Fanny Howe's The Needle's Eye: Passing through Youth is a sequence of essays, short tales, and lyrics that are intertwined by an inner visual logic. The book contains filmic images that subvert the usual narrative chronology; it is focused on the theme of youth, doomed or saved. A fourteenth-century folktale of two boys who set out to find happiness, the story of Francis and Clare with their revolutionary visions, the Tsarnaev brothers of Boston, the poet George Oppen and the philosopher Simone Weil, two strangers who loved but remain strange, and the wild-child Brigid of Ireland: all these emerge "from multiple directions, but always finally from the eye at the end." As the philosopher Richard Kearney writes, "Howe's ruminations and aesthetics are those of the fragmentary, but are unified by world thinkers like Arendt, Weil, Agamben, and Yeats." The Needle's Eye is a brilliant and deeply felt exploration of faith and terror, coincidence and perception, by a literary artist of profound moral intelligence, "recognized as one of the country's least compromising yet most readable experimentalist writers" (The Boston Globe).
People want to be poets for reasons that have little to do with language.
It's the life of the poet that they want.
Even the glow of loneliness and humiliation.
To walk in the gutter with a bottle of wine.
Some people's lives are more poetic than a poem,
and Francis is certainly one of these.
I know, because he walked beside me for that short time
whether you believe it or not.
Fanny Howe's poetry is known for its lyricism, fragmentation, experimentation, religious engagement, and commitment to social justice. In Second Childhood, the observing poet is an impersonal figure who accompanies Howe in her encounters with chance and mystery. She is not one age or the other, in one time or another. She writes, "The first question in the Catechism is: / What was humanity born for? / To be happy is the correct answer."