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The Nonconformist's Memorial: Poems

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," ...

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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."

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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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811212298
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 6/17/1993
  • Series: New Directions Paperbook Series
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Acclaimed poet Susan Howe, winner of the last Bollingen Prize, is the author of the seminal work, My Emily Dickinson.

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Table of Contents

The Nonconformist's Memorial 3
Silence Wager Stories 34
A Bibliography of the King's Book or, Eikon Basilike 45
Melville's Marginalia 83
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