Frame Structures

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

FRAME STRUCTURES includes poems from Susan Howe’s four early chapbooks: HINGE PICTURE (1974), CHANTING AT THE CRYSTAL SEA (1975), CABBAGE GARDENS (1979), and SECRET HISTORY OF THE DIVIDING LINE (1978). In the preface, Howe discusses Paul Demund Evans’ book, THE HOLLAND LAND AND COMPANY (1924), describes her relationship with her father, recalls her family’s tie to the New England area, and ponders the intricate connection between history and literature. In “Hinge Picture,” the central image is the sea. If the sea is emblematic of time and history, the voyage is what connects both. In “Chanting at the Crystal Sea,” Howe shifts her topic from that of the storm at the sea to that of the storm of human relationship. “Cabbage Gardens,” describes war’s cruelty and those who are innocently involved. Ostensibly, the poem is narrated from a cabbage’s point of view. In “Secret History of the Dividing Line,” Howe consummates poetic rendition of history by examining the divisibility and indivisibility of the past and the present and distance and connectedness.

As one of the country’s leading experimental poets, Susan Howe has consistently shown her interest in finding a medium to make emotional engagement with the reader. FRAME STRUCTURES marks the beginning of a journey in search of such a medium. Words provide the author with a frame, rendering “a pure past that returns to itself unattackable” and make it possible for her to emancipate herself from the manacles of her false self.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Review. XLII, Spring, 1996, p. 103.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLIII, March 18, 1996, p. 65.