Susan Howe


Griffin Poetry Prize 2018
International Winner

Book: Debths

Poet: Susan Howe

Publisher: New Directions

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.

Susan Howe reads from Periscope

Periscope, by Susan Howe

from Periscope

God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom.

Closed book who stole
who away do brackets
signify emptiness was
is a rift in experience

Mackerel and porpoise
was this the last of us

These tallied scraps float
like glass skiffs quietly for
love or pity and all that

What an idea in such a time
as ours Pip among Pleiads

Mystical accidentalism for
sound-hemmed naught in
night’s botanical glossary

Over unnamed cycles see
the rich on that rust heap

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

A coverlet has drifted down
in double compass with sled
loom as if it were patterned

Many shuttles many treadles
That beam was only a straw

So long as one fact stands
isolated and strange one
fact supported by no fact

I can spin straw by myself

If to sense you are
alive is pleasant itself
or can be nearly so –
If I knew what it is
I’d show it – but no

What I lack is myself

Come lie down on my shadow
Being infinitely self-conscious
I sold your shadow for you too

Let’s let bygones be bygones
Dust to dust we barely reach

Hut running on chicken legs
Achilles has his heel what’s
left to a thirdhand sightseer

Caves and rivers imagine
having to bury yourself over
and over knock on wood

Telling the story of a man
who is responsible for his
own ruin and is inexplicably
condemned to wander in
a one-horse chair eternally
around Boston from which
historical song he himself
cannot free himself with a
wave of his hand whither –

In the old days I used to sit
up late till an owl appeared
Negative infinity melodrama

I shall never forget you half-
way owl shadow marauder
How you flew over and over

Unseen in canoe or cut glass
skiff scudding past centuries
on another map kept secret

from earth moon vision each
reflecting an end point where
is will remain as is etcetera

This side I will show miniature
network entanglements comma
Blessings full stop yours very

half-hesitation semi-colon semi-
colon yes the sea lies about us
Our tininess on earth as such

A day without yesterday
Mackerel sky over Boston

See tossing waves at ice
front doorstep nonfiction
prosepoem my icicle hair

These quiet stars each free
intelligence sealed from us
Days and hours are blinds

These screens these means
each new extreme outvies
each quickening after after

After the millennium a little
before at brink at the brink

Humming octaves with wild
trills of magic and symbolic
logic a not-being-in-the-no

From Debths by Susan Howe
Copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Susan Howe