Led by Language: the Poetry and Poetics of Susan Howe
This first full-length study of Susan Howe illuminates the historical,
autobiographical, and theoretical influences that underlie the work of this enigmatic and important contemporary American poet.
In Led by Language, poet and scholar Rachel Tzvia Back offers a close and detailed reading of Susan Howe's provocative and powerful poetry. Howe's work is dense, often difficult, but always distinctive, and Back's volume explains a number of features crucial to understanding her poems.
In this complete survey of Howe's major work, from 1978's Secret History of the Dividing Line to 1999's Pierce-Arrow, Back highlights the key strategies underlying Howe's work: linguistic experimentation, historical motifs, autobiographical references, and visual experimentation with types, fonts, and images. One of the book's most compelling arguments is Back's case for reading Howe's work autobiographically. An obsession with history characterizes Howe's poetry--historical figures from Mary Magdalene to Melville haunt her work--and Back deftly demonstrates the intensely personal nature of much of the historical terrain Howe traverses.
This study debunks the myth of Howe's impenetrability, making her work accessible to a wide range of readers. Back has created a thorough guide to reading and understanding this important poet, and her book will be welcomed by students and scholars of contemporary poetry, American literature, literary theory, and cultural studies.