Daily Tips

Tip #139: Read this Susan Howe poem

Susan Howe is an American writer from Boston whose poems have pushed the limits of language and structure for over 40 years. We love poetry and are fans of Howe’s work, much of which is impossible to print properly on the internet. We recommend checking out Frame Structures: Early Poems 1974-1979, which contains “Cabbage Gardens,” one of our favorites, to get a sense for the depth and form of her work. “Cabbage Gardens” is long, but thankfully the mighty Poetry Foundation has excerpted part of it on their site, which we’re going to reproduce here. Enjoy!

The past
will overtake   
alien force   
our house   
formed
of my mind   
to enter
explorer
in a forest   
of myself
for all
my learning   
Solitude
quiet
and quieter   
fringe
of trees
by a river
bridges black   
on the deep   
the heaving sea   
a watcher stands
to see her ship   
winging away   
Thick noises
merge in moonlight   
dark ripples   
dissolving
and
defining
spheres
and
snares

             Place of importance as in the old days
stood on the ramparts of the fort
                                                 the open sea outside   
alone with water-birds and cattle
                        knee-deep in a stream
grove of reeds
               herons watching from the bank
henges
      whole fields honeycombed with souterrains   
human
                        bones through the gloom
       whose sudden mouth
surrounded my face
                      a thread of blue around the coast   
                                                         feathery moon   
eternity swallows up time
                                     peaceable as foam
                        O cabbage gardens
summer’s elegy
                        sunset survived

Susan Howe, excerpt from “Cabbage Gardens” from Frame Structures: Early Poems, 1974-1979. Copyright © 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1996 by Susan Howe.

Source: Frame Structures: Early Poems 1974-1979 (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1996)

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