April 10, 2013

Book: The complicated animal

Rebecca Gayle Howell releases ‘Render / An Apocalypse’

‘Render / An Apocalypse’
By Rebecca Gayle Howell. Cleveland State University Poetry Center; 88 pgs., $15.95.

In the annals of Kentucky poetry, a few names stand out. Robert Penn Warren, the first U.S. Poet Laureate, comes to mind. Wendell Berry is another. Rebecca Gayle Howell, author of “Render / An Apocalypse,” may now count herself in Kentucky’s pantheon, alongside contemporary poets Frank X. Walker, Ada Limón and Maurice Manning.

Born in Lexington, Howell is the winner of the prestigious 2012 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize. Chosen by celebrated author Nick Flynn, Gayle’s “Render / An Apocalypse” is a stark rendition of rural life, equally moving and disturbing.

The book begins with an epigram by poet Adrienne Rich: “Without tenderness, we are in hell.” Over the course of the 23 poems, Howell details the hell we must live through and the attention to suffering required of us. “It’s true,” Howell says, “without tenderness we are in hell. And that’s where the book begins — with a man trying to find his way out of his own personal hell, through the land, through his use and misuse of animals, through what the animals know that he doesn’t know, through his frustration and startling heartlessness. To remember tenderness is his only way out. It has been my own only hope many times, but I see it’s true in larger arenas as well. In his recent Jefferson Lecture, (Wendell) Berry put it another way: ‘It all turns on affection.’ I think it does.”

Surprisingly, Howell herself did not grow up on the farm; instead, her parents owned a diner in Elizabethtown. “The book’s narrative element comes from research,” Howell admits. “While I taught writing in Eastern Kentucky, I talked with former students and their families. Later I interviewed my mother, who grew up on a subsistence farm. Later still I read histories and oral histories and manuals. I read Wendell Berry daily.”

From this research comes a book that combines the darker shades of Robert Frost with unwavering visions of the blood and brutality of contemporary living. “Render / An Apocalypse” is a book with a multifaceted address of the concept of “rendering”: Howell not only talks of rendering animals, but of rendering the truth of our situation, a life where, as she says in “A Calendar of Blazing Days,” the long poem that closes the book, “You’ve made food of death.”

The poems are organized under frightful imperatives: “How to Kill a Rooster,” “How to Time the Kill,” or “How to Cook the Brain.” But despite such titles, the poems are ultimately about reverence, as in “How to Kill a Hog”:

Gather her organs up
into your arms
like you once did your mother’s robes
when you were a boy who knew nothing.

“For me, the book is about love,” Howell says. “It is most concerned with the consequences of forgetting love, or, as I said, tenderness. Tenderness is our sustenance. In other words, and I’m only repeating Berry here, our capacity to forget affection is directly proportional to our capacity to destroy our own habitat. And each other. And ourselves.”

Poems like this are born of a life in hardscrabble Kentucky. It’s no surprise one of the dominant themes of these poems is work. What does it mean to feed oneself by killing? What does it mean to live in such a way that something must be destroyed? Howell, by seeing her parents struggle and exhaust themselves in work, clearly identifies with the working class. Her mother, aside from helping her family subsist, worked most of her life as a waitress. Howell’s father grew up working in a hamburger joint and spent most of his life as a fry cook.

The young poet herself started working at her parent’s diner when she was all of 8 years old. “Work, for me, is a guide, a morality I trust,” she insists.

In the face of this work, Howell’s poems suggest that our identity is marred. Two poems, for example, seem to stand against each other, as with “How to Be Civilized” and “How to Be an Animal.” We see the life of agriculture as “civilized,” yet its particulars require us to be animals. One of Howell’s tasks is to reconcile this conflict of our humanity. “We assume a concrete wall stands between what it means to be civilized and what it means to be wild — and that the former constitutes human endeavor and achievement,” Howell explains. “The animals in these poems would disagree.”

