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2008 National Book Award Finalist,

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Richard Howard
Without Saying
Turtle Point Press

Richard Howard reading at the 2008 National Book Award Finalists Reading from National Book Foundation on Vimeo.


The phrase “without saying” usually indicates something that needn’t be said because it is assumed true. However in Without Saying Richard Howard creates characters who speak of subjects that often go unsaid because their truth is unspeakable according to rules of politesse. These poems artfully question accepted, canonical versions of history or myth, subverting the expected dénouements of narratives we may think we know. Without Saying brilliantly illustrates that there are no easy truths, only new visions and investigations.


Richard Howard was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1929. He received his BA from Columbia University in 1951 and studied at the Sorbonne as a Fellow of the French Government. He is the author of sixteen volumes of poetry including Inner Voices: Selected Poems (2004) published by Farrar Straus & Giroux and Untitled Subjects (1969) for which he received the Pulitzer Prize. He has published more than 150 translations from the French including works by Gide, Giraudoux, Camus, De Beauvoir, De Gaulle, Stendhal, and Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal for which he received the 1983 National Book Award for translation. He is the author of Alone with America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States since 1950, which was first published in 1969 and expanded in 1980. In 1994 he edited the Library of America edition of the Travel Writings of Henry James, and in 1995 The Best American Poetry. His honors include The Levinson Prize, the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize, the National Institute of Arts and Letters Literary Award, the Ordre National du Merite from the French government and the PEN Translation Medal as well as fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. Howard formerly held teaching positions at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale, where he was the Luce Visiting Scholar in 1983, and at the University of Houston. For 12 years he was Poetry Editor of The Paris Review and continues to be Poetry Editor at Western Humanities Review. Howard lives in New York City where he teaches in the Writing Division of the School of the Arts, Columbia University.

ABOUT THE BOOK (from the publisher)

In Richard Howard's new collection, voices of myth and memory prevail, if only by means of prevarication: the voice of Medea's mother trying to explain her daughter's odd behavior to an indiscreet interviewer; or first and last the voice of Henry James, late in life, faced with the disputed prospect of meeting L. Frank Baum and then, later on, "managing" not only Maeterlinck's Blue Bird but his own unruly cast of characters, including Mrs. Wharton and young Hugh Walpole.

Richard Howard's honors include the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN Medal for Translation, and grants from the Guggenheim and MacArthur foundations.


Richard Howard's page on the Academy of American Poet's website


Ediya: an interview*

For Dorothea Tanning

Why don't you set your wicked little machine
on the table. That's not a question, it's how
queens give commands: Why don't you ...
No, over here
—so that what you mislead me into saying
can be absorbed by your ... instrument without
my having to put Daisy down—how nasty
that sounds. Do set the thing there. So helpful!
You see whatever her Mama does—even
giving an interview—Daisy wants to be
part of the action, don't you, darling?
She likes helping Mama. So intelligent!

Now let's make sure we've brought all the things we need.
I know that's your job and I'm not suggesting
you're incompetent. But just last week I was
about to respond to your ... predecessor
when he made me stop and inquired if I had—
"if I happened to have," I believe he said—
"an extra tape around the palace ... " What is
a tape? I told him that I never "happened"
to have anything and that queens have nothing
"extra" anywhere. What could he do but leave?

We must never forget that none of us is
infallible—not even the youngest. Now
suppose you start your contraption, just to see ...
If something goes wrong this time, we could
always send out for tapes, whatever they are—
that poor boy seemed to think everyone had some,
didn't he? Now I'll just say a few words. [Now
I'll just say a few words.
] Wonderful! Let's begin ...
Daisy, please stop that! She doesn't like machines,
and to be honest with you, neither do I ...
I side with Daisy—with all dogs, actually,
provided they're small enough to hold on my lap;
you know what I mean, there's a kind of profane
immortality to be achieved by moving
down the scale of such creatures—if that's down ...
(There, she'll be quiet now: no more protesting.)
Of course you're right, it is useful: recording
what's been spoken makes for a sort of judgment
on speech, anyone's speech. As we're reminded
each time the police are obliged to warn us:
Whatever you say may be used in evidence
against you.
Has that ever happened to you?

*Interviewer has deleted his questions so that Queen Ediya's remarks, on the
thirtieth anniversary of the Princess Medea's departure from Colchis, might
be more readily comprehended by readers unfamiliar, so long afterward,
with the incidents involved.


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