The Good Thief
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Good Thief (National Poetry Series #39)

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  401 ratings  ·  21 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, 96 pages
Published July 19th 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published September 1st 1988)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Good Thief, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Good Thief

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 648)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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

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
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.
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
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
Jan 11, 2008 Rick rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
"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
Jul 31, 2014 Lucy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
lineation inspo (linspo?) <3
May 10, 2014 C rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014, poetry
wonderful, I'm a big fan of her work
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.
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.
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!
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.
Mar 29, 2008 Ian rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Another book of poetry. Very beautiful poems, although pretty explicit in places, so I can’t just recommend it.
Great writing. Disturbing, makes me think hard, question the meaning of words assembled in a certain way...
I like her poetry and its development over time. This is an early book, perhaps her first.
I dig it. Let you know when I'm done.
Nov 09, 2012 Eli rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Spare, deep, abstract, humane.
Mar 10, 2008 Rachel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone-- particularly those who find Judæo-Christian imagery evocative--
I love this book so much.
Liz marked it as to-read
Aug 18, 2014
Emma marked it as to-read
Aug 14, 2014
William marked it as to-read
Aug 12, 2014
Bree marked it as to-read
Aug 09, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 21 22 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Atlantis
  • Interior with Sudden Joy: Poems
  • Song
  • Donkey Gospel
  • What We Carry
  • Some Ether
  • Elegy
  • I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl: Poems
  • Field Guide
  • Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems
  • The Wellspring
  • What Work Is: Poems
  • Skid
  • Otherwise: New & Selected Poems
  • The City in Which I Love You
  • Steal Away: Selected and New Poems
  • The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly: Poems Collected and New
What the Living Do: Poems The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic George Sand the Search for Love The Writer's Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Without devotion any life becomes a stranger's story...told for the body to forget what it once loved.” 6 likes
“A traitor commits his crime but once. The rest/is retribution.” 5 likes
More quotes…