This monthly series features highlights from the Cross Cultural Poetics archive. Cross Cultural Poetics is one of the longest-running radio shows in America focused on contemporary poetry and poetics. Based at The Evergreen State College and hosted by Leonard Schwartz, the entire archive, running from 2003 to the present, can be accessed on PennSound.
This month, I’ve chosen an episode that originally aired on November 3, 2003 and features poet, fiction writer and essayist, Fanny Howe. Howe discusses the profound influence of Irish literature and culture on her writing as a whole—specifically the influence of her mother, Mary Manning Howe, an actress and playwright from Dublin, who founded the Poets’ Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the early ’50s. Howe also reads from her major prose poem, “Doubt,” a meditation on the lives and writings of Simone Weil, Edith Stein and Virginia Woolf, as well as on doubt itself as the “physical double to belief.” She presents this poem as one that examines the act of conversion at the level of language and childhood, and describes her struggle with the word “God” as a “monster within the text.”