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The Good Thief

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  475 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Selected by Margaret Atwood as a winner in the 1987 Open Competition of the National Poetry Series, this unique collection was the first sounding of a deeply authentic voice. Ms. Howe's early writings concern relationship, attachment, and loss, in a highly original search for personal transcendence. Many of the thirty-four poems in The Good Thief appeared in such prestigio ...more
Paperback, 54 pages
Published November 1st 1999 by Persea Books (first published September 1st 1988)
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(showing 1-30 of 827)
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Griffin Alexander
Not my favorite of Marie's as a whole, but it has some of her most surreal and haunting moments done in an overt way that she seems to have shrunk from in later work—it's nice to see it so bold here. It has the bite of early Simic, and yet still manages the restraint and circuity of theme that makes her a poet we are lucky to have living among us.


Gretel, from a Sudden Clearing

No way back then, you remember, we decided,
but forward, deep into a wood

so darkly green, so deafening with birdsong
I stop
...more
Nicola
Dec 26, 2010 Nicola rated it really liked it
It seems very fitting that Margaret Atwood selected this book for an award. Both authors reveal the ominous afterwards of trauma. There's a strange suspense that can come after an abuse or upheaval (I have in mind "The Handmaid's Tale") rather than before it--like an adult looking back on something that happened during childhood, like the real understanding that comes after an event. But, as the title (and cover) suggests, this book isn't completely dire; it's also about transcendence and the sp ...more
Valerie
Jan 16, 2012 Valerie rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading each of these poems over and over. There were lots of gorgeous lines.

All of the poems had stanzas all the same line length and the titles were okay, but not great. I'm not sure why Howe titled the collection The Good Thief. I've been thinking about the collection a lot (always a good sign) and can't figure it out. I am going to do some research online, I'm sure the answer is available somewhere

Most of the poems were quiet and slow, along with the tone. There were great images.
...more
Kevin Fanning
Nov 25, 2012 Kevin Fanning rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
08/11/2010

Wasn't my favorite Marie Howe collection. Revisit in a few years.


UPDATE 11/25/2012

So glad I tried this one again, as expected I found a lot more to love here this time. Favorites included:

Part of Eve’s Discussion

"very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin"


From Nowhere

"a day comes, when you say what all winter / I’ve been meaning to ask, and a crack booms and echoes / where ice had seemed solid"


What Belo
...more
Donna
Oct 04, 2009 Donna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-poetry
This book is one of the best written contemporary poetry books that I have read in a long time. Not only are the poems accessible, layered, and lyrical, they are ordered in a progressive and interrelated manner that gives them meaning beyond the individual poems. They actually work together at a larger level -- that of book. It's a sophisticated and enjoyable book. One you will want to read and reread.
Jennifer
Feb 17, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Some number of years ago -- eight or ten or twelve -- I stumbled across a poem by Marie Howe. I can no longer tell you exactly where I was when I read it, but I still remember the way I felt when I read it: the electric current that hummed along my spine, the hair on my arms prickling up, everything reduced or expanded to me and the air I was pulling in and this poem.

I read "How Many Times" at least ten times that night.

