Souls of the Labadie Tract (Paperback)

By Susan Howe

New Directions, 9780811217187, 144pp.

Publication Date: November 17, 2007

List Price: 16.95*
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Souls of the Labadie Tract finds Susan Howe exploring (or unsettling) one of her favorite domains, the psychic past of America. This time the presiding tutelary geniuses are Jonathan Edwards and Wallace Stevens.

Souls of the Labadie Tract finds Susan Howe exploring (or unsettling) one of her favorite domains, the psychic past of America, with Jonathan Edwards and Wallace Stevens as her presiding tutelary geniuses. Three long poems interspersed with prose pieces, Souls of the Labadie Tract takes as its starting point the Labadists, a Utopian Quietest sect that moved from the Netherlands to Cecil County, Maryland, in 1684. The community dissolved in 1722. In Souls, Howe is lured by archives and libraries, with their ghosts, cranks, manuscripts and scraps of material. One thread winding through Souls is silken: from the epigraphs of Edwards ("the silkworm is a remarkable type of Christ...") and of Stevens ("the poet makes silk dresses out of worms") to the mulberry tree (food of the silkworms) and the fragment of a wedding dress that ends the book. Souls of the Labadie Tract presents Howe with her signature hybrids of poetry and prose, of evocation and refraction:

     There it is there it is—you

     want the great wicked city

     Oh I wouldn't I wouldn't

     It's not only that you're not

     It's what wills and will not.

About the Author

Susan Howe has won the Bollingen Prize, the Frost Medal, and the Griffin Award. She is the author of such seminal works as Debths, That This, The Midnight, My Emily Dickinson, The Quarry, and The Birthmark.

Praise For Souls of the Labadie Tract

For nearly thirty years, Howe has occupied a particular and invaluable place in American poetry. She's a rigorously skeptical and a profoundly visionary poet, a writer whose demystifying intelligence is matched by a passionate embrace of poetry's rejuvenating power.
— John Palattella

No other poet now writing has Howe's power to bring together narrative and lyric, scholarship and historical speculation, found text and pure invention.
— Marjorie Perloff

Over the past three decades Howe has worked as a kind of poet-scholar manqué, mixing into her books prose explorations of early American spiritual and historical chroniclers and her own distinctive poems, usually terse, four-stress snippets that themselves seem like fugitive fragments from a larger suppressed text. 

Howe's words give the impression of echoing another, hidden poetry of which we catch only fragments, like an opera sung in another room—except that the other room is death, or history, or the ineffable.
— Geoffrey O'Brien