Oklahoma City University | Marie Howe | 2016 Featured Poet Skip to content

Marie Howe | 2016 Featured Poet

Click Here to Read Marie Howe's Poetry

Poet will be on campus for Workshop/Poetry Reading on Wednesday, April 06, 2016.


Acclaimed poet Marie Howe is the author of three volumes of poetry: The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (2009), What the Living Do (1997), and The Good Thief (1988). She also co-edited a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (1994). She lives in New York City and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and Columbia University. From 2012-2014, Howe served as the Poet Laureate of New York State. In her final days as State Poet Laureate, she organized, with Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang, the Say Something NYC Poetry Rally: Justice for Eric Garner and Michael Brown—A Call for Unity, Equality, Empathy, Imagination and the End of Oppression, held in Washington Square Park.

Part of the urgency and importance of Howe’s poetry stems from its rootedness in real life. Her mentor Stanley Kunitz once said, “Whether she is confronting the joys or terrors of existence, the light that falls on the page is suffused with grace and charity. In essence she is a religious poet, that rarity among writers of her generation.” Marie Howe sees her work as an act of confession or of conversation. She says simply, “Poetry is telling something to someone.”

In 1988, Kunitz selected Howe for a Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the American Academy of Poets. She has since been a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College. In 2015 she received the Poetry Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, an honor that recognizes distinguished poetic achievement—in the word of the Academy Chancellor Arthur Sze, “Marie Howe’s poems are remarkable for their focused, intense, and haunting lyricism. Her poems characteristically unfold through a series of luminous particulars that gather emotional power as they delve into the complexities of the human heart. Her poems are acclaimed for writing through loss with verve, but they also find the miraculous in the ordinary and transform quotidian incidents into enduring revelation.”

On her three volumes of poetry:

The Kingdom Of Ordinary Time

Hurrying through errands, attending to a dying mother, helping her own child down the playground slide, the speaker in these poems wonders: what is the difference between the self and the soul? The secular and the sacred? Where is the kingdom of heaven? And how does one live in Ordinary Time—during those periods that are not apparently miraculous? These are astonishing poems by a poet known as “a truth-teller of the first order.”

What the Living Do

This compassionate memorial to illness and the loss of Howe’s brother, John, and other friends ably depicts the growth and development of personal bonds against which “post-modern brokenness” is measured. This thoughtful analysis of elements of grief (“a living remedy”) will perhaps help to ease trauma of death, as does Robert Frost’s “Home Burial,” but full comprehension of “cherishing” and pain after “the wake and the funeral” seems impossible. The best of these empathetic poems demonstrate a longing for wholeness and appreciation of the “terrified and radiant” mysteries of silence.

The Good Thief

Marie Howe wowed readers and critics alike with her first book of poems, The Good Thief. Selected by Margaret Atwood as the 1989 winner of the National Poetry Series, the book explored the themes of relationship, attachment, and loss in a uniquely personal search for transcendence. Said Atwood, "Marie Howe's poetry doesn't fool around...these poems are intensely felt, sparely expressed, and difficult to forget; poems of obsession that transcend their own dark roots."

Howe often views poetry as prayer: “From our earliest time on earth prayer has been uttered as poetry. The earliest chants and spells, the psalms of praise, beseeching and complaint, the intimate discourse with the divine in the poems of Donne, Herbert, Hopkins, and Dickinson brings us to the contemporary voices of Sexton, Berryman, Gluck, Manning, and the modern translations of the ancient odes of Rumi and Kabir. Humans have cried out to the unseen in faith and in doubt, in loneliness and joy, in bewilderment and in confidence. Through poetry, we shape our cry into something essential and we sing it into space.”

Howe illuminates ways to pay attention to our own intimate discourse with the divine—and how writing can become a gateway to faith: “When we write we write into the unknown. Faith is not a destination but a muscle. Our arrival is evidence of the experience of faith in transformative alchemy of words, silence, music, imagination. The poem is the residue of this experience—both the residue and the way.”

Join us for one of our country’s most authentically spiritual poets and one of its most eloquent communicators. Howe will be on campus to read some of her poems, talk about her writing process, and respond to questions at a 10:00 AM session on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. She will read her poetry at an 8:00 PM session. Both events will be on the campus of Oklahoma City University. Both sessions are also free and open to the public for those who arrive first. Full Circle Bookstore will be at the events selling Howe’s books, and she will sign books after both sessions. An Open-Mic Poetry Reading will be held from 6:15 PM to 7:30 PM. All events will take place in the Kerr McGee Auditorium of the Meinders School of Business, between N. Blackwelder and N. McKinley.

Please plan to be at Oklahoma City University for the Eighteenth Annual Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series on April 6, 2016: Conversations with Marie Howe. The Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature will collaborate with the Petree College of Arts and Sciences, the OCU English Department, The Oklahoma Humanities Council, the Oklahoma Arts Institute, the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English, Full Circle Bookstore, and other groups to make these events possible.

Back to all blog
Back to Top