January 13, 2023

Fanny Howe (USA) 1940

Fanny Howe (USA)


Born in Buffalo, New York in 1940, Fanny Howe grew up in Cambridge and Boston. Her father was a noted lawyer and, later, a teacher at Harvard University. Her mother, Mary Manning, was born in Dublin and wrote plays and acted for the Abbey Theatre before moving to the United States. Her mother had been a close friend in Ireland with Samuel Beckett, and the entire remained friendly with him during his lifetime.

     Howe is the author of numerous volumes of fiction for adults and younger adults, essays, and poetry. Her first collection of poetry was The Amerindian Coastline Poem in 1976, which was followed by Poem for a Single Palet (1981) and Alsace Lorraine (1982). During the 1980s she continued to publish poems occasionally: For Erato appeared in 1984 and Introduction to the World was published in 1985, followed by The Lives of a Spirit, prose poems, in 1986 (Sun & Moon Press).

     At the same time, Howe published several important works of fiction, including In the Middle of Nowhere, The Deep North, Famous Questions, Saving History, and Nod.

     But it was in the late 1980s and the 1990s that she focused her attentions more toward poetry. The Vineyard (1988), The Quietist (1992), The End (1992), O’Clock (1995), One Crossed Out (1997), Q (1998), and Forged (1999) all revealed a more experimental writing that grew in recognition.

Fanny Howe, Photo by Douglas Messerli

     For several years Howe taught at MIT in Cambridge while caring for her three children before becoming Professor of Writing and Literature at the University of California, San Diego. More recently, she has returned to live on Martha’s Vineyard.

     Among her most recently works are Selected Poems (2000), which was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize, Gone (2003), On the Ground (2004) and the collection of literary essays The Wedding Dress: Meditations on Word and Life (2003). Howe has also written several new books of the poetry and work of fiction including Radical Love, a collection of 5 of her previous works (2006), Night Philosophy (2020), London-rose | Beauty Will Save the World (2022), and a book of stories Economics (2002).

     Howe has had awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Poetry Foundation, the California Council for the Arts, as well as fellowships from the Buntin Institute and the MacArthur Colony. In 2001 she was the recipient of the Lenore Marshall Prize.


The Amerindian Coastline Poem (New York: Telephone Books Press, 1976); Poem from a Single Pallet (Berkeley, California: Kelsey St. Press, 1980); Alsace-Lorraine (New York: Telephone Books, 1982); For Erato: The Meaning of Life (Berkeley, California: Tuumba, 1984); Robeson Street (Farmington, Maine: Alice James Books, 1985); Introduction to the World (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1986); The Lives of a Spirit (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1987); [SIC] (San Diego: Parentheses Writing Series, 1988); The Vineyard (Providence, Rhode Island: Lost Roads Publishers, 1988); The Quietist (Oakland, California: O Books, 1992); The End (Los Angeles: Littoral Books, 1992); O’Clock (Hastings, East Sussex, England: Reality Street, 1995); One Crossed Out (St. Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf, 1997); Q (1998); Forged (Sausalito, California: Post-Apollo Press, 1999); Selected Poems (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2000); Gone (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2003);  Tis of Thee (Atelos, 2003); On the Ground (St. Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf, 2004); The Lives of a Spirit/Glasstown: Where Something Got Broken (Beacon, New York: Nightboat Books, 2005); The Lyrics (St. Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2007); A Wall of Two: Poems of Resistance and Suffering from Karków to Buchenwald and Beyond (with Henia Karmel-Wolfe and Ilona Karmel) (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2007); Emergence (Hastings, East Sussex, United Kingdom: Reality Street, 2010); Outremer (Poetry Magazine, 2011); Come and See: Poems (St. Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press); Second Childhood: Poems (St. Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2014); Love and I: Poems (St. Paul, Minnesota, 2019)

For a review of Howe's book, Emergence, click below:


Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English


August announces the mother’s return
as a virgin

Snowy lilies are freckled brown.
Both seed and papers fly.

But there is a weary subzone
and orange in a leaf.

The principle is understood
to be failure at a certain level, dreadful

exhaustion hitting
just when the sun penetrates the green

like a squint before lightning.

Reprinted from Vanitas, no. 1 (2005). Copyright ©2005 by Fanny Howe.

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