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January 1, 2009 Vineyard Haven, MA From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

In 1940, Fanny Howe was born in Buffalo, New York. She is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and prose. Her recent collections of poetry include Second Childhood (Graywolf, 2014); Come and See (Graywolf, 2011); The Lyrics (Graywolf, 2007); On the Ground (2004); Gone (2003); Selected Poems (2000); Forged (1999); Q (1998); One Crossed Out (1997); O'Clock (1995); and The End (1992).

Howe is also the author of several novels and prose collections, including, The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation (Graywolf, 2009); The Lives of a Spirit / Glasstown: Where Something Got Broken (Nightboat Books, 2005) and Nod (Sun & Moon Press, 1998). She has written short stories, books for young adults, and the collection of literary essays The Wedding Dress: Meditations on Word and Life (University of California Press, 2003).

Poet Michael Palmer commented: "Fanny Howe employs a sometimes fierce, always passionate, spareness in her lifelong parsing of the exchange between matter and spirit. Her work displays as well a political urgency, that is to say, a profound concern for social justice and for the soundness and fate of the polis, the "city on a hill." Writes Emerson, 'The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty.' Here's the luminous and incontrovertible proof."

Howe was the recipient of the 2009 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. She also won the 2001 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for her Selected Poems, and has won awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Poetry Foundation, the California Council for the Arts, and the Village Voice. She has received fellowships from the Bunting Institute and the MacArthur Colony. She was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2001 and 2005.

She has lectured in creative writing at Tufts University, Emerson College, Columbia University, Yale University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is currently a professor of writing and literature at the University of California, San Diego.

Far and Away [excerpt]

Fanny Howe, 1940
The rain falls on.
Acres of violets unfold.
Dandelion, mayflower
Myrtle and forsythia follow.

The cardinals call to each other.
Echoes of delicate
Breath-broken whistles.

I know something now
About subject, object, verb
And about one word that fails
For lack of substance.

Now people say, He passed on
Instead of that.  Unit
Of space subtracted by one.
It almost rhymes with earth.

What is a poet but a person
Who lives on the ground
Who laughs and listens

Without pretension of knowing
Anything, driven by the lyric's
Quest for rest that never
(God willing) will be found?

Concord, kitchen table, 1966.
Corbetts, Creeley, a grandmother
And me.  Sweater, glasses,
One wet eye.

Lots of laughter
Before and after. Every meeting
Rhymed and fluttered into meter.
The beat was the message. . . .

			(for Robert Creeley)

Copyright © 2007 by Fanny Howe. Reprinted from The Lyrics with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Copyright © 2007 by Fanny Howe. Reprinted from The Lyrics with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Fanny Howe

Fanny Howe

The author of more than twenty books of poetry and prose, Fanny Howe received the 2001 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for her collection Selected Poems.

by this poet

poem
From no nowhere not near the sea
on blue field flax
the cemetery's absolutely solitary
you and you and a third

of a pound of bread
for supper in the refectory
where I would die of hunger
if you--if soon--if on this unday--one

undoing would be undone
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