The Grief of a Happy Life
- PUBLISHED: October 2019
- SUBJECT LISTING: Literature / Poetry
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 120 Pages, 6 x 9 in
- SERIES: Pacific Northwest Poetry Series
- ISBN: 9780295746166
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
In Christopher Howell’s twelfth collection of poems, his gifts for elegy, humor, and lyricism are on full display. The Grief of a Happy Life explores the interplay between memory and imagination, celebrating the ways that happiness and grief inform one another and give our lives fullness and vitality.
Arranged in four sections, Howell’s poems feature not only these concerns, but a large and various cast of characters as well. Aeneas, Saint Theresa, Ovid, Kierkegaard, a German submarine, and so much more are woven together with Howell’s trademark precision and accessibility into exquisite tableaux, each providing a view of both what we must live with and what we must not live without.
Authors & Contributors
Born in Portland, Oregon, Christopher Howell is author of a dozen poetry collections, including Love’s Last Number, Gaze, and Dreamless and Possible: Poems New and Selected. He has received numerous honors, including the Washington State Book Award, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Artist Trust, and three Pushcart Prizes. A military journalist during the Vietnam War, he has been for many years director and principal editor for Lynx House Press and now lives in Spokane, Washington, where he teaches in Eastern Washington University’s master of fine arts in creative writing program.
Christopher Howell’s The Grief of a Happy Life feels and reads like a gift. Each healing song takes lyrical twists and turns, and arrives at an abiding truth—a blessed ransom paid to soil and sky, body and soul, to the Earth. These summons spring out of quest and need, going back to Gilgamesh and Heraclitus, traveling on to moments of joy and wonderment, praises and elegies, to vows that seethe into atonement, along with everyday names daring to anchor lives fully lived. Here, in The Grief of a Happy Life, every vowel is weighed, every leap earned, and the sway of hope drives the natural music of a worthwhile journey.- Yusef Komunyakaa, author ofThe Emperor of Water Clocks
Chris Howell has been for many years now my go-to poet of choice when, for the purposes of my own work, I need to be reminded of what poems can do, what a collection of poetry can do, and just how the mind needs to bend—there, or there—in order that memorable language, the language of poetry, take its place a step ahead of everyday speech. I find Howell’s usual gifts here: for elegy, for the pastoral, for humor and a light-handed lyricism. I cherish his presence in the ever-growing world of our strange craft.- Kathy Fagan, author of Sycamore
Christopher Howell’s rambling surrealism acts lie a balm for the mind. Reading this loose-limbed and rangy collection, one thinks of Wordsworth or Hayden Carruth, a philosophy edged with longing, its melancholy leavened with humor. I admire the various forms of these poems, arising from the generous spirit of the poet, apparent on every page.- Joseph Millar, author of Kingdom
The Grief of a Happy Life ought to command critical attention at the level of the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, et cetera—it’s that good. Though art is not a competition, I will say that this book shows Christopher Howell as perhaps our finest active poet in the Pacific Northwest, and one of the finest nationally.- Lex Runciman, author of Salt Moons: Poems 1981–2016
The Grief of a Happy Life shows Howell as perhaps our finest active poet in the Pacific Northwest, and one of the finest nationally.- Lex Runciman, Linfield College