INNER VOICES: Selected Poems 1963–2003

Richard Howard, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $30 (440p) ISBN 978-0-374-25862-7

Drawing on 12 previous volumes (including 1970's Pulitzer-winning Untitled Subjects ), this big assortment plays to Howard's strengths—above all, to his impersonations and dramatic monologues. Howard's hyperarticulate sentences fit the preoccupations of his sophisticated personae, many of them 19th-century French and English writers and artists. John Ruskin, Henry James, the early photographer Nadar, Proust and Jane Morris (William's widow) all receive extended embodiments, as do the secretaries and intimates of other great artists. The book includes Howard's anthology hits, among them "Nicholas of Mardruz" (a biting response to Browning) and "Infirmities," in which the aged Walt Whitman critiques the closeted Bram Stoker. His elaborate forms, or "habitual/ disorders," "suffice to hold fast to the small/ change of small changes," exploring regrets or assessing the pleasures of the flesh. Howard's later volumes grew more personal (and more successful) in revealing specifically gay male experience. On the whole, these densely figured poems justify the copious ambition they embody. (Oct.)

Forecast: A translator of Stendhal, Barthes, Breton and many other major French writers, the poetry editor for the Paris Review and a prolific critic, reviewer and blurber, Howard is known to several generations of intelligentsia. This, his first selected, will be the one book of his poems many will buy. FSG plans a simultaneous release for a retrospective of Howard's critical writings, Paper Trail: Selected Prose 1965–2003.

Reviewed on: 09/20/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
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