Light's Ladder

Christopher Howell

  • Published: 2004
  • Subject Listing: Literature / Poetry
  • Bibliographic information: 96 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Pacific Northwest Poetry Series
  • Contents

In this extraordinary new collection by distinguished poet Christopher Howell, the opening poem presents us with a spiritual paradox that will echo throughout its pages. The speaker remembers an earlier time of happiness, freedom, and a certain innocence. The poem closes with:

And if he remembers now
he is in love, which is the soul's condition, and alone
because that is how we live.

"How we live" is the book's major inquiry; its illustration, the poems' major achievement. How do we live, in our dailiness, in our loves, our private and global wars? And, in the face of unbearable grief, how can we live?


When Keats, at last beyond the curtain
of love's distraction, lay dying in his room
on the Piazza di Spagna, the melody of the Bernini
Fountain "filling him like flowers,"
he held his breath like a coin, looked out
into the moonlight and thought he saw snow.
He did not suppose it was fever or the body's
weakness turning the mind. He thought, "England!"
and there he was, secretly, for the rest
of his improvidently short life: up to his neck
in sleigh bells and the impossibly English cries
of street venders, perfect
and affectionate as his soul.
For days the snow and statuary sang him so far
beyond regret that if now you walk rancorless
and alone there, in the piazza, the white shadow
of his last words to Severn, "Don't be frightened,"
may enter you.

If He Remembers June Light in Oslo
Trusting the Beads
Situation 2003
A Party on the Way to Rome
If the World Were Glass
The Counterchime
He Writes to the Soul

II Stories for Braille Calliope
Sometimes at the Braille Calliope
Bird Man Stranded
The Eye Becomes Birds Because of War
The Toad Prince
King's Ex
The Thriteenth Interval
Teleology of the Airhose
King of the Butterflies
The Montavilla Reveries
The Fire Elegies
1. Family Values
2. The Double Suicide of Marriage
3. To Build a Fire
4. Storm
5. Arrivals
6. The Angels of Rescue
A Christmas Ode After the Fashion of Michael Hefferman...

Why the River Is Always Laughing
Story Time
All Day at the Brainard Pioneer Cemetery
Backyard Astronomy
Cole Porter
The Getaway
Like Rain Descending
The New Orpheus
A Little Blues

About the Poet

"No excerpt of any of the poems will help you understand the poignancy and meaning in these poems. Read them. Read them all. It will change your life."
-Salem Statesman Journal

"Chris Howell is probably the most gifted poet in America..He tends to write magnificent lyrical poems, but Light's Ladder is filled with narrative poems and they are tremendous."
-Redactions: Poetry and Poetics