March 6, 2008

 Navigation

   Home Page

 News & Features

   News

 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note

   Boomers

   Pinings

   Longshots

   Techie

 Pop Culture

   Film

   TV

   Books
   Video Games
   CD Reviews

 Living

   Food

   Wine

   Beer

 Music

   Articles

   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts

   Bandmates

 Arts

   Theater

   Art

 Find A Hippo

   Manchester

   Nashua

 Classifieds

   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad

 Advertising

   Advertising

   Rates

 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover


The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, Marie Howe, (W. W. Norton, 2008, 68 pages)
By Dan Szczesny dsczesny@hippopress.com

New York writer Marie Howe is not prolific. Her first two collections are landmarks in ethereal poetry, simple flash points of dealing with everyday living. Which is what makes the release of The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, her first new collection in a decade, so anticipated.

Howe returns to the well of her first two books — simple observational poetry with not-so-hidden deeper reflection underneath — but the new collection fails to live up to the expectations of what we know this poet can do.

There are moments of great power in Howe’s new book. In “The Star Market,” Howe returns to a favorite theme, the discovery of the sacred within the secular, as the narrator finds herself studying a feeble old man and thinking that he should have the hem of Jesus’ garment to touch to heal him.

Howe’s ability to weave stories through simple observation lends the collection its strength; the “lead-colored man” at the market, the “screeching and banging” of garbage trucks in “Prayer” or the fact that the narrator’s “golden hair is actually gray” in “What We Would Give Up.”

The second half of the collection, though, slips as Howe pens a series of reflective poems about motherhood and her own childhood. Here, Howe seems to be phoning it in, using character types, which might be true but are just tiring. There must be some poet out there whose father treated them well, but Howe apparently is not one of them. In “Non-violence” the narrator’s drunken father forces the children to clean the basement in the middle of the night. In “The Massacre” the narrator looks at her own sleeping child and wonders what terrible violence she could commit to protect her. These are common themes, and Howe needs to find a more interesting approach to them. Otherwise, the poetry of The Kingdom of Ordinary Time just becomes ordinary. B-