A Poet of the Archives: On Susan Howe

Emily LaBarge at Bookforum:

For some readers, Howe’s work seems inscrutable or obtuse—obscure for the sake of difficulty as a kind of meaning in itself. Indeed, the poems stand awkwardly as individual works, and are best read as a volume. Taken as such, they offer a rewarding route to how one might construct a life—and a life’s work—from diving into language, the past, archival sources, and visual art. There is freedom in vastness and there is always more—more ideas, more ways of speaking and hearing, listening and knowing—to be found. Howe convinces us that intuited connections are real and possess a logic of their own, and that supposed breaks in continuity, in history or associations or sentences, are often the very place we should look to forge new connections. To stutter, to recombine or pull apart phonemes and line breaks, to wrench metaphors and to wrongly employ words, to cut and paste texts in images, shapes, lines, is to uncover so much possibility. Most critically, it is to admit and to relish the fact that we do not know all the ways in which we do not know—to be open to the grace of “not being in the no.”

more here.