The Nonconformist's Memorial: Poems

The Nonconformist's Memorial: Poems

by Susan Howe
     
 

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A poetic re-piecing of history.The Nonconformist's Memorial is a gathering of four long sequences that underscores Susan Howe's reputation as one of the leading experimentalists writing today. How is a poet of language in history whose work resonates back through Melville, Dickinson, and Shelley to the seventeenth-century Metaphysicals and Puritans (the nonconformism…  See more details below

Overview

A poetic re-piecing of history.The Nonconformist's Memorial is a gathering of four long sequences that underscores Susan Howe's reputation as one of the leading experimentalists writing today. How is a poet of language in history whose work resonates back through Melville, Dickinson, and Shelley to the seventeenth-century Metaphysicals and Puritans (the nonconformism of the title), and forward again to T. S. Eliot and the abstract expressionists. The sequences fall into two sections, "Turning" and "Conversion," in half-ironic nonconforming counterpart to Eliot's Four Quartets. Her collaging and mirror-imaging of words are concretions of verbal static, visual meditations on what can and cannot be said. For Howe, "Melville's Marginalia" is the essential poem in the collection, an approach to an elusive and allusive mind through Melville's own reading and the notations in his library books. This, says Howe, is "Language a wood for thought."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fifteen years after first garnering acclaim for her small press publications, Howe's ( Singularities ) entry into mainstream publishing is inauspicious. Making use of history, revered texts and collage, Howe pans for meaning like an alchemist searching for gold. But of the four long pieces presented here, only the shortest (``Silence Wager Stories'') shows this poet's stunning abilities. ``Melville's Marginalia,'' based on the reclusive author's notations in books he was reading after the ``public failure of Moby-Dick and then Pierre ,'' is by far Howe's most ambitious work to date. It is also extremely dense, reading more like semiotic criticism than poetry. ``I thought one way to write about a loved author would be to follow what trails he follows through words of others,'' she says, prefacing her poems with 15 pages of commentary. She spends more time defending her process than presenting its output, but this ruminative prose at least permits readers entrance into the autobiographical elements that have always set her work apart from that of her nonsyntactical colleagues. In her weaker pieces here, she relies more on typography than in her previous work, often printing words upside-down, at angles or on top of each other, making reading next to impossible. (May)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811212298
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
06/17/1993
Series:
New Directions Paperbook Series
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet 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 Architecturewere 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.

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