Howe is introspective, curious, and content when she is by herself. Many of the poems in Love and I celebrate the comforts of being alone ... autobiographical asides—brief flashes when Howe transforms herself from spectator to subject, and reveals herself to us—make for some of the collection’s most compelling moments ... In her poems, Howe paints vivid scenes and ho[m]es in on unexpected details, the kind that only catch the eye of the lonely. A keen observer and frequent traveler (she does most of her writing in transit), Howe’s gaze is wandering but sharp ... We spend time both inside the poet’s head and within her well-crafted scenes, leisurely bouncing between introspection and dialogue, opinion and observation ... When Howe does turn her focus to the notion of love and its many permutations, the results are enthralling. She speaks bluntly about the pains of attachment, abandoning lush imagery to get right to the heart of things ... Love and I is a meander through a singular mind, a mind that observes more sharply than many of us could ever hope to ... Her approach may not always be accessible, but Howe’s inquisitiveness, generosity, and care are easy to appreciate and impossible to resist.
Pragmatic but blessedly naïve—she calls herself 'gullible'—Howe’s poetry takes a line-by-line approach to managing existential fear. Her work calls to mind a child’s tactics of self-soothing, like whistling in the dark ... an aura of wonder pervades Howe’s writing ... Like stained glass, her poems await illumination, but it is important not to flood them with a klieg light ... Love and I is a book about the frayed beginnings and endings of a person’s life, when consciousness provides no chaperon. It is full of excursions—a plane trip, a bus ride, a subway journey—that tempt us with their tidy trajectories (from then to now, here to there), only to swerve toward nonnarrative insight along the way.
From the first lines, the work welcomes you in simple, familiar terms, openly telling you, the reader, exactly what has been bothering it ... There is new urgency in the retrieval of what feels about to be lost. What is slipping through our fingers. There is also fear of what one has missed and, a clear effort, on the page and with the book as a whole, to secure the results of time, of a life lived ... an open book, hiding nothing, least of all the dread of endings, the anxiety of remembering what cannot be recovered. But even in fear, it remains open, almost grateful that here you are now, the reader as trusted friend, to listen, and to help the speaker figure things out, and make them count.
Readers are invited to wander through the associations Howe has made in the wake of a few simple lines ... unanswered questions are the method by which Howe crafts a multi-layered poetry, that, like love, comes in flashes but is never grasped ... Howe’s ability to make many meanings possible in her poetry is linked to what she sees as the possibilities of bewilderment ... It is clear that the stories being told are multifaceted, that readers are welcome to wander down any path of association that speaks to them. Howe, however, turns on its head the fear many readers have about not fully understanding poetry ... Another striking feature of Love and I is Howe’s ability to redefine words ... In the wilds of associations that Howe produces, readers are sure to find both niches of rest and, simultaneously, calls to action. But perhaps our only responsibility is to wander.
In her 24th collection, Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize Lifetime Achievement award winner Howe searches for a philosophy of living ... Sometimes, the poet slyly pokes fun at life ... Some metaphors shimmer... Yet others leave readers perplexed ... Occasionally, the writing becomes clunky—breaking the reader's flow ... In the end, Howe is best at capturing the everyday ... In nearly every poem, the poet delves deeply. Her questing invites us to read and reread. For all academic and larger public library collections.