ON THE GROUND

Fanny Howe, Author . Graywolf $14 (64p) ISBN 978-1-55597-403-9

Simultaneously tender, political, lyrical and global in scope, this set of short sequences from Howe (One Crossed Out ) has at its core the belief that love plays a redemptive role at all scales of interaction, giving intense force to grapplings with intimacy: "I think proximity is the abyss/ between God and us because// every fabric of my body is trying/ to know why saying// I love you / in a time of extremity is a necessity." Howe buttresses details drawn from individual lives with explorations of good and evil not as justifications for action, but as things to know and act from: "I am no one./ I know hell and have hope." Though elsewhere Howe has reinvented Catholic imagery fascinatingly, her direct engagements of it here can be flat: "Satan announces himself without sense/ I am pro-life, I kill from a distance." "The Dragon of History" is similarly brittle, as are some of the explicit references to September 11, the Iraq War and the second intifada. But such facts on the ground carry an anger that in turn carries these poems throughout—"Not even a postage stamp/ and not the spit for it"—revealing connections between small and large, here and elsewhere, where "Time covered sky/ over multiple eyes." (July)

Reviewed on: 06/21/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
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