Rebecca Gayle Howell

There is a certain kind of knowledge from which we have distanced ourselves.  (Maybe there are many kinds, but I attend here to one in particular.)  The caricatured image is the schoolchild who does not know that a hamburger patty comes from a cow, but how many of us do, or even could, supply ourselves with our own food for a year?  I for one am not so far from the caricature as I ought to be.


Which alerts us to one possible atavistic role to which poetry may yet be restored, the passing-down of communal knowledge and expertise.  Of this role, Rebecca Gayle Howell’s Render gives something like a foretaste, as the titles of its individual poems suggest: “How to Kill a Rooster,” “How to Build a Root Cellar,” and so on.  The poems do not assume that role simply or straightforwardly (there is a lot going on in any one of the poems), but the relationship to that role makes for a viscerality to the poems that lends them force, as of an apocalypse that has happened already.


Howell, Rebecca Gayle.  Render: An Apocalypse.  Cleveland St. Univ. Press, 2013.


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