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Susan Howe Biography

(1937– ), Hinge Picture, My Emily Dickinson, The Birth Mark, A Secret History of the Dividing Line

American poet, born in Ireland, raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts; she became a visual artist in New York in the 1960s, working increasingly with texts, until a decision in the early 1970s to concentrate on poetry culminating in her first volume, Hinge Picture (1974). Since then she has emerged as one of the most original and widely praised of the Language Poets, although her work significantly diverges from Language Poetry because of its attention to a thematics of American history, puritanism, myth and legend, and its clear roots in three precursors, Emily Dickinson, H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), and Charles Olson. She has written a book on Emily Dickinson, My Emily Dickinson (1985), and essays ‘unsettling the wilderness in American literary history’ collected in The Birth Mark (1993). Her poetry is a true hermeneutics of early America, interweaving preoccupations with language, myth, and history in an understand style which frequently uses noun phrases lacking the assertiveness of propositional statements. It is an intent poetry of immense learning, which can shade off into concrete poetry or into expository prose. Her avowed wish to ‘tenderly lift from the dark side of history, voices that are anonymous, slighted—inarticulate’ points to a strong feminist theme throughout her work. ‘A poet is a foreigner in her own language’, she writes. Books include A Secret History of the Dividing Line (1978); two collections of earlier work, Singularities (1990) and The Europe of Trusts (1990); and The Non-Conformist's Memorial (1993).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Honest Ulsterman to Douglas Hyde Biography