You’re So Pretty I remember Eddie from when I was a boy, heavily-inked, and tootling his long-suffering trumpet in the purple shadows of bronze functionaries in our hometown’s public square. Lately, after hardly a thought for 30 years or so, he is the ex-husband of a friend of my wife. Such intersections, correlations, relationships, and such like are the stuff of Howard’s book. A step this way or that, and one might think or find oneself to be in a different world.is bookended by two poems addressing its dedicatee. Between these are four shorter poems. The heart of the matter is ‘The whole of boredom’, which pivots on the phrase ‘Yes is irregular; it/upsets the order of things, being active’; ‘The soul of whoredom’, its briefer companion, does likewise on ‘No is irregular yet/sets the order.’
Accordingly, Curnow’s “Skeleton of the Great Moa” is given the insurgent treatment more often than I care to count. Curnow is an easy target due to his impressive size; one can’t fail to score a hit. And, having gone through a book flanked by a pair of serrated hymns, I’m led to wonder, bastardising Geoffrey Hill’s poser, is Howard’s intention to dispense with grace; or to dispense, with grace? This isn’t a question of justice, of doing it, in this case ‘Eddie’, justice, but of grace. It’s sad and angry, but there’s little consolation. I can’t help but think of Eddie as Barabbas – and wonder who then is the poet elect, dispensing or withholding grace? Upon Howard’s shoulders seems to rest the weight of the word – perhaps, too, of The Word: an old concatenation, but in Howard’s case an apt one.
ROBERT MCLEAN was born at Bethany in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1974. His most recent publication is a chapbook length poem A Graveyard by the Sea (Cold Hub Press). He lives in Lyttelton, Banks Peninsula.