An English professor of mine used to talk about something Aristotle said, a
...more
Steven
Mar 11, 2008 Steven rated it it was amazing
In this bold first collection of poems, Marie Howe grapples with the heavy issue of how human beings balance the weight of mortality with living, especially when living includes the difficult experiences of alcoholism, child abuse and gender inequality. Basically, Ms. Howe is taking God on ("The Good Thief" himself) and illuminating spirituality by using the very human details of everyday experience. In this poet's able hands, "the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you/your car coul ...more
Rick
Jan 11, 2008 Rick rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Marie Howe's first collection is short, very tight in it composition, almost abstract in its treatment of themes of identity, family, religion, and nature and quite good. Lines like “At first, the scissors seemed perfectly harmless” (What the Angels Left), “No matter how many times I try I can’t stop my father / from walking into my sister’s room” (How Many Times), and “My brother already wears / his nervous look” (Apology) abound and give a sense of foreboding. “Veteran’s Day” seems a metaphori ...more
Elle
Dec 25, 2012 Elle rated it really liked it
"Bedeviled,/ human, your plight, in waking, is to choose from the words/ that even now sleep on your tongue, and to know that tangled/ among them and terribly new is the sentence that could change your life." The last lines of "The Meadow," the poem that introduced me to Marie Howe, prove prophetic. This volume expresses very bucolic themes of farm life intermingled with family stories and biblical resonances, reflections on suffering, marriage, bodies and death. "This is the past/where everythi ...more
Eliazar
Jan 09, 2015 Eliazar rated it really liked it
Religious, spiritual, and real. Marie Howe moves her words across the page like her long hair flows down her body. The Good Thief is a small book full of life and fear and death and awe.
Stephen Mortland
Jan 25, 2016 Stephen Mortland rated it it was amazing
This book confirmed what I had begun to expect, that Marie Howe is one of the most poignant and constructive contemporary poets I have come across. Her work is deeply arresting and honest. Her poems pull you in deep to her experiences, and startle you as, in them, you come face to face with your own. I very much look forward to rereading this collection and getting my hands on her other work.
Lucy
Jul 31, 2014 Lucy rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
lineation inspo (linspo?) <3
nancy
May 10, 2014 nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2014
wonderful, I'm a big fan of her work
Jackie Hay
Jul 20, 2015 Jackie Hay rated it it was amazing
Shelves: summer-2015
I first learned of Marie Howe's poetry in my poetry workshop class in college. I immediately fell in love with her collection "What the Living Do" and purchased/read "The Good Thief". I enjoy her narratives, her subjects of family and spirituality as well as her long, prose-like lines. I especially enjoyed the poems, Part of Eve's Discussion, What Angels left, From Nowhere, Guests, and Mary's argument. LOVE THIS POET!!!!
K
Sep 09, 2007 K rated it it was amazing
Marie Howe's first book is filled with monsters at the stairs and in the mind and the every-day-real variety as well. She speaks with clues of personal catastrophe with an elegance only an amazing poet like her could muster and work with. I am in awe and can not wait for her next, and third, book to be released later this year.
Maryjoamani
Jan 14, 2010 Maryjoamani rated it it was amazing
Again, a very special book of poems. See my reviews of her other two books of poetry, each published ten years apart: The Good Thief (1988), What the Living do (1998), and The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (2008). I highly recommend all of Marie Howe's poetry.
Kitty
Mar 19, 2013 Kitty rated it liked it
Shelves:
The stars reflect my mood, not the way Marie Howe knows how to make a reader shiver. I love that her teacher, Kunitz says about her writing: "joys/terrors treated with grace and charity. Indeed. She's not poet laureate of New York without merit!
Joanna
May 06, 2012 Joanna rated it really liked it
Marie Howe says it right in your face. She writes about experiences other people aren;t even aware of, or won't admit in a candid and often frightening way. I also love What the Living Do.
Ian
Mar 29, 2008 Ian rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
There are five or six really great poems in this collection and another dozen stand-outs. We shouldn't be too greedy.

Maureen E
Aug 04, 2010 Maureen E rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Another book of poetry. Very beautiful poems, although pretty explicit in places, so I can’t just recommend it.
stellajames
Dec 09, 2011 stellajames rated it it was amazing
Great writing. Disturbing, makes me think hard, question the meaning of words assembled in a certain way...
Peter
Nov 16, 2008 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I like her poetry and its development over time. This is an early book, perhaps her first.
Eli
Nov 09, 2012 Eli rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Spare, deep, abstract, humane.
Rebecca
Apr 26, 2015 Rebecca rated it really liked it
4.5 omg babe!?!!?
Rachel
Mar 10, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone-- particularly those who find Judæo-Christian imagery evocative--
I love this book so much.
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Feb 03, 2016
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Born in Rochester, New York, Marie Howe attended Sacred Heart Convent School and the University of Windsor. She received an MFA from Columbia University, where she studied with Stanley Kunitz, whom she refers to as “my true teacher.”

Howe has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia, and NYU. She co-edited (with Michael Klein) the essay anthology In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing fr
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“Without devotion any life becomes a stranger's story...told for the body to forget what it once loved.” 7 likes
“A traitor commits his crime but once. The rest/is retribution.” 5 likes
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