BB&N is honored to recognize Fanny Howe '58 with the 2018 Distinguished Alumna Award. An internationally acclaimed poet, novelist, and essayist, Howe will be presented with this year's award on Thursday, March 1 in Cambridge.
Fanny Howe ’58 – Poet & Professor Emerita, University of California, San Diego
Fanny Quincy Howe is an American poet, novelist, and short story writer, the author of more than 20 books of poetry and prose. Born in Buffalo, New York, she grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she studied for many years at Buckingham School, and went on to Stanford University, where her papers are now housed. She has taught at Tufts University, Emerson College, Kenyon College, Columbia University, Yale University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University, Brown University and is professor emerita of Writing and Literature at the University of California, San Diego. In 2012 she was the inaugural visiting writer in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
Described as “one of America’s most dazzling poets” by O Magazine, Howe has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Poetry Foundation, the California Council for the Arts, and the Village Voice, as well as fellowships from the Bunting Institute and the MacDowell Colony. Her Selected Poems won the 2001 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, which recognizes the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States that year, and in 2001 and 2005 she was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize. The American Academy of Arts & Letters honored her with an Award in Literature in 2008. In 2009 she was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, presented annually by the Poetry Foundation to a living American poet whose lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition. Her book of poetry Second Childhood was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award in 2014. The following year, 2015, she was a finalist for the International Man Booker Award for her collection of novels called Radical Love.
Howe’s writing career began during the 1960s with a series of paperback original novels she published under the pseudonym Della Field. She has continued to publish novels and essays throughout her career, among them being Nod, The Deep North, Famous Questions, Saving History, Indivisible,The Lives of a Spirit/Glasstown: Where Something Got Broken, The Wedding Dress: Meditations on Word and Life and The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation. “[Her] seven novels about interracial love and utopian dreaming offer a rich social history of Boston in the 1960s and '70’s,” observed Boston-based writer and editor Joshua Glenn. Howe's prose poems “Everything's a Fake” and “Doubt” were selected for the anthology Great American Prose Poems: from Poe to the Present and her poem “Catholic” was included in the 2004 volume of The Best American Poetry.
Fellow poet Michael Palmer observes, “Fanny Howe employs a sometimes fierce, always passionate, spareness in her lifelong parsing of the exchange between matter and spirit. Her work displays as well a political urgency, that is to say, a profound concern for social justice and for the soundness and fate of the polis, the ‘city on a hill’. Writes Emerson, ‘The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty.’ Here's the luminous and incontrovertible proof.” On the poem “Doubt”, critic Kimberley Lamm wrote, “Fanny Howe’s work is unique in contemporary poetry for its exploration of religious faith, ethics, politics, and suffering.” Howe commented in a 2004 interview with the Kenyon Review, “If someone is alone reading my poems, I hope it would be like reading someone’s notebook. A record. Of a place, beauty, difficulty. A familiar daily struggle.”
Howe lives in Cambridge. She is the mother of Danzy Senna, Lucien Quincy Senna, and Maceo Senna.
Criteria for the BB&N Distinguished Alumna/us Award
Nominees are proposed by members of the BB&N community in recognition of their:
- Exceptional professional accomplishments in the arts, sciences, law, medicine, industry, government, academia, and service to humanity
- Outstanding leadership and effectiveness in community involvement at the local, national, or global level for enhancing the quality of human existence and/or the environment
- Embodiment of the core values of BB&N and its motto - Honor, Scholarship, Kindness