Liz Howard

copyright ©2015 by Liz Howard

I am my world. (The microcosm.)
– Ludwig Wittgenstein

Hospitality: the first demand
what is your name?
the city bound me so I entered

to dream a science that would name me
daughter and launch beyond
grief, that old thoracic cause

myocardium: a blood-orange foundry
handed down by the humoral
anatomists and not be

inside my own head perpetually
not simply a Wittgenstein’s girl
but an infinite citizen in a shaking tent

If you are in need of an answer
consult a jiisakiiwinini
scientific rigour
the unconscious a construct
method amphibious
of two minds
that’s the translator
her task to receive
the call that comes
down the barrel
of the future

all of us a congress
of selves a vibrational chorus
I know myself to be a guest
in your mind a grand lodge
of everything I long to know and hold
within this potlatch we call
the present

If I speak of the night
speak its illicit cerebrum
of branches and back seats
speak beyond our future
a thinkable urn

my empirical training
my non-status brow ridge
indivisible and glistening

every time I tease a thread of being
from its moment in standard time

let’s elevate the coordinates of distress
take it all in
I’m all in and over the limit

the limit, the eliminative, the lumens, the mens rea, the loom

to be a shopkeep in the showroom of nouns
what to purchase and what
to disavow

speak with saffron

speak of just the small bits, atomic

speak of the inevitable curve in the data

all foreclosed upon and glimmering

like a good bitch in the brine of night

I haven’t nearly enough heat here

in this stakeout

the sky died and I’m its anima in the pitch thickets

I have fingers with which to squish

pin cherries and rosehips

dogwood, I have begun

to hear a rosary of pure tones, the colony

hear its call toward disorder

citizens, I have never

been dishonest in my horror

the underclass of our era

a requisite paternity test


in excelsis


Notes on the Poem

When we last considered a poem from Liz Howard's 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize winning debut poetry collection Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent (Boreal Swing), we noted a feature that she wielded to powerful visual effect. Howard employs that same feature, but this time to notable aural effect, in "Thinktent". An interesting aspect of this poem is one that we've seen presented to varying and intriguing effect in other Poems of the Week. Line length play an important role in all of My Meadow, My Twilight by Carl Phillips, When Eyes are On Me by Yusef Komunyakaa and Stone Church by Alan Shapiro, as well as Howard's aforementioned "Boreal Swing". Line length can be a visual element, reinforcing imagery or subject matter in a poem. Where lines turn can also affect how the poem registers aurally, whether you're speaking it in your head or hearing it read aloud. As such, line length has impact on intonation, pacing and rhythm. Liz Howard chose to read "Thinktent" in June 2016 as part of the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist readings, and we are delighted to be able to provide a video of that captivating reading. You'll find it to the left, just under the poem. We invite you to play it as you're reading the poem. To this reader's eyes and listener's ears, there is decided correspondence between the determined momentum of Howard's reading and how the poem is laid out on the page. The "crackling language" that the Griffin Poetry Prize judges refer to in their citation for Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent has heightened urgency here. As Howard exhorts in her introduction to her reading, "we'll get through this together" ... and we certainly do, as the poem's slender list structure and breaks lend to a crisp and insistent itemizing of images and concerns. Particularly dramatic is: "the call that comes down the barrel of the future" which somehow would not have the same visual or sonic impact in one line. What do you think?

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