Fanny Howe, Author . Univ. of California $34.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-520-23624-0 ISBN 978-0-520-23810-7

Mixing serial poems with shorter work and spots of prose, poet and novelist Howe (Indivisible; One Crossed Out) combines skeptical clarity and a mindful, at times humor-tinged desire to locate the intersection of spiritual and physical presence in daily life: "A decent soul comes in red-rum colors/ It is a floating shadow/ Not water or air but something nearly solid/ A hint of cinnamon and bark/ And some people know how to circle their lips/ around a mouth and suck the soul away." Howe's speaker treats faith and doubt as aspects of unitary consciousness, often using imbalances of power as a frame for her explorations, as in "The history of the defeated": "Eternal life/ as if to prove/ the principal/ root of the verb/ to falsify/ is life/ itself an excess/ since whoever is/ identified/ is already buried/ while staying still/ will show what nothing is." A short essay-like prose piece on Simone Weil's writings confronts conversion on linguistic ground, as Howe, who in another poem writes "I hate therefore/ the word 'prayer'/ since every word is one," questions the bait-and-switch of language as attached to the possibility of salvation: "You have to make yourself believe. Is this possible? Can you turn 'void' into 'God' by switching the words over and over again?" Howe's willingness to take on subject matter that many poets shy away from is handled with care, complexity and passionate clarity. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/31/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 128 pages - 978-0-520-23810-7
Open Ebook - 128 pages - 978-0-520-93710-9
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