Susan Howe That This (New Directions Books)

ISBN 13: 9780811219181

That This (New Directions Books)

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9780811219181: That This (New Directions Books)
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Susan Howe’s newest book of poetry is a revelation as well as a mystery.

"What treasures of knowledge we cluster around." That This is a collection in three pieces. "Disappearance Approach," an essay about Howe's husband's sudden death―"land of darkness or darkness itself you shadow mouth"―begins the book with paintings by Poussin, an autopsy, Sarah Edwards and her sister-in-law Hannah, phantoms, and elusive remnants. "Frolic Architecture," the second section―inspired by visits to the vast 18th-century Jonathan Edwards archives at the Beinecke and accompanied by six photograms by James Welling―presents hauntingly lovely, oblique type-collages of Hannah Edwards Wetmore's diary entries that Howe (with scissors, "invisible" Scotch Tape, and a Canon copier) has twisted, flattened, and snipped into inscapes of force. The final section, "That This," delivers beautiful short squares of verse that might look at home in a hymnal, with their orderly appearance packing startling power:

     That this book is a history of
     a shadow that is a shadow of
     Me mystically one in another
     another another to subserve. Six black-and-white photographs

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About the Author:

Author of more than a dozen books of poetry and two of literary criticism, Susan Howe's recent collection of poems That This, published by New Directions won the Bollingen Prize in 2011. Her earlier critical study, My Emily Dickinson, was re-issued in 2007 with an introduction by Eliot Weinberger. Three CDs in collaboration with the musician/composer David Grubbs, Thiefth, Souls of the Labadie Tract, and Frolic Architecture were released on the Blue Chopsticks label (2005; 2011). Howe held the Samuel P. Capen Chair in Poetry and the Humanities at the State University New York at Buffalo until her retirement in 2007. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999 and served as a Chancellor to the Academy of American Poets between 2000-2006. In fall, 2009 she was awarded a Fellowship to the American Academy at Berlin. Grenfell Press published a fine press edition of “Frolic Architecture with photographic prints by James Welling in 2009. Recently she was an Artist In Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In October, 2013 her word collages were exhibited at the Yale Union in Portland, Oregon, and in the Whitney Biennial Spring, 2014. A limited press edition of Tom Tit Tot (the word collages which amount to a series poem) with art work by R.H. Quaytman has just been published by MoMA in New York, and Spontaneous Particulars:The Telepathy of Archives, (2014) published by Christine Burgin and New Directions.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. In this very beautiful four-part book, Howe (Souls of the Labadie Tract) seeks to come to terms with the sudden death of her third husband, the philosopher and scholar Peter H. Hare. The four sections take radically different formal "approaches" to his loss, in the sense of going backwards in time, to the days just before Hare's fatal embolism, and in the sense of finding a means of understanding, or at least of moving forward. The first section uses a simple, diaristic prose through which Howe incorporates the terse capitals of Hare's autopsy, along with a variety of 18th-century epistolary condolences. The result conveys Howe's sense of "being present at a point of absence where crossing centuries may prove to be like crossing languages." The next section, "Frolic Architecture," comprises densely layered photocopied text fragments whose three-dimensional quality seems to extend into a fourth—time. The title section follows with seven pages of strophic, hymnlike verse, where "Grass angels perish in this// harmonic collision because/ non-being cannot be ÿthis.' " By the final, untitled collage, Howe has made her grief speak as much through textual interstices and shifts in diction and form as through each singular elegy. (Dec.)
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