Introduction for Fanny Howe – 2 March 09

Fanny Howe and Alan Loney gave a very moving reading at the Project last week, post-big-snow storm, yet about 55 fanatics strapped on their snow shoes for the special occasion. Monday Night Readings Coordinator Kyle Schlesinger and I co-hosted the event. Below is my introduction for Fanny.  Check out Kyle’s introduction for Alan here.

Introduction for Fanny Howe

Fanny Howe is the author of over twenty books. Her new collection of essays, The Winter Sun, is just out from Graywolf Press and a story called “What Did I Do Wrong?” is forthcoming from Flood Editions. Other recent titles include The Lyrics (Graywolf) and Radical Love (Nightboat Editions), a collection of five of her novels. She has received many awards, including one recently for poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She teaches at Glenstal Abbey in Ireland every summer.

In 1999 Spectacular Diseases published A Folio for Fanny Howe that included a short essay by Rae Armantrout called “Q and the Serial Nomad.” I mention it because it still influences the way I read and learn from Howe’s work, especially the idea of Howe as a poet who quite radically addresses the “problem of the speaking subject” or “selfhood” not through irony but by making the 1st person a habitable pronoun multiverse. Camus said: “My whole effort has been in reality to depersonalize myself” – while one senses this impulse in Howe, the greater emphasis falls during the aftermath of that divestment, with collectivity, something of the de- and repopulating polis, a theory of self that, to paraphrase her, can be tested in the body and can work on the ground. She writes in an interview posted on Half Drunk Muse: “What is a human being? That only a human being can ask the question is bad enough, but it throws into relief the whole tragic dilemma of an intelligence lost in space. If my mind is not a continuum of consciousness that enfolds the earth and planets, etcetera, and if it begins and ends inside my skull, then how can I have children? Why continue this parade?”

I think part of why Howe’s work is often called “visionary” is due to her unsurpassed ability to charge language with just enough energy to illuminate this continuum of consciousness, an open-system that exists in defiance of closed economic, political and other systems that we must learn to negotiate as human beings. One of the most remarkable qualities of Howe’s work is that it has a lot of power and she conducts it right at the margins, bestowing it upon the fugitives, the social losers, the nomads among us. I am so grateful for her work, please welcome Fanny Howe to the Poetry Project.

– Stacy Szymaszek