Marie Howe's brother died of AIDS 10 years ago, a tragedy that grieved her to the point of inspiration and provided abundant material for her latest poetry anthology. Howe, a writing professor at Sarah Lawrence College, read passages from her book What the Living Do to a crowd of about 40 students, faculty members and area residents at the Kelly Writers House on Tuesday night. Howe's latest anthology is dedicated to her late brother, John. Most of the poems she read intimately depicted personal stories from her own life, including her troubled relationship with her father. Much of Howe's poetry, as indicated by titles like "Sixth Grade" and "The Grave," had a special meaning to her. Still, Howe was able to elicit chuckles and nods from audience members at various points during her reading. In "Practicing," Howe writes about a poem of young girls who kiss each other as practice for when they get older. And in "The Fort," she discusses the pride that her brother and his friend felt upon constructing a playhouse. Howe, who is also a fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts, often stopped to add personal anecdotes related to a particular piece of poetry. After reading a poem that chronicled an intimate gift-giving between her brother and his lover, she looked up to the audience and said, "You know this is one of those moments. This really happened." English Professor Gregory Djanikian, the director of the Creative Writing program, introduced Howe to the audience. "To read her poems is to come away slightly undone and aware of the deep feelings in our lives as well as hers," Djanikian said. On Tuesday, Howe visited Djanikian's Advanced Poetry Writing class and talked with the students about the actual writing process. "My students and I have been pouring over her latest book," Djanikian said. "We have had marvelous discussion about her style, tone and subject matter." Several students attended the reading, including College freshman Omotara James, who said she appreciated the opportunity to work first-hand with an accomplished poet. "[We were] able to ask her questions on her present book and critique our own poetry," James said. "She talked about her methods of writing and the things to include and not to include when writing." Melissa Cahnmann, a third-year doctoral candidate in the Graduate School of Education, described Howe as a "poetry mentor goddess." Cahnmann actually took a seminar with Howe in Mexico and described her as being "one of the best poetry teachers I have had." She called Howe's poetry "passionate, true and loving." College senior Laurie Kalb said that the work of Howe is "obviously autobiographical and that her greatest talent seems to be the ability to compel the reader to want to understand her experience."Comments powered by Disqus
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