences that underscores Susan Howe’s reputation as one of the leading experimentalists writing today. Howe is a poet of language in history whose work resonates back through Melville, Dickinson, and Shelley to the seventeenth-century Metaphysicals and Puritans (the nonconformism of the title), and forward again to T.S. Eliot and the abstract expressionists. The sequences fall into two sections, “Turning” and “Conversion,” in half-ironic nonconforming counterpoint to Eliot’s Four Quartets.…
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The Gorgeous Nothings

Poetry by Emily Dickinson

Edited by Jen Bervin Marta Werner

With a contribution by Susan Howe

The Gorgeous Nothings — the first full-color facsimile edition of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts ever to appear — is a deluxe edition of her late writings, presenting this crucially important, experimental late work exactly as she wrote it on scraps of envelopes. A never-before-possible glimpse into the process of one of our most important poets. The book presents all the envelope writings — 52 — reproduced life-size in full color both front and back, with an accompanying transcription to aid in the reading, allowing us to enjoy this little-known but important body of Dickinson’s writing.…
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The Birth-Mark awakened me to the possibility of writing criticism wildly and wantonly, of bringing everything to the table, including history, research, politics, autobiography, imagination, obsession, and love.
—Maggie Nelson, Artforum
One of the preeminent poets of her generation, Susan Howe is known for innovative verse that crosses genres and disciplines in its theoretical underpinnings and approach to history.
The Poetry Foundation
In Concordance, it is as if a manuscript, along with the library used to write it, were both wrecked and then washed ashore, mostly lost, although what remains was carefully recombined and artfully reconstructed into something beautiful, monstrous, and new.
—John Vincler, Poetry Foundation
Howe is a poet who has spent her career reminding us that our experiences of meaning and sound are synchronous. Her poems argue this in form as well as content. Delighting in new paths around words, exploring their visual, acoustic, sonic possibilities, she revels in “affinities and relations,” in “signals and transmissions.” Howe imbues her investigations of fragment and snippet with such longing that it is hard not to yearn, from one’s own desk, for deep encounter.
The New York Times
Among the worthiest heirs to the high-modernist line in American poetry. Howe’s own ‘American aesthetic of uncertainty’ shuttles among forms, genres, and states of matter. What connects it all are Howe’s powers of insight and the implied relations between her sparkling trouvailles.
—Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker
In the collage poems language is both word and image. Source texts are cut up and repurposed, overlaid, truncated—they scatter across the page and spill into the gutter, run to the outside margins. Small blocks of quotations are buttressed and broidered by other quotations, slender and enigmatic, running in the opposite direction; some are illegible, serving as shapes, gnomic geometries born of inscrutable utterances, to embody, in graphic or poetic form, a reconstituted approach to reading and writing, one that reaches beyond the page, through difficulty, silence, and stutters, to another kind of knowledge.
—Emily LaBarge, Bookforum
Susan Howe has often referred to herself as a ‘library cormorant’ but her extraordinary telepathy of archives is the very opposite of passive absorption: each page constructs its own ghostly skein to be woven into what becomes an increasingly mysterious figure in the carpet. What begins as an archival study becomes nothing less than mesmerism.
—Majorie Perloff
Memorably fierce: with her long career in the view today, her comment on Dickinson, in 1985, applies to Howe herself: ‘A great poet, carrying the antique imagination of her fathers, requires of each reader to leap from a place of certain signification, to a new situation, undiscovered and sovereign. She carries intelligence of the past into future of our thought by reverence and revolt.’
—Langdon Hammer, The New York Review of Books
Howe should be read in the company of Pound, Stevens, Stein, Ashbery and other American poets who reconfigured the ground rules of their art. With her long career in view today, her comment on Dickinson, in 1985, applies to Howe herself: ‘A great poet, carrying the antique imagination of her fathers, requires of each reader to leap from a place of certain signification, to a new situation, undiscovered, and sovereign. She carries intelligence of the past into future of our thought by reverence and revolt.
—Langdon Hammer, The New York Review of Books
Howe is among the worthiest heirs to the high-modernist line in American poetry, interested in the accidents, smudges, and tears that fasten works of literature to their material embodiments on the page. Howe’s own ‘American aesthetic of uncertainty,’ shuttles among forms, genres, and states of matter. What connects it all are Howe’s powers of insight, and the implied relations between her sparkling trouvailles.
—Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker
Howe creates a finely woven exploration of narrative and transmission anchored in the American past and future. A fascinating look at art across time that can be visited many times without dulling.
Chicago Review of Books
Debths is a profound synthesis of Howe’s obsessions, methods, and concerns as a writer… an enactment of the eternally present and perpetually surprising conversation between poet and reader. Howe’s writing is as vital now as it has ever been.
—Stephen Collis, Boston Review
A finely woven exploration of narrative and transmission anchored in the American past and future.
—Sarah Huener, Chicago Review of Books
As fascinating and compelling as any writer we have.
The Harvard Review
Invaluable—a rigorously skeptical and a profoundly visionary poet, a writer whose demystifying intelligence is matched by a passionate embrace of poetry’s rejuvenating power.
