A Review of The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe

Erin LiskiewiczErin Liskiewicz is the marketing and publicity intern at the UA Poetry Center, and a creative writing senior at the University of Arizona, specializing in nonfiction. She will be graduating this spring.

Marie Howe is an American poet and professor at Sarah Lawrence College and New York University. Howe was a fellow at the Buntin Institute at Radcliffe College, and also received the National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in 1992 and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998. Her works have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, The Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review. She will be reading at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, February 16.

Howe's latest book, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, merges the metaphysical onto everyday life and examines the presence of the sacred in "ordinary time," where "One loaf = one loaf. One fish = one fish." By doing this, Howe reshapes the way we look at the biblical ideas that are common to many of us. She re-illustrates the idea of unconditional love in "How You Can't Move Moonlight" and portrays a more tangible faith in "The Snow Storm." Ultimately The Kingdom of Ordinary Time asks, where is the kingdom of God on earth? What is holy? And who is a part of God's kingdom?

Beyond the religious thematics that are at play, Howe's work creates introspection.  Poems such as "Would You Rather" and "What We Would Give Up" have a way of prompting a reflective pause, making the reader question their own hypothetical choices. "Would You Rather" presents a violent and disturbing scenario, and then ends the poems with "Would you rather be the woman? Or one of the soldiers? The baby? Or the soldier who shot and bayoneted the baby when he got there?"  In the poem "What We Would Give Up," Howe poses the question, "What would we be willing to give up to equalize the wealth in the world?"  She concludes that giving up hair dye might be too hard.

Overall, Marie Howe's poems are accessible in a way that poetry newcomers can both appreciate and understand her poems while receiving inspiration to write poetry themselves.

Check out Marie Howe and The Kingdom of Ordinary Time on Youtube.com:

"What We Would Give Up" (Poems begins around 1:02) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppngs0fw5as&feature=related

"Star Market" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSffAewEhGI

"Government" and "The Spell" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_vl3DYkt3w&NR=1

"Prayer" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBLrCEeIZ-Y&feature=related

Created on: 
Monday, February 13, 2012
Arizona Board of Regents