Prac Crit

Sarah Howe

Sarah Howe is the founding editor of Prac Crit. Her first book of poems, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015) won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize.

‘Cryo’ – interview by Sarah Howe

Deep in the winter of 2016, Jorie Graham welcomed me into her Harvard office for the first time in ten years. ‘Do you still remember all this?’ she asked, gesturing around the room. I took in the framed poem of Seamus Heaney’s on the wall, the stapled pile of student work she was in the act of scooping from her desk, and beneath the darkened window a wooden box—it came back to me then—with its cargo of multicoloured rock samples, like a gentle reminder that we are just blips in geolog...

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‘My 1980’ – interview by Sarah Howe

In 2012, The New York Times called Stephen Burt ‘one of the most influential poetry critics of his generation.’ But if you don’t already know his poems, I hope this feature will convince you that you should. The same newspaper profile quotes Burt’s mother, Sandra, recalling how in third grade the future Harvard professor wrote an essay about ‘a little boy whose mother forced him to go out and play.’ In ‘My 1980’, the funny, affecting, perspective-altering poem that is the subje...

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‘Mz N Hermit’ – interview by Sarah Howe

I first came across Maureen N. McLane as the author of My Poets (2012), a hybrid of memoir and critical essay in the experimental vein of Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson (1985). I fell in love with its candour and wicked wit, its humane gaze and unabashed complexity. A finalist for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award in autobiography, My Poets does elliptically track the arc of a life, though it’s a life told through one reader’s passionate engagement with the poets – from...

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‘Tuscan Sequence’ – essay by Sarah Howe

Reading ‘Tuscan Sequence’, I thought about that passage in Simone Weil – the one where she describes two prisoners held in adjoining cells. Over their long and solitary confinement they develop a language of knocks and taps on the wall. ‘The wall is the thing which separates them but is also their means of communication’, she says: ‘It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link.’ Whether at a section’s threshold, the firebreak between stanzas, or one line’s leap of...

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‘The Catch’ – essay by Sarah Howe

Leon Battista Alberti, the celebrated quattrocento art theorist, opened his treatise On Sculpture by musing how primaeval art had probably originated in mankind's habit of spotting accidental resemblances between things – the same mechanism of the imagination by which we see a cloud shaped like a whale, or a face in a Rorshach blot. These proto-artists, wrote Alberti, would sometimes stumble across tree trunks, clods of earth and the like, and see there some outline familiar to them from...

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‘Jump-cuts’ – interview by Sarah Howe

In the following interview, I spoke with Vidyan Ravinthiran about his poem ‘Jump-cuts’, taken from his first collection, Grun-tu-molani, which came out from Bloodaxe in March 2014. Looking at three different versions of the poem – the earliest of which first appeared in a pamphlet of 2008 – Vidyan and I talked about his process of writing, revising, and slowly re-conceiving this one poem over the course of several years. Tucked beneath the sloping attic beams of his Cambridge rooms, o...

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‘Stray Dog’ – interview by Sarah Howe

What follows is a conversation between myself and Kate Potts about her poem ‘Stray Dog’, part of a new series she’s been working on since the publication of her first book. We met a few weeks ago, first in a King’s Cross cafe and then back at mine after we realized my freshly unwrapped dictaphone wasn’t equal to the muzak. I didn’t notice it as we chatted, but what struck me as I came to type up the exchange was the resemblance between Kate’s speaking rhythms and the questing synta...

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‘Song for Florida 2’ – interview by Sarah Howe

‘I’ve given up on prayer these days’, wrote Andrea Brady in a 2010 interview: ‘poetry may still fulfil a similar function, a space for reflection, penance, adoration, moved by inspiration or set form’. Born in Philadelphia in 1974, Brady studied at Columbia University and then at Cambridge. She is one of the foremost poets of the younger generation associated with the so-called ‘Cambridge School’. Brady’s own strain of experiment blends political dissent and public critique w...

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‘Mergers and Acquisitions’ – interview by Sarah Howe

On a darkening autumnal afternoon last year, I met with Dai George to talk about ‘Mergers and Acquisitions’, a poem of his set in an altogether more summery London. The interview took place just after his first collection, The Claims Office, came out from Seren in 2013. Our conversation touched on subjects ranging from the perils of tabulation, to music fandom, to his self-diagnosed Luddism. Along with two or three other poems in the book, ‘Mergers and Acquisitions’ has the feeling o...

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‘We’re Going to Get Married’ – interview by Sarah Howe

At the end of October 2013, I caught Jeff Dolven for a couple of hours in a Bloomsbury café, which had opened that morning despite the severe storm warnings playing out across the news channels. Our conversation was punctuated by the rumbling of the milk-frother, counterpointed (so I imagined) by the wind-stricken branches skittering across the pavements outside. Dolven’s poems have been appearing in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Paris Review and The TLS for some time, but his first c...

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