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About this poet

Marie Howe was born in 1950 in Rochester, New York. She worked as a newspaper reporter and teacher before receiving her MFA from Columbia University in 1983.

She is the author of Magdalene (W. W. Norton, 2017), which was long-listed for the National Book Award; The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (W. W. Norton, 2009), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; What the Living Do (W. W. Norton, 1998); and The Good Thief (Persea Books, 1988), which was selected by Margaret Atwood for the 1987 National Poetry Series.

What the Living Do is in many ways an elegy for her brother, John, who died of AIDS in 1989. In 1995, she coedited the anthology In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (Persea, 1995).

About poetry and everyday life, Howe notes:

This might be the most difficult task for us in postmodern life: not to look away from what is actually happening. To put down the iPod and the e-mail and the phone. To look long enough so that we can look through it—like a window.

The poet Stanley Kunitz called her poetry "luminous, intense, and eloquent, rooted in an abundant inner life." He selected her for a Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets in 1988.

Howe is the recipient of the 2015 Academy of American Poets Fellowship. About Howe, Academy of American Poets Chancellor Arthur Sze said: “Marie Howe’s poems are remarkable for their focused, intense, and haunting lyricism. Her poems characteristically unfold through a series of luminous particulars that gather emotional power as they delve into the complexities of the human heart. Her poems are acclaimed for writing through loss with verve, but they also find the miraculous in the ordinary and transform quotidian incidents into enduring revelation.”

Her other awards include grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Bunting Institute, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has taught at Tufts University and Dartmouth College, among others. In 2018, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Currently she teaches at New York University and Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York City with her daughter.


Bibliography

Magdalene (W. W. Norton, 2017)
The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (W. W. Norton, 2009)
What the Living Do (W. W. Norton, 1998)
The Good Thief (Persea Books, 1988)

One Day

One day the patterned carpet, the folding chairs,

the woman in the blue suit by the door examining her split ends,

 

all of it will go on without me. I’ll have disappeared,

as easily as a coin under lake water, and few to notice the difference

 

—a coin dropping into the darkening—

and West 4th Street, the sesame noodles that taste like too much peanut butter

 

lowered into the small white paper carton—all of it will go on and on—

and the I that caused me so much trouble? Nowhere

 

or grit thrown into the garden

or into the sticky bodies of several worms,

 

or just gone, stopped—like the Middle Ages,

like the coin Whitman carried in his pocket all the way to that basement

 

bar on Broadway that isn’t there anymore.

Oh to be in Whitman’s pocket, on a cold winter day,

 

to feel his large warm hand slide in and out, and in again.

To be taken hold of by Walt Whitman! To be exchanged!

 

To be spent for something somebody wanted and drank and found delicious.

Copyright © 2017 by Marie Howe. From Magdalene​ (W. W. Norton, 2017). Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2017 by Marie Howe. From Magdalene​ (W. W. Norton, 2017). Used with permission of the author.

Marie Howe

Marie Howe

Marie Howe was born in 1950 in Rochester, New York. She worked as a newspaper reporter and teacher before receiving her MFA from Columbia University in 1983. She currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store   
and the gas station and the green market and   
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry,   
as she runs along two or three steps behind me   
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.   

Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?   

poem

I had no idea that the gate I would step through 
to finally enter this world 

would be the space my brother's body made. He was 
a little taller than me: a young man 

but grown, himself by then, 
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet, 

rinsed every glass he would ever

poem
It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand,
and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still
and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when