The end of such a struggle is love. “I have reverence for what I do not know,” Howell says. “‘How to Kill a Hog’ is the poem in which the ‘you,’ who has been, up to this point, a man struggling to remember his own sublime and animal soul, releases himself into what he cannot control. If there is any definition of love, it’s probably that.”  

I needed to draft you a bit

By maher2014
I needed to draft you a bit of observation in order to give thanks once again for all the spectacular basics you have shared in this case. This is really tremendously open-handed with you giving freely exactly what many of us could possibly have marketed as an ebook to make some profit for themselves, precisely now that you might well have done it if you wanted. The tips additionally acted to become fantastic way to recognize that many people have similar keenness just like my personal own to know many more in terms of this issue. I'm certain there are a lot more pleasurable situations in the future for those who take a look at your blog post. العاب بنات

I am sure about this album

By jams123
I am sure about this album that it is really deserved to be bought and listen again and again. I first time hear it on my Philippines tour when I have in my bubblegum casting

Thank you for helping people

By ronan1122
Thank you for helping people get the information they need. Great stuff as usual. Keep up the great work!!! https://www.rebelmouse.com/purereikihealingmasteryreviews/

I am very happy to discover

By ronan1122
I am very happy to discover your post as it will become on top in my collection of favorite blogs to visit. Autodealer

Its a great pleasure reading

By ashleydanielle
Its a great pleasure reading your post.Its full of information I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work. Chronik

I admire what you have done

By ashleydanielle
I admire what you have done here. I like the part where you say you are doing this to give back but I would assume by all the comments that this is working for you as well. Kreuzfahrten

The information you have

By ashleydanielle
The information you have posted is very useful. The sites you have referred was good. Thanks for sharing.. dr. sen's restore my vision today review

Thanks for a wonderful

By davidalan1122
Thanks for a wonderful share. Your article has proved your hard work and experience you have got in this field. Brilliant .i love it reading. car accident attorney

i read a lot of stuff and i

By ashleydanielle
i read a lot of stuff and i found that the way of writing to clearifing that exactly want to say was very good so i am impressed and ilike to come again in future.. fibroids miracle

Your blog provided us with

By ashleydanielle
Your blog provided us with valuable information to work with. Each & every tips of your post are awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep blogging, verhuur woning

I havent any word to

By ronan1122
I havent any word to appreciate this post.....Really i am impressed from this post....the person who create this post it was a great human..thanks for shared this with us. e-Zigarette

I can see that you are an

By ashleydanielle
I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business. visual impact muscle building ebook

This is very interesting

By tbhgu
This is very interesting content! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your points and have come to the conclusion that you are right about many of them. You are great. website: https://www.rebelmouse.com/epicsoccertraining/

Your website is really cool

By thscp1122
Your website is really cool and this is a great inspiring article. Thank you so much. megashare

I recommend this book to all

By lanarina12
I recommend this book to all the people I know, Rebecca Gayle Howell has a unique style and this book is placed among my favorite ones. I find a lot of interesting books on http://www.stembooks.com/, they have a huge library and the prices are very affordable. I really love the book release posts, I find a lot of deals on books that are worth reading.

Animal Care

By fajacacksmith
Some people have their farm and they are taking care about their animals very properly. Animals are of different kind they are being divided partly. Just think one about the same type of animal but behaving like complicated one. In those cases it might hamper your whole farm very badly. Animal doctors are aware about the different behaviors of animals that might help you to arrange the farm animals properly. For further information regarding the animal you go to Low Cost Vet chatsworth . They will guide you in a positive way.

sxfgty

By rajaoui
tnx man Great !! Thank you for this beautiful Artiicle friend Best flash games العاب تلبيس بنات

It is for sure a nice book,

By steveberlin
It is for sure a nice book, I will read more about it!

Awesome and interesting

By thscp1122
Awesome and interesting article. Great things you've always shared with us. Thanks. Just continue composing this kind of post. https://www.rebelmouse.com/unlockherlegsreviews/

Pass bee Media

By steve7876
The knowledge you have submitted is incredibly Pass bee Media helpful. Sites you have referenced was good. Thank you intended for expressing.