The latest by the winner of the Bollingen Prize, Frost Medal, and Griffin Award plays with form, found texts, sound, and typography in order to draw connections among artists, disciplines, and modes of thought.
One of the many wonders of Concordance, Susan Howe’s latest collection, is the pitch to which Howe has brought her own marriage of words and shapes, even as she continues to demonstrate her sense of the complex interconnections of memory, history, and culture, and her mastery of the traditionally lyrical ... Like such barely legible gravestones, the text-shapes of Concordance— however effaced, fragmentary, or overwritten—entreat us as the traces of some just-out-of-reach archive. The shapes Howe places on the page are graceful, at times even monumental (one sees pillars, altars, columns); as semi-legible textual traces, they are achingly evocative. They are less poems in a traditional sense than shapely archaeological artifacts, eloquent in their suspension between dumbness and almost-communication ... the lines of 'Space Permitting' reach a fine lyrical pitch. But that 'lyrical' voice, perhaps the most reader-friendly of Howe’s idioms, is continuous in its concerns with the dense and allusive prose of 'Since' and even the hard, semi-legible 'word-paintings' of Concordance. All seek to revivify the voices of the dead, to lovingly follow their verbal traces and, like Theseus with Ariadne’s thread, to ravel out their moments of 'concordance.'
... an appealingly jagged sequence of collage poems ... To invite us into this complex space, Howe populates the pages of her new book with sliced texts and textures ... Concordance requires readers to channel their inner bookworm or hungry archivist, the tender scholar for whom typefaces, fonts, ink stains and marginalia create an ardent flutter. Utility is beside the point ... Delighting in new paths around words, exploring their visual, acoustic, sonic possibilities, she revels in 'affinities and relations,' in 'signals and transmissions' ... tantalizing ... Howe writes against a world that disappears too far away online, in which we lose the bodily perception of space, the tenderness of touch. In this era of social distancing, I felt the prick of these poems[.]
Howe...frames poetry as a space for dialogue between traditions, literary forms, and artistic mediums in her meditative 11th work. Presented as collages, which cull text from the correspondence and personal papers of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Margaret Fuller, Howe’s poems skillfully demonstrate the range and possibilities of collage. Indeed, the gorgeous hybrids range from experiments in syntax to art pieces and visual poems that suggest the material nature of the archive, embodying the idea of literary inheritance ... Full of thought-provoking juxtaposition, Howe’s latest is beautifully executed and astonishing.