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This article is taken from PN Review 268, Volume 49 Number 2, November - December 2022.

Grace and Danger
Fanny Howe and the rootedness of absence
Ian Pople
Fanny Howe is a prolific and successful writer. Her prose has included fiction and non-fiction, the former short-listed for the Man Booker International. Her poetry has twice been short-listed for the Griffin Prize and she was a Griffin Prize judge in 2015. To date, she has published sixteen volumes of poetry, fifteen books of fiction and three volumes of non-fiction. In the UK, Howe has been published by presses usually associated with the British Poetry Revival. In 1995, Ken Edwards’ Reality Street Editions published the poem sequence O’Clock. And in 1999, Paul Green’s Spectacular Diseases published a festschrift entitled A Folio for Fanny Howe. This contained the sequence ‘Q’, as well as essays on her work from Rae Armantrout and Romana Huk, amongst others. The American L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet Michael Palmer published Howe’s important essay ‘The Contemporary Logos’. However, while Howe has some sympathy with a sense of language as ‘alien: separate, other, outside’, she has commented that this may yield only to ‘words speaking to words’. In addition, the small body of criticism on her work tends to concentrate on the Christian commitments and substance shown in her poetry. In particular, these commentators have noted Howe’s absorption of the work of twentieth-century Christian mystics such as Simone Weil and St Edith Stein. These are mystics who, Grace Jantzen comments, ‘come across as skilled in linguistic usage, and not in one genre only but in many’. Don Cupitt, in turn, suggests that they are ‘people highly conscious of language, people who convey their message, not by pointing to something outside language, ...

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