Essays &c.

Howe It Is: A Closer Look at JML 45.4 (introduction to “Susan Howe’s THAT THIS and the Relational Self“)

In 2011, when I was a doctoral student at the CUNY Graduate Center, I had the extraordinary opportunity to interview poet Susan Howe in a public talk about her volume That This, which had just been published.

from The Midwinter Constellation in Post45 “Bernadette Mayer Cluster”

It mattered to me that Midwinter Day was 40 because I was 40, too. I was fudging, a bit — just two weeks from my 41st birthday. Had I been born on my due date we wouldn’t have shared 1978 at all. Electrifyingly personal secret pleasure. “This is the mathematics / I’m the mother and the poet” — rare enough — but I’m the baby too.

“Essay in Fragments, A Pile of Limbs” in 21|19: Contemporary Poets in the Nineteenth-Century Archive

I had not registered that Whitman’s poetic career opens with a cadaver on a kitchen table. I had written the line down and recopied it into three different notebooks. And yet somehow I had not really seen the body in it

Muriel Rukeyser’s experimental feminine poetics of war” in Textual Practice special issue on Life of Poetry

This essay puts forward Muriel Rukeyser’s Life of Poetry as the site of articulation of a radical and still urgently relevant experimental feminine poetics of war. The power of this poetics is rooted not in proximity to combat experience, but in the interweaving of public and political fact, personal exploration, and imaginative experiment in an era of constant and pervasive conflict.

Undone By One Another” in Critical Flame

About a week into winter term, Zelda, a two-year old Pitbull mix who had been found abandoned in the high desert, gave birth to a litter of eight puppies. The student who found her left our weekly Public Speaking gathering to attend her delivery, which was taking place in his dorm room.

The Enigma of a Sentence: Translating Giorgio de Chirico’s Italian Poetry” in Metaphysical Art

A Giorgio de Chirico sentence is a magical diorama whose glass front or curtain we can pass through to enter a raucous three-dimensional space in which personal detritus sits beside figures from the long past, the surreal machines of contemporary industry, and “harbinger ghosts” of what is yet to come …

Interview of Susan Howe on Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror at Film Comment

By her own admission, acclaimed poet Susan Howe is not a film critic. But boundary-crossing—between genres, disciplines, art forms, and even past and present—is central to all of her work …

Poems and bodies in time” at Poetry International

Quite high on those lists that compile evidence for the alleged impossibility of translating poetry is the pesky little issue of time. Just as time is inseparable from space in the woven fabric of the space-time continuum, our understanding of time is tethered to language – Special Relativity meets Linguistic Relativity. The second proposition is probably even more practically urgent, or at least more tangible, than the first […]

Memorial Hill: An Illustrated History” at A Public Space


“Let the memorial hill remember instead of me, / that’s what it’s here for,” wrote the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. There are real places in our world called “Memorial Hill,” of course—in Moscow; Midway, Utah; Petersburg, Virginia—they commemorate specific tragedies, offer up sites for particularized meditations of grief or contextualized understanding. This memorial hill is not one of them […]

Backstory” at Tilted Arc

“This poem begins with a lie. In fact, my grandfather always expressed the most admiration for American legs, not Italian ones. It wasn’t his choice to immigrate: my grandmother – a proud striver from the comparative social elevation of an artisan family – had gone north on her own (a woman! in Southern Italy!) to take an exam for skilled laborers …”

‘Another form of life’: Muriel Rukeyser, Willard Gibbs, and Analogy” in The Journal of Narrative Theory

Opprobrium was not the only reaction that Muriel Rukeyser received for Willard Gibbs, her 1942 biography of the largely unknown if enormously influential nineteenth-century physical chemist, though the criticism was significant. As The Kenyon Review reported in the spring of 1943, she had earned “a number of slaps on the wrist—and even, from a particularly malicious reviewer, one in the face” […]

Trespass and Presumption: Susan Howe and Muriel Rukeyser” at Jacket2

Muriel Rukeyser and Susan Howe tell the same anecdote about nineteenth-century mathematician, philosopher, and American Pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce. In it, Peirce has been tasked with defining — among many specialized terms of logic, philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy — the word “university” for the Century Dictionary […]

Delighting in the Potential“: Interview by Jane Carr at Brooklyn Quarterly

“I love how a gesture like this is not teleological – it doesn’t suggest there is a straightforward or normative direction in which transformation happens, or should happen. Sound has its own logic that both masquerades as and creates other registers of logic.”

Wild by Nature” at Boston Review 

Meteoric Flowers, Elizabeth Willis’s fourth collection of poems, takes for its muse Erasmus Darwin, the 18th-century polymath, scientist, poet, and grandfather to Charles. Willis has written these prose poems obliquely around Darwin’s The Botanic Garden (1791), a long poem in two parts that makes surprising connections between nature, politics, mythology, history, art, and the human condition […]