Susan Howe's newest book of poetry is a revelation as well as a mystery.
"What treasures of knowledge we cluster around." That This is a collection in three pieces. "Disappearance Approach," an essay about the sudden death of the author's husband ("land of darkness or darkness itself you shadow mouth"), begins the book with paintings by Poussin, an autopsy, Sarah Edwards and her sister-in-law Hannah, phantoms, elusive remnants, and snakes. "Frolic Architecture," the second section – inspired by visits to the vast 18th-century Jonathan Edwards archives at the Beinecke and accompanied by six photograms by James Welling – presents hauntingly lovely, oblique text-collages that Howe (with scissors and "invisible" Scotch Tape and a Canon copier) has twisted, flattened, and snipped into "inscapes of force." The final section, "That This," delivers beautiful short squares of verse that might look at home in a hymnal, although their orderly appearance packs startling power.
“Monomania has its rewards – an incantatory power that shines through. Howe's images, being historical as well as biographical, have the eerie shading of ghosts half-believed in, giving a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere reminiscent of Borges at his sharpest.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“An important voice in contemporary literature, a signal inheritor of an American poetic tradition. Like Dickinson, her Massachusetts muse, Howe turns the English of a self steeped in books such that every word, as in Scripture, glows with an almost moral quality.”
“For nearly thirty years, Howe has occupied a particular and invaluable place in American poetry. She's a rigorously skeptical and a profoundly visionary poet, a writer whose demystifying intelligence is matched by a passionate embrace of poetry's rejuvenating power.”
— John Palattella, Boston Review
Paperback $ 16.95