The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize Lifetime Achievement award winner explores the edge of 'pure seeing' and the worldly griefs she encounters there, cast in an otherworldly light. These poems layer pasture and tarmac, the skies above where airline passengers are compressed with their thoughts and the ground where miseries and comedies accumulate beside one another.
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.