Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Tickets are available for Graywolf Literary Gala in Minneapolis on September 19. For more details about the event or to make a gift in honor of our 50th anniversary, click here

Book Title

The Winter Sun

Notes on a Vocation
Author 1
Fanny Howe
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.


Share Title

List Price
Publication Date
Publication Date
Trim Size
Trim Size
5 1/2 x 8 1/4
A beautiful and long-awaited memoir by one of America's most celebrated and unclassifiable poets

About the Author

Fanny  Howe
Credit: Lynn Christoffers
Fanny Howe is the author of more than thirty works of poetry and prose, including Love and IThe Needle's Eye, Come and See, and The Winter Sun. Her most recent poetry collection, Second Childhood, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her fiction has been honored as a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize. She lives in New England.
More by author


  • “Howe’s “Notes on a Vocation” clarifies the role of the poet in an age of widespread scientism that peremptorily decides what questions are worth asking and how best to answer them.”—The Nation
  • “[The Winter Sun] is full of wondering, noticing and empathetic efforts to weave connections between events and individuals and the cultures they inhabit.”—Los Angeles Times
  • “The book changes the boundaries of biography, autobiography, memoir, and autoethnography.  It is all of these at once. . . . With the sun falling on the pages as a living presence, Howe has expanded our knowledge of what it means to write (auto)biography.”—Janelle Adsit, Colorado Review 
  • “Howe is a constant explorer, an asker of difficult questions (some of which remain unanswerable).  What she does in Notes on a Vocation is clarify, at least for herself, the role of the poet in an age of lurking cynicism.  She shows the rest of us what it truly means to invest oneself in a way of life whose rewards are often hidden.”—Brock Kingsley, Pleiades
Back to Table of Contents