Childhood is a productive source of motivation for artists, but some return to it more than others. The poet Marie Howe is among them. She grew up in a big Catholic family, the oldest of nine siblings and among 100 first cousins; she said in 2017 that household is “where everything occurs.” If the image that comes to mind is a chaotic and happy, More affordable by the Lots— type household, you must read her poems: The vignettes she paints can be dark. A number of family members fought with alcohol addiction, which wrought violence and chaos. And in 1989, her brother Johnny passed away of AIDS-related problems at age 28.
In the exact same 2017 interview, Howe stated that shared injury– and alcoholism, in specific– eventually pulled her household apart. “As much as you wish to be all in the same space, the nature of that illness fragments any unifying understanding,” she said. In her poem “The Video game,” she revisits a minute prior to her household splintered, when her brothers and sis developed their own imaginary world. They might be whoever they wished to be: All 9 of them were together, none lost, and time was in their control. It’s a sweet memory, and a foreboding one. The game is so strangely specific, in the manner in which kids’ innovations typically are, that it nearly seems like the siblings might remain insulated in it permanently. However outside their basement town, the clock works differently. Their world is still frozen in time– in the pages of this magazine– yet the real children are no longer in it.
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