Saturday, April 23, 2011

Susan Howe, That This

On the Shoreline Express I like to sit on the side where between Stony Creek and Guilford I can see my neighbor’s house, and in winter a little further up the road catch a split-second glimpse of ours through the window as the train passes. I suppose I’m trying to capture a moment before mirror vision—because when you view objects that lie in front of your eyes as well as others in the distance behind, what you see in the mirror has already been interpreted—so far as you can tell.

More and more I have the sense of being present at a point of absence where crossing centuries may prove to be like crossing languages. Soundwaves. It’s the difference between one stillness and another stillness. Even the “invisible” scotch tape I recently used when composing “Frolic Architecture” leaves traces on paper when I run each original sheet through the Canon copier.
Susan Howe’s That This (New Directions, 2010) is an extended series of prose and poem fragments that make up a work of mourning, “an essay about Howe’s husband’s sudden death.” In three sections and untitled coda, Howe’s That This is a book that quickly becomes much more and deeper than such a deceptively simple description. Working directly from life and from books, she writes out a concordance of all the right things, despite their distances, bridging the widest gaps in a sentence or two. Howe is everywhere, suddenly, and all at once.
Is light anything like this
stray pencil commonplace

copy as to one aberrant
onward-gliding mystery

1 comment:

Solid Quarter said...

I find especially compelling how the front section, so deeply personal, and the latter, so sparse and truncated, work together. It's one that I had to put down a lot as I read.