The Nonconformist's Memorial: Poems

Susan Howe, Author New Directions Publishing Corporation $16.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1229-8
Fifteen years after first garnering acclaim for her small press publications, Howe's ( Singularities ) entry into mainstream publishing is inauspicious. Making use of history, revered texts and collage, Howe pans for meaning like an alchemist searching for gold. But of the four long pieces presented here, only the shortest (``Silence Wager Stories'') shows this poet's stunning abilities. ``Melville's Marginalia,'' based on the reclusive author's notations in books he was reading after the ``public failure of Moby-Dick and then Pierre ,'' is by far Howe's most ambitious work to date. It is also extremely dense, reading more like semiotic criticism than poetry. ``I thought one way to write about a loved author would be to follow what trails he follows through words of others,'' she says, prefacing her poems with 15 pages of commentary. She spends more time defending her process than presenting its output, but this ruminative prose at least permits readers entrance into the autobiographical elements that have always set her work apart from that of her nonsyntactical colleagues. In her weaker pieces here, she relies more on typography than in her previous work, often printing words upside-down, at angles or on top of each other, making reading next to impossible. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/14/1993
Release date: 06/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
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