Poet graces listeners with rhythmic beats

Acclaimed writer Susan Howe recites poetry in 'celebration' of her lifetime achievements

The Daily Pennsylvanian
February 15, 2007

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Susan Howe, a nationally-acclaimed poet, recites original poetry at a crowded room in the Kelly Writers House.

Photo by Anna Cororaton The Daily Pennsylvanian

Prize-winning poet Susan Howe appeared at the Kelly Writers House yesterday for an exclusive poetry reading of her own works.

An author of several poetry publications, Howe opened the night with one of her most recent prose poems, "What is this Crackling of Voices in the Mind," in a style she described as "a Jonathan Edwards personal, conversion narrative."

Her second piece, "Thorow," was a retrospective piece about the '80s, inspired by Henry David Thoreau.

As Howe continued reading poetry that has attracted a large following over the years, the small room bursted with listeners, some even sitting in the adjoining room to take in the low, melodious and deliberately varied rhythmic reading.

English professor Charles Bernstein, who worked with Howe at the State University of New York in Buffalo and organized Howe's visit to Penn, called Howe "one of the greatest poets of the United States and of our history."

Bernstein invited the acclaimed poet "because of the significance of her work" and, in honor of her upcoming 70th birthday, "to celebrate her lifetime achievement and contribution to ? American Studies," he said.

Throughout the evening, Bernstein continued to sing Howe's praises.

"As you can hear from the reading tonight, she has really extended the way performance and sound can work in a poem in radically new ways."

Students, many of whom are in Bernstein's class, were also pleased with Howe's works.

"I was really impressed by the intensity [and] the shift in lightness between partial bits and complete bits," said Darcy Sebright, former Temple University English graduate student, of Howe's reading performance.

Ebony Collier, who used to take poetry classes at Temple University, likewise said that she's "seen Susan Howe read before, so [she] was eager to come."

Howe is the recipient of two American Book Awards from The Before Columbus Foundation and, among other literary honors, the 1996 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Though she is planning on retiring soon, Howe currently sits as the Samuel P. Capen Chair of Poetry and the Humanities at the SUNY-Buffalo.