- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

“A poet enters the engulfing nature of language itself—the distance and immediacy of words.”


Happy birthday, Susan Howe! 82, today! Here are some quotes from her writing.

“Originality is the discovery of how to shed identity before the magic mirror of Antiquity’s sovereign power.”

“The world is charged with language; as a poet I am intensely involved in its logic. Of course language can’t be separated from perception. It’s a visibility effect of singular forces dispersed here and there, and at the same time concentrated and compressed between. Something to do with abstracting and recuperating the measure of time and memory. It’s a balance of openness and closure, momentary epiphanies, human voices—unanswered questions.”

“[T]he question about what is unique to poetry, leads me back to thoughts on the circumference of Peirce’s ‘Love in a Universe of Chance,’ and to the visionary company of love in Hart Crane’s ‘Broken Tower.’ It isn’t sky, only words of the sky. An imitation on the surface—drawn icon or written sign. To keep time—to measure. Now this way, now that way. Hit or miss—an arrow aimed at the eye of love.”

“Poems are intentional and intuitive at once. The spirit of execution is a spirit of experiment, an openness to order which chance creates. Words are visually concrete and tangibly audible. A poet surrenders with discipline to the sense of sound, sight, ideas, and rhythm in conjunction. Single words and sentence clusters directly affect involuntary memory. Involuntary memory is lucid, pre-verbal, soothing.”

“Poetry, grounded in the perception of endings, enjambment, and disjunction, is both a defiance of authority and a deposit from a future yet to come.”

“A poem is an invocation, rebellious return to the blessedness of beginning again, wandering free in pure process of forgetting and finding.”

“Herman Melville is not comforting. Emily Dickinson isn’t either. Maybe their work is too hungry for comfort, or just too vivid for comfort. But Henry James is—profoundly so. Because he is tender. The tenderness is there in the structure of the sentence. He knows the way the poor and the dead are forgotten by the living, and he cannot allow that to happen. So he keeps on writing for them, for the dead, as if they were children to be sheltered and loved, never abandoned.”


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