Fanny Howe’s richly contemplative Winter Sun
is a memoir of unusual depth and insight by one of America’s most original contemporary poets. In it, Howe offers a rigorous exploration of her fascinating journey of intellectual, spiritual, and artistic development.
Howe recalls her childhood days in the now vanished world of post-war Boston, with blue-stocking aunts and a mother pre-occupied with the Poets’ Theater in Cambridge. From her lawyer father, labeled “pink” in the McCarthy era for his work defending so-called communists, she inherited a life-long sense of social justice. Feeling unable to compete with her beautiful and talented sister, Fanny sought the inner life, where language was a constant resource.
Through a collage of reflections on the lives of the thinkers and writers who have influenced her, Howe provides a unique insight into the fabric of her own mind. She writes with great compassion about Jacques Lusseyran who, though blind, wrote of finding his inner vision while incarcerated in a concentration camp during the Second World War. She is fascinated with the life of Simone Weil, whose rivalry with her dominant brother perhaps resonates with her own sibling rivalry. And Howe writes with awe of the single-minded quest of the prominent Scottish nun Sara Grant who spent decades teaching and studying in India. Winter Sun
, is no less than an account of Fanny Howe’s passionate engagement with the questions of the soul. The honesty and intelligence she brings to these questions is a rare gift to us all.