Love and I

Graywolf. Oct. 2019. 80p. ISBN 9781644450048. $16. poetry;.
In her 24th collection, Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize Lifetime Achievement award winner Howe searches for a philosophy of living: “What should we do? What can we do? Take off your shoes/ you’ve Walked far enough.” Sometimes, the poet slyly pokes fun at life: “If a shoe is lying on a highway/ It indicates an accident.” Some metaphors shimmer (“A bird’s cherry-pit heart pulsed between two bones”). Yet others leave readers perplexed, “Their backpacks like skunks curled in the shade.” Howe pays tribute to earlier artists and writers, such as the Black Mountain poets and a British Romantic: “I was tracking Blake on Primrose Hill/ one damp summer night./ Bundles of white chestnuts flared/ under the streetlights.” Occasionally, the writing becomes clunky—breaking the reader’s flow—as in the long poem, “Turbulence,” where she writes, “A man might not want a child/ Because he has his brain to carry around.” Line lengths vary, with some of the sparsest ones communicating the most, as in the poem “No Beginning”: “Home?/ In.” Many of the poems center on travel and range from a melancholic recollection of babyhood to a series examining experiences while flying and touring foreign places. “Time was vertical. Is, and past perfect.” In the end, Howe is best at capturing the everyday: “Downstairs, cries of lust./ Up here, a requiem mass/ And light to lead the clouds home.”
VERDICT In nearly every poem, the poet delves deeply. Her questing invites us to read and reread. For all academic and larger public library collections.
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