—John Palattella, The Boston Review
A fresh occasion not just to celebrate Howe, who turned seventy-eight this year, but also to read her anew, which is the more formidable and ultimately more rewarding charge. Wildly and wantonly she is bringing everything to the table, including poetry, history, research, politics, autobiography, imagination, obsession and love, all the while demonstrating how strange, puzzling, and untamed writing and thinking can be.
—Maggie Nelson, Artforum
Howe’s abiding concern with our cultural and intellectual inheritance is revolutionary and redemptive. Her work is a force for social change.
—W. Scott Howard, Talisman
The end result is something of a photographic negative: history refreshed and personalized by virtue of its own estrangement.
—Dustin Illingworth, 3:AM
Howe is one of America’s preeminent experimental poets.
Reaching back through Hawthorne, Dickinson and beyond, Susan Howe taps a stream of American thinking that is as clear and fresh as a draught of well water. She is our conscience, our voice, our song.
—John Ashbery
She manages to balance the most cerebral passages with a sharp eye for just the right detail.
Publishers Weekly
Invaluable….A reconnaissance mission in language and history.
—John Palattella, The Boston Review
An astonishing work re-presenting the American past, its history, literature, texts, and critics. At once gnomic and lucid, grave and scintillating—passionate [with] fierce originality.
—Rachel Blau DuPlessis
As a poet and a critic she articulates precisely those soundings of uncertainty, those zones of failed or impaired utterance that constitute the literary history of America’s uneasy commerce with the word.
—Richard Sieburth, Times Literary Supplement
Monomania has its rewards – an incantatory power that shines through. Howe’s images, being historical as well as biographical, have the eerie shading of ghosts half-believed in, giving a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere reminiscent of Borges at his sharpest.
Kirkus Reviews
Universally recognized as a major poet, Susan Howe should also be known as the most innovative, the most thrilling essayist writing today.
—Eliot Weinberger
No other poet now writing has Howe’s power to bring together narrative and lyric, scholarship and historical speculation, found text and pure invention.
—Marjorie Perloff
Howe’s brilliant, idiosyncratic essay is—like much of her work—a combination of fierce rigor and deep generosity. Howe unlocks.
—Ben Lerner
Howe unlocks.
—Ben Lerner
The still-new century’s finest metaphysical poet.
The Village Voice
A haunter of archives, for whom manuscripts and marginalia and indexes are muses, Susan Howe often works with the materials she finds there. The result may be a textual collage or a ground-breaking work of criticism, or both.
The Paris Review
Howe’s images, being historical as well as biographical, have the eerie shadowing of ghosts half-believed in, giving … a surreal, dream-like atmosphere reminiscent of Borges at his sharpest.
Kirkus Reviews
Now a subtle blend, now a violent collision of poetry and scholarship … Howe is staking everything on the venture that theory and practice, artifice and application, are perpetually and messily entwined. It is a proposition that seems self-evident, and at the same time seldom in evidence.
The Boston Review
An important voice in contemporary literature, a signal inheritor of an American poetic tradition. Like Dickinson, her Massachusetts muse, Howe turns the English of a self steeped in books such that every word, as in Scripture, glows with an almost moral quality.
For those less interested in a broad, synthetic argument about Marker’s oeuvre and more interested in how writing might pay homage to the experience of watching his films and the fact of his loss, Howe’s essay will be a welcome contribution to a growing corpus of Markeriana.
—Rebecca Ariel Porte, Los Angeles Review of Books
For nearly thirty years Howe has occupied a particular and invaluable place in American poetry. She is a rigorously skeptical and a profoundly visionary poet, a writer whose demystifying talent is matched by a passionate embrace of poetry’s rejuvinating power.
—John Palattella, The Boston Review
For nearly thirty years, Howe has occupied a particular and invaluable place in American poetry. She’s a rigorously skeptical and a profoundly visionary poet, a writer whose demystifying intelligence is matched by a passionate embrace of poetry’s rejuvenating power.
—John Palattella, Boston Review
Susan Howe’s imaginative and irresistible re-creation of’ the hidden life of the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, his relationship with the mysterious ‘gypsy’ wife Juliette, his worldly failures and spiritual triumphs, has the intensity of a Jamesian novel in which the figure in the carpet—in this case a figure comprised of Peirce’s astonishing visual texts, scenes from the Iliad, from the poems of Swinburne and Meredith, and finally the Tristan and Iseult legend—crystallize in an overarching vision of the poet’s own desire—and failure—to achieve oneness, union with another self. Part narrative, part lyric, this profound memory poem conveys, as do few poems of our time, what Howe refers to as ‘Mind’s trajected light.’
—Marjorie Perloff
Howe’s words give the impression of echoing another, hidden poetry of which we catch only fragments, like an opera sun in another room––except that the other room is death, or history, or the ineffable. Her vocabulary includes the whole past of language. The words are magnetic filings that adhere uncertainly to a receding body of meaning.
—Geoffrey O’Brien, Village Voice
Howe has continued to produce work of meditative urgency unmatched in recent American poetry.
—Geoffrey O’Brien, Voice Literary Supplement
As one of the country’s leading experimental poets… Howe knows that there is a ‘war-whoop in each dusty narrative’ and words have the power to emancipate a person from the manacles of one’s false self; they have the power to connect the present with the past and form with content.
Magill’s Literary Annual
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