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Susan Howe, Spontaneous Particulars



Host Charles Ruas shares a casual exchange of words and stories with his old friend, Susan Howe. Their reunion took place hours before the poet was set to read at the McNally Jackson bookstore in late 2014.

The two discuss Howe's work, the trajectory of her career, and what lent her to create a body of work so easily translated into performance. In her youth, Howe ran with a set active in Harvard's The Poet's Theater, and, decades later, her work is presented in galleries and in collaboration with musicians --in a style both theatrical and graphic. Ruas argues that her work has led to an increased relationship between text and visual art, in work presented in galleries and exhibitions today.

Some might say that Howe's work is an example of appropriation, linking it to common themes in contemporary art. Rather than images taken by others, however, the poet has invested herself in the archives of other writers. Howe has been particularly interested in the writings of Emily Dickinson. She and Ruas converse about the ethics of the publishing industry, particularly as it effects poetry. Howe confesses her frustration with how the work of great poets is often a fragmented example of the original poetic form. She uses the example of line break placement as a critical mistake made by publishers. The line break, she says, is crucial in the reading and understanding of a poem-- it being a graphic element that has always been fundamental to poetry.

Howe has two 2015 releases from New Directions, The Quarry, selections from her uncollected essays, nominated for a National Book Award and including her seminal piece, The End of Art, and a re-issue of her 1993 The Birth-mark, examining the histories of landmark works from Cotton Mather to Emily Dickinson and subsequent American writers.

American poet and critic, Susan Howe (born 1937) is known for her work having often having been infused with historical and mythical references. She is often linked with the Postmodern Language poets. Howe has been awarded with numerous awards, such as two American Book Awards and a Guggenheim fellowship. She has taught at universities across the United States. Her published works include; Hinge Picture (1974), Articulation of Sound Forms in Time (1987), The Birth-Mark: Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History (1993), and Frolic Architecture (2011).

 

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