Susan Howe


Griffin Poetry Prize 2018
International Winner

Book: Debths

Poet: Susan Howe

Publisher: New Directions

Click here to read an excerpt.

Susan Howe


Author of more than a dozen books of poetry and two of literary criticism, Susan Howe’s recent collection of poems That This won the Bollingen Prize in 2011. Howe held the Samuel P. Capen Chair in Poetry and the Humanities at the State University New York at Buffalo until her retirement in 2007. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999 and served as a Chancellor to the Academy of American Poets between 2000-2006. In 2009 she was awarded a Fellowship to the American Academy at Berlin. Recently, she was an Artist In Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Howe has also released three CDs in collaboration with the musician/composer David Grubbs, Thiefth, Souls of the Labadie Tract, and Frolic Architecture. In 2013 her word collages were exhibited at the Yale Union in Portland, Oregon, and in the Whitney Biennial Spring, 2014. Most recently, a limited press edition of Tom Tit Tot (word collages which amount to a series poem) with artwork by R. H. Quaytman has been published by MoMA in New York, and Spontaneous Particulars: The Telepathy of Archives by Christine Burgin and New Directions.

Judges’ Citation

“In a lecture of 2014, Susan Howe quoted Robert Duncan on how poetry’s secret lies in the “keeping of time”: “Counting the measures … one image may recall another, finding depth in the resounding.” It’s an apt description of Howe’s own method in her extraordinary new book, Debths, which continues to plumb the intertextual depths (also at once debts and deaths) of the archives and collections that have fed her work for almost thirty years. Across the book’s four sections, we hear its poems resound in sympathy not only with their reinvented source materials, but with earlier moments in Howe’s career – one of the most significant, innovative and humane in recent American letters – whose varied threads this new work draws triumphantly together. As Howe writes in her evocative foreword, “Secret connections among artifacts are audible and visible and yet hidden until you take a leap … It’s the mystery of strong music in the soul.” The strong music of Debths reveals itself in poems to be returned to again and again with growing astonishment and gratitude.”

Once when the real world

Once when the real world

was our world in its nature

to mind our would world

Threshold word little hinge

hope of bewilderment its

parchment memory sign


Each word may be six six

razzle rungs it may be two

places at once in the old

benediction for one lucky

one under thimble thumb

From Debths by Susan Howe
Copyright © 2017 by Susan Howe

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