About this poet

Marie Howe was born in 1950 in Rochester, NY. She worked as a newspaper reporter and teacher before receiving her MFA from Columbia University in 1983.

Her most recent book, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (W. W. Norton, 2009) was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her other collections of poetry include What the Living Do (1998) and The Good Thief (Persea, 1988), which was selected by Margaret Atwood for the 1987 National Poetry Series.

What the Living Do is in many ways an elegy for her brother, John, who died of AIDS in 1989. In 1995, she co-edited the anthology In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (Persea, 1995).

About poetry and everyday life, Howe notes:

This might be the most difficult task for us in postmodern life: not to look away from what is actually happening. To put down the iPod and the e-mail and the phone. To look long enough so that we can look through it—like a window.

The poet Stanley Kunitz called her poetry "luminous, intense, and eloquent, rooted in an abundant inner life." He selected her for a Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets in 1988.

Her other awards include grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Bunting Institute, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has taught at Tufts University and Dartmouth College, among others. Currently she teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and Columbia University. She lives in New York City with her daughter.

Magdalene

Marie Howe, 1950

You know it was funny because he seemed so well the night before
I stayed over to meet a student before class

—sitting at the picnic table...already so hot so early.
I must have been looking for a pen or something

when I thought of the car keys and, rummaging through my bag,
couldn’t find them and was up and walking across the grass when

I heard myself say, I feel as if I’m going to lose something today,
—and then I knew, and ran the rest of the way.

 

About this poem:
"This poem is from a series written in Mary Magdalene's voice. When my brother was dying from complications from the AIDS virus in his apartment in Rochester New York, I learned that other young men had come home to die, some of them in their old childhood bedrooms on the suburban streets they had left for big cities. Hardly anyone in those suburbs knew what was occurring in their midst. Later that year I heard a banging hammer—someone banging nails two or three yards away from my own apartment in Cambridge, and I thought of those young men dying at home, and of the crucifixion—how someone hearing the banging hammer might not be aware of the true nature of what was being done."

Marie Howe

Copyright © 2013 by Marie Howe. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 22, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Marie Howe. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 22, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Marie Howe

Marie Howe

Marie Howe was born in 1950 in Rochester, New York. She worked as a newspaper reporter and teacher before receiving her MFA from Columbia University in 1983.

by this poet

poem
At first, the scissors seemed perfectly harmless.
They lay on the kitchen table in the blue light.

Then I began to notice them all over the house,
at night in the pantry, or filling up bowls in the cellar

where there should have been apples. They appeared under rugs,
lumpy places where one would usually settle
poem
It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand,
and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still
and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when
a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop,
very much like the moment, driving
poem
Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment

when,   nothing 

happens 

no what-have-I-to-do-today-list 


maybe   half a moment  

the rush of traffic stops.  

The whir of I should be, I should be, I should be 

slows to silence,

the white cotton curtains hanging still.