Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fanny Howe

Fanny Howe has been announced as the winner of the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement.

How exciting! I've been reading from her collection, Selected Poems for the past two weeks! I heard an interview with her via podcast at the Poetry Foundation and had to go out and get her book after hearing her voice.

In a 2004 interview with the Kenyon Review, Howe said this about her work: "If someone is alone reading my poems, I hope it would be like reading someone's notebook. A record. Of a place, beauty, difficulty. A familiar daily struggle."

Here are some favourites from that book...

I won't be able to write from the grave
so let me tell you what I love:
oil, vinegar, salt, lettuce, brown bread, butter,
cheese and wine, a windy day, a fireplace,
the children nearby, poems and songs,
a friend sleeping in my bed —

and the short northern nights.

Moon ink is too bright to read.

You run your fingers over the print
and get some sense.

But then you lose it too.
It swims in a pool of logic

that you can't disprove
because it doesn't move.


Into the forest I went walking — to get lost.

I saw faces in the knots
of trees, it was insane, and hands
in branches, and everywhere names.

Throughout the elms
small birds shivered and sang
in rhyme.

I wanted to be air, or wind — to be at ease
in outer space but in the world
this was the case:

Human was God's secret name.


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