Dreamless and Possible

Poems New and Selected

Christopher Howell

  • Published: 2010
  • Subject Listing: Poetry
  • Bibliographic information: 224 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World
  • Series: Pacific Northwest Poetry Series
  • Contents

“A magnificent collection, by an exceptional voice and talent, one that enriches all of us writing and reading poetry in these times.” - Christopher Buckley

This generous volume of new and selected poems by Christopher Howell encompasses three decades of his distinguished work, drawing upon all of his previous books. Dreamless and Possible chronicles his wide range of interests, expressed by blending elements of the surreal with biography, imagist economy with a storyteller’s informality. It also shows the development of his signature style, reflected, as poet Albert Goldbarth has written, in poems “connected by deep thought worn lightly, and by large vision writ in small details.”

These are poems of palpable force. Howell thinks out loud as he works his way through what charms, challenges, and defines the human project. He questions, tests images and associations, and leaps, trusting himself, into midair. In consequence, the cerebral energy propels his poems beyond statement and into startlingly evocative modes, grappling with and sifting profound matters of memory, imagination, and grief, tempered always by joy.

Christopher Howell has previously published eight books of poetry, most recently Light’s Ladder. He has received numerous awards for his writing, including two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and two Washington State Book Awards, and his work has three times been included in the Pushcart Prize Anthology. He is professor of English and creative writing at Eastern Washington University, and lives with his family in Spokane.

"Finally having the best of Christopher Howell's work of the past 30 or so years is a great gift to the readers of poetry. His voice is grave, irreverent, funny (at times) and his newest poems are also lighted by (I know this is a dangerous word) wisdom. Godspeed this book into the hands of many readers!" - Thomas Lux

“For nearly four decades Christopher Howell has so ably been marrying the miraculous to the mundane; the indivisible world to the here-before-our-eyes; the wacky to the expectable; the meditative to the pratfall-prone; the immediate to the ghost-ridden; and the mirthful to the elegiac — and marrying them with such authority — it’s no wonder that by now my head is full of their progeny. ‘The Moon is up on its hind legs / over the shed,’ he says, and . . . yes, there it is, in the sky in my brain, just (as so much turns out to be) the way Christopher Howell describes it.” — Albert Goldbarth

"Sometimes reading a poet feels like surfacing. You find yourself in a huge world, achingly strange and familiar. Howell's work has that charge: the clarity of trance and the jolt of waking. His new book is the distillation of an oeuvre, attentive to the future and the origins, incandescent with loss. Dreamless and Possible is a testament, a stunning and visceral collection from one of America's most necessary poets." -D. Nurkse

"Christopher Howell exults in 'the common mysteries of lives,' and his capacious vision is especially displayed here with poems from over the course of thirty years, during which he has written dramatic monologues, rhymed lyrics, haunting narratives and elegies that are both redemptive and terribly sad. And while the bewildering world 'sways on its pins,' we come away from his poetry with the curious belief that we are - somehow, strangely, by what?—blessed." - Lucia Perillo

Home Is the Sailor
Rounding the corner, sea bag heavy
on my shoulder, I was
every man who ever came home from war. And, indeed, they -
gathered at the big front window -
saw me knowing this, taking on the joy
of the Roman legionnaire when, after 25 years
on the ramparts in Gaul, the farm
came into view and the wife
and grown children ran speechless
toward him up the road.
I had done my duty, so to speak.
The great engines soaked in blood
slept in the distance
of my shoes. An iron encirclement
left the houses of my fingers
and hair and I entered the shadows
of strangers whose language was tinsel
and glass goblets overflowing, whose soft hands
touched me like morning in another time.
Birdsong and plums opened their invisible books for me
who had become that no one
standing beside himself
while history shook its head.
Give me a moment, I said, give me
a hand with this bag of voices and bones.
I didn’t care
what mattered. All through my body, in the dark
totality of my life, a confederate soldier
sat down by the fire
and slept.

". . . gleans the Spokane resident's best work from eight books and his haunting new work." -Mike Dillon, City Living, April 2013

"There are stable frames of reference in his poems, but he's good for a substantial surprise almost every time….Those who seek Howell's book out will find a poet who over time has grown more and more comfortable with surprising word choices, comparisons, and lists. He's so sure the force of his narratives will carry the reader through to the end, so sure the feelings that come through in his poems are real and undeniable, he can risk what looks at first like irrelevance…" - Constant Critic

"Over the last three decades, Howell's poetry has deepened yet lost none of its quicksilver movement where the quotidian and eternal play tag." - City Living