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Jessica Smith on Susan Howe

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The Art of the Poem

 

When I titled my first book Organic Furniture Cellar: Works on Paper 2002-2004, the title bore the mark of the influence Susan Howe had on me during my studies at the University at Buffalo. I went to Buffalo as an undergraduate because my high school correspondence with Robert Creeley made me feel like I’d be welcome in the Poetics Program. I immediately loved Charles Bernstein’s pedagogical methods and his brain which was so full of things I wanted to imbibe (student as zombie). I didn’t take Susan’s creative writing class; I didn’t take any classes with her until I was a graduate student, when I studied Wallace Stevens under her tutelage. But I read everything I could get my hands on. I bought the handmade books and the older chapbooks. I scoured the Poetry Collection for odd volumes. For six years, Singularities never left my bedside. I watched her from afar while creating intimate relationships with her work—almost as if I couldn’t approach the author because I was furtively hoarding her work (student as mouse).

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My essay on Susan Howe for Literary Mothers is up!