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Publish Date: March 2012
BY Christopher Howell
Christopher Howell’s haunted and haunting collection, Gaze, is a book of counterpoints, swinging between moments of delicate connection and striking brutality. Howell explores how our interior and exterior lives are entangled—the past living on inside us as we live inside the physical world that surrounds us—and he reminds us how loss releases us into the present, how in the process of living, “everybody pays.”
Gaze is divided into three sections, focusing successively on the objective world, the world of inner life, and finally on the “other world” of the imagination and alternate reality. The author speaks through his own voice as well as the voices of other characters, ghosts, and creatures. Shifting between lyric and narrative poetry, the many voices come together to question and explore our perception of the world. While many similarly ambitious books unwisely set out to stake a claim on wisdom, however, these poems proceed incrementally and with humility—and thus, through their quiet and careful examinations, offer a far greater kind of wisdom.
“The word gaze works two sides of the street. The book, Gaze, works those two sides, their common surface, the underside of that surface, and the liminal space in between. There is almost no contemporary poetry I can think of capable of taking me where Howell’s poetry takes me: not on a journey of distance but of perspective. These poems contain the essence of poetry, rational thought subverted into an exquisite and unexpected new logic. In this collection, Howell refreshes the archetypes of home, family, country, and soul, imbuing them with twenty-first century pleasures, dangers, and complexities. Orphic, Miltonic, Rilkean, Howell is the poet I turn to when poetry eludes me, when I cannot remember my dreams, when I fail to love our human frailties.”—Kathy Fagan, author of Lip and Moving & St Rage
In his extraordinary new book, Christopher Howell uses, among others, the motif of the traveler to investigate the imaginative terrain where the afterlife, the other life, and the inner life find a singular life. What a range of emotions, and what a rightness of tone he can work into a poem. There is an honest ease in his voice and a clarity in his gaze that allows him to range through human time, from the freshness of childhood to the thrills and fears of adolescence to the recognitions of age and loss, playful, melancholic, elegiac and stoic by turns. He blends the ordinary and the fabulous the way a great guitar player bends and stretches a note without missing a beat.”—Greg Pape, author of American Flamingo and Sunflower Facing the Sun
“Christopher Howell’s books are at eye-level on my nearest shelf, so I can reach them when poems are wanted to bring the soul to in its own silvery light where it often wakes weeping and trembling.”—Michael Heffernan, author of The Night Breeze Off The Ocean
“An exceptional voice and talent, one that enriches all of us writing and reading poetry in these times.”—Christopher Buckley, author of White Shirt and Rolling the Bones