Natalya Anderson, curator of the Poetry Extension, was kind enough to interview me recently:
I always had the idea that writing was a long apprenticeship, and I really didn’t start writing until about five years ago. I thought, ‘First I have to read all these books; then I have to open a bookstore.’ In my twenties I did open a bookstore. Then I worked as an editor, so it was, ‘Once I’m done editing, then I’ll write.’ And when I had the bookstore all these people were buying books, and I remember getting this sad feeling of, ‘They don’t even know that I wish I was a writer.’ That started to gnaw at me.
Enormous thanks to Natalya.
You can read the whole thing here.
Some words about Ocean Vuong, Scarborough, Sassy magazine, HMV, Sun Ra, Hawaii, etc, etc. Enormous thanks to Jane Hodgkinson (interviewer) & Adèle Barclay (editor), & the rest of the Rusty Toque crew.
Read the interview here.
I’m thrilled that Sharps has gotten some new reviews ~2 years on from publication, including a long close read from Lisa Pike in the newest issue of CV2:
“Stevie Howell’s first collection of poetry positions the reader at a crossroads of time & space via its themes of consumerism, capitalism, & social inequality….there is wisdom here to be heeded.”
Really happy to be alerted to this new review of my book by the esteemed poet & professor Richard Greene, in the latest issue of University of Toronto Quarterly — reviews are always great but are especially sweet some time after the book has been out:
Stevie Howell is a poet of unusual intensity, and at her best she writes about terrible things in a manner that is wholly convincing. A Toronto poet, she has published widely and been nominated for several prizes. Her collection, ^^^^^^ ^^^^^^ ^^^^^^ [Sharps] (Icehouse Poetry), has been very well received, and rightly so. My slight hesitation about this book is the overabundance of references to popular culture: this is the done thing in the contemporary poetry scene, but very quickly these references become non-functional and somewhat self-congratulatory. Nonetheless, Howell is a poet of very real powers. In ‘‘A Gospel’’ she writes of a first-communion photograph, then of the persona’s loss of faith, her search for something believable among the Hare Krishna and other groups, letting
the Bahai indoctrinate me on Bloor one afternoon,
where they fed me channa in a muralized Olive Garden
basement. I left with a cassette
and a mental image of a savior cresting a hill
with a hankering for garlic bread.
My school and church were poverty and violence. A quadriplegic
classmate lived in a Winnebago. Her mother’s ex
cowered in a laundry hamper with a gun and shot her dead
one Sunday after Mass. That’s all I know.
I’m grateful to Roxanna Bennett & Matrix Magazine for a new review of Sharps. I’m so appreciative of her insight. + my book is just shy of its “terrible twos,” and it’s a pleasant surprise people are still finding it & finding some love for it!
QUOTE: “But grief / has an unknown half-life” Stevie Howell writes in “The Guard,” a poem placed before the title page of ^^^^^^ [Sharps], a blistering debut collection. This certainty is indicative of Howell’s work, an unblinkered engagement with the uncomfortable, a fearless interrogation of pain.[Sharps] scrutinizes death in all forms; of old age, illness, murder, and presents a pure grief untainted by sentimentality. Howell demonstrates a singular willingness to examine subject matter that is often ugly, and employs language with masterful skill and surgical detachment.
IFOA: Please tell us a bit about your debut book of poetry, ^^^^^^[Sharps].
Stevie Howell: Sharps is my first book of poetry and emerged indirectly out of working in a hospital and beginning to study psychology. Those experiences gave me the tools to look at my life and issues around gender, class, trauma, faith and death.
I think of the book as grounded in the living city, but influenced by myth. It draws some inspiration from The Last Unicorn, in which the unicorn protagonist had to hide in female form to get her work done. It also draws inspiration from ancient Egyptian mythology of the afterlife—for example, the concept of ma’at, in which, when you die, your heart is weighed against a feather. A heavy heart, it was said, would be fed to a lion-hippo-crocodile hybrid. I write to try and prevent that!
Just received a pretty enthused review of Sharps, and by fluke it was posted on Valentine’s Day, which is actually my birthday. (Ironic, I know.)
The excellent poet Blair Trewartha, author of the book Easy Fix, is poet-in-residence at Open Book Toronto for December 2015.