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Capturing the spiritual dimensions of everyday life

In Adam Moss’ new book, The Work of Art: How Something Comes from Nothing, poet Marie Howe discusses several of her poems, including the popular “Hurry,” which features her daughter Inan when she was little. Below are snippets from her interview with Moss:

“Everything I do is so simple,” says Howe, “That’s what I’m embarrassed about … It’s wild. It’s encouraging because I’m really struggling, but here it is. When I slow down enough to feel—“ She stops herself. “The challenge of my whole life has been to slow down. I find it very difficult to be still—to endure it.”

“If I think about [readers], I can’t write anything. When I write a poem, I have to pretend no one will see it.’

Her best writing comes when, says Howe, “I am in my nightgown for days, not thinking about anyone else. It takes a couple of days just thrashing through the brambles to get to any type of clearing, and it’s very painful. It’s frustrating, you see all your limitations, but a lot of what is happening is the unconscious is just waiting to see if you mean it. I like it once I settle in, but the borders are tough.”

Once she passes into the other state, “that’s the best feeling in the world—we’re utterly ourselves and we’re nobody.”

by Marie Howe

We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store   
and the gas station and the green market and   
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry,   
as she runs along two or three steps behind me   
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.   

Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?   
To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?   
Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,   
Honey I’m sorry I keep saying Hurry—   
you walk ahead of me. You be the mother.   

And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking    
back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,   
hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.