Reviews

What the Living Do: Poems, by Marie Howe

andizor's review

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5.0

Probably the best collection of poetry I've ever read.

ahsimlibrarian's review

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4.0

This collection of poetry is largely an elegy to the author's brother who died of AIDS. This poem....which I first read in Will Schwalbe's BOOKS FOR LIVING...is simply poignant.

***************************

My Dead Friends

by Marie Howe


I have begun,
when I'm weary and can't decide an answer to a bewildering question

to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.

Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive a child
in my middle age?

They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling—whatever leads
to joy, they always answer,

to more life and less worry. I look into the vase where Billy's ashes were —
it's green in there, a green vase,

and I ask Billy if I should return the difficult phone call, and he says, yes.
Billy's already gone through the frightening door,

whatever he says I'll do.

linearbbq's review

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3.0

A small poetry collection with three weighty themes: the legacy of an abusive father, an older brother's death from AIDS, and the unraveling and reweaving of a relationship. I read The Good Thief (Marie Howe's first book) before this, and while What the Living Do has the same spare, tight emotion, it lacks the complexity and grace of The Good Thief. Many of the pieces seem redundant and the three storylines don't cohere well, so that this reads like three separate collections bound into one volume.

mattie's review

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4.0

If you've never read Marie Howe you're missing out. The title poem was already one of my favorites, and this keeps up that conversational tone. Very readable.

jackiijackii's review

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4.0

What sticks with me is the atmosphere of sadness. Even when the sun shines in a poem, the collection itself is under a gray haze. And it isn't overly grief-stricken, nobody throws herself on a funeral pyre: it's the sadness of the everyday, when loss is there and when it isn't. There was no jauntiness, no knowing nudges or winks. Just a plain, simple story in plain language that lodges in your heart until you can tell someone that you love them.

alexandradanae's review

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5.0

Beautiful. Honest. Heartbreaking. Had to savor these slowly.

lzaret's review

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5.0

every time i think i know what poetry is and does, i am wrong! that's the best part!

rachelcomplains's review

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5.0

have never felt this moved by poetry

luiscorrea's review

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5.0

A book like this is like acupuncture: there's this thing on a table, in this case mourning, and each poem is a needle on a different point on the thing's being, each one awakening a different dimension, a different understanding, all for the sake of healing.
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