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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

Leadership and Service

PLU poet sees creative expression beyond his own verse

By Christopher Howell '66

[image] Untitled artwork by David Luckert
Untitled artwork by David Luckert, from which Howell feels a “great esthetic kinship” to his poetry.

Heaven is a strange but persistent human concept. All my life I have wondered at it and about it. I remember when I was a boy in confirmation class my pastor, Mal Unset, answering another student’s worry about the nature of Heaven with, “Whatever it takes to make you happy, God will have it there.” In this poem I discover and confess that Heaven, for me, beyond all orthodoxy, and beyond any shame for the sentiment, might be a return—in this case a return to the farm village where I grew up, as it was in the early ’50s, where I was very happy.

The poem also suggests that the journey to Heaven is a long and wearying road. And I believe that too.

I feel a great esthetic kinship with David Luckert’s paintings; they seem to emanate from the same psycho-emotional space from which I want my poems to come, some zone where passion and precision are congruent, where the line between the abstract and the concrete dissolves.

While he insists that he is not a figurative painter (in the same way I might insist that I am not fundamentally a narrative poet), his work seems often strongly suggestive of the world of experience. This painting, for instance, which I purchased from him several years ago and which he refuses to title, I have always thought of as “The Door to the Secret of Day.” Beyond that door lies all the possible days and histories of days, every thing the writer, or anyone, might imagine and thereby enter. It may be argued that the extended possibility to which I refer has little to do with “experience.” But dreams, imaginings, even hallucinations, may be profound experiences— and their degree of reality quite irrelevant.

Heaven by Christopher Howell

CHRISTOPHER HOWELL CAN BE REACHED AT cnhowell@mail.ewu.edu

[image] Christopher Howell '66CHRISTOPHER HOWELL ’66 TEACHES IN THE CREATIVE WRITING PROGRAM AT EASTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY. HE PUBLISHED SIX COLLECTIONS OF POEMS, MOST RECENTLY “MEMORY AND HEAVEN” (1997), AND HAS WON A NUMBER OF AWARDS, INCLUDING THE PUSHCART PRIZE. IN FEBRUARY, HOWELL RECEIVED A $20,000 NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS CREATIVE WRITING FELLOWSHIP IN POETRY FOR 2001.

THE POEM INCLUDED HERE, “HEAVEN,” APPEARED IN HIS MOST RECENT BOOK AND IN CONNECTICUT REVIEW.

 



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