Susan Howe Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Because the poetry of Susan Howe (how) poetry is engendered both by a close attention to the minims of language and by a constant examination of the ground from which the language stems, she has come into association with the group known as the Language Realists, or the school known as Language poetry, publishing in the magazines of that movement as well as in several anthologies predominantly or wholly of Language Realism: The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book (1984, edited by Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein), 21 + 1 American Poets Today (1986, edited by Emmanuel Hocquard and Claude Royet-Journoud), In the American Tree (1986, edited by Ronald Silliman), and“Language” Poetries: An Anthology (1987, edited by Douglas Messerli).

Howe has also published several reviews and My Emily Dickinson (1985). This last, a book-length consideration of Dickinson’s work, elucidates the poetry not only of its subject but also of its author, and it is central to an understanding of her oeuvre. She explains her fascination with fragments from history in Incloser (1992): “By choosing to install certain narratives somewhere between history, mystic speech, and poetry, I have enclosed them in an organization although I know there are places no classificatory procedure can reach where connections between words and things we thought existed break off. For me, paradoxes and ironies of fragmentation are particularly compelling.” Howe’s particular interest in nineteenth century Americans is shown in her collection of literary criticism, The Birth-Mark: Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History (1993), in which references to Anne Hutchinson, Mary Rowlandson, Cotton Mather, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Dickinson show her dedication to recapturing the pioneer and transcendental spirits that built the American character.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

In the years since Susan Howe began to publish her poetry, she has established herself as a poet of profound engagement with the problematic of Being in the era she confronts. Her work also addresses the meaning of being American and being a woman, in order to strip away obsolete ideas and to discover the realities of these conditions.

Howe has twice received the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, in 1981 for Pythagorean Silence and again in 1986 for My Emily Dickinson. She received a Pushcart Prize in 1980 for “The Art of Literary Publishing,” an interview she conducted with James Laughlin, and a second Pushcart Prize in 1989. In 1985, she participated in the Colloquium on New Writing held by the Kootenay School for Writers in Vancouver, Canada, and in that same year was writer-in-residence at New College in San Francisco. In 1986, she was awarded a writer’s fellowship by the New York State Arts Council, and she spoke on the poet Dickinson at a conference on H. D. and Dickinson held at San Jose State University. In 1989, a complete issue of The Difficulties was devoted to discussion of her work. The Birth-Mark was named one of the International Books of the Year by the Times Literary Supplement in 1993. She was a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial fellow and won the Ray Harvey Pearce Award, both in 1996, and was a recipient of the New York State Council Writers in Residency grant for a poetry workshop at Lake George, New York. Howe was a distinguished fellow at the Stanford Institute of the Humanities in 1998, and her work appeared in 1999’s Anthology of American Poetry, edited by Cary Nelson, the same year that Howe was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (2000-2006).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Back, Rachel. Led by Language: The Poetry and Politics of Susan Howe. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002. A set of essays that examines Howe’s experimentation with language and interest in Puritanism, American colonial history, and her own Irish ancestry.

Collis, Stephen. Through Words of Others: Susan Howe and Anarcho-scholasticism. Victoria, B.C.: ELS Editions, 2006. A critical analysis of Howe’s works, from the viewpoint of anarcho-scholasticism.

Crown, Kathleen. “’This Unstable I-Writing’: Susan Howe’s Lyric Iconoclasm and the Articulating Ghost.” Women’s Studies 27, no. 5 (1998): 483-505. In-depth analysis of Howe’s poem “Articulation of Sound Forms.”

Daly, Lew. Swallowing the Scroll: Late in a Prophetic Tradition with Poetry of Susan Howe and John Taggart. Buffalo, N.Y.: M Press, 1994. A critical study comparing the work of Howe and John Taggart.

Freitag, Kornelia. Cultural Criticism in Women’s Experimental Writing: The Poetry of Rosmarie Waldrop, Lyn Hejinian, and Susan Howe. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2006. The works of Rosmarie Waldrop, Lyn Hejinian, and Howe are compared and contrasted, with emphasis on their cultural perspectives.

Gelpi, Albert. “Emily Dickinson’s Long Shadow: Susan...

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