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Howard, David
Writer's File

David Howard

Otago - Ōtākou
Howard, David
In brief
David Howard is a poet and founding editor of literary magazine Takahē. He has also worked as a pyrotechnic and special effects supervisor for acts such as Metallica. Howard has published several collections of poetry, including The Incomplete Poems (Cold Hub Press, 2011), which encompasses 35 years of his writing. Howard has collaborated with artists such as Czech composer Marta Jirackova, and he has received awards, residencies and grants for his writing.
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Howard, David (1959 – ) is a poet and founding editor of Takahē, a literary magazine that has been the first to publish many well-known New Zealand writers. He describes his writing as 'gnarled, metaphysical poetry which fosters rather than forbids tenderness.'

Reviewing Howard's first collection, In the First Place (1991), Kendrick Smithyman writes of his 'sense of shock, and uncommon astonishment at the extraordinary poise which is part and parcel of these usually quite short pieces.' The volume features photographs by Paul Swadel.

David Eggleton writes of Howard's second collection, Holding Company (1995): 'Poetry itself is treated as a form of prayer, both sacred and profane, but rife with little idiosyncrasies, sudden switches of pace, tone and meaning so as to create an ambiguous haze, almost at times an erotic reverie...'

A third volume Shebang: Collected Poems 1980 - 2000, was published in 2000. In the NZ Listener, Kapka Kassabova writes that 'Howard's greatest lyrical power is in apprehending the elusive. His is a poetry of the vanishing, of the shifting elsewhere, of loss lurking within the moment...the cerebral blends with the visceral with a brilliant lightness of touch.' Harriet Zinnes of the The Denver Quarterly (USA) comments, '...the forthright zing of the lines and indeed his intellectual rigor...have a kind of contemporary lyricism, that is, a lyricism that avoids excess but yet exudes tenderness and desire even as it questions their endurance, even their power.'

As the author of poems described as 'technically dazzling' and teeming with 'glittering figures of speech', it is perhaps fitting that Howard has worked as a pyrotechnic and special effects supervisor for acts including Metallica and Janet Jackson.

Howard was a finalist in Ireland's Davoren Hanna Poetry Competition in 2001. An online exhibition 'Why: Art about the attack on the World Trade Center & the Pentagon' includes work by Howard.

How to Occupy Our Selves (2003) is a collaboration between David Howard and photographer Fiona Pardington. Reviewing it in NZ Books, Anna Livesey wrote, 'The poems and the photographs partake of the same qualities: spare, elegant, detailed and evocative. Howard's poems remind me of flipping through a photo album. The movement from image to image is not necessarily linear or logical, but there is a story in it. And even when Howard is being weird, he is not wilful; conversely, the domestic, in his hands, is not humdrum.'

In 2004 Howard's long poem, 'There you go,' was set to music by the distinguished Czech composer, Marta Jirackova. The collaboration was part of a body of work made possible by a 2002 Creative New Zealand project grant which Howard received to develop pieces based in Eastern Europe. He continues to develop this project and in 2007 the composer Brina Jez-Brezavscek premiered her electro-acoustic setting of Howard's 'The Flax Heckler' at a new music festival in Slovenia. Howard's text was subsequently published as 'Dead Man Blues' in the limited edition S(t)et (Gumtree Press, 2009). The Australian composer Johanna Selleck set Howard's sequence 'The Perpetual Bird', and his lyric, ‘Air, Water, Earth Meld’, was premiered by soprano Judith Dodsworth at The University of Melbourne in September 2009.

The Word Went Round was published by Otago University Press in 2006. Launching the collection, former Te Mata Poet Laureate Brian Turner observed that 'Howard has his own ways of saying, and, something not all poets can claim, things to say.'

David Howard's writing has also been published extensively in anthologies such as Our Own Kind, ed. Siobhan Harvey (Godwit, 2009), New Zealand Poets in Performance, ed. Jack Ross and Jan Kemp (AUP 2008), Land Very Fertile, ed. Coral Atkinson & David Gregory (CUP, 2008), Swings + Roundabouts, ed. Emma Neale (Godwit, 2008), A Good Handful, ed. Stu Bagby (AUP, 2008), Painted Poems, ed. Eion Stevens (Longacre Press, 2007), Shards of Silver, ed. Paul Thompson (Steele Roberts, 2006), and New Zealand Love Poems; An Oxford Anthology, ed. Lauris Edmond (OUP 2000).

In February 2009 David Howard received a grant through the International Writers' Programme to attend the International Poetry Festival in Granada, Nicaragua. Howard's poetry has been translated into Czech, German, Italian, Slovene and Spanish.

David Howard's collection The Incomplete Poems (Cold Hub Press, 2011) encompasses 35 years of his poetry. Michael Harlow wrote, 'David Howard is a poet of immense gifts. Not least the fact that he knows how to make poems of discovery that go beyond mere ‘invention’. Poems that are passionately thoughtful and intelligent; and with a finely tuned lyric voice that puts feeling first. A poetry that reaches ‘Beyond what is/said to what is, impossible’. Again and again, how to make the invisible, visible; and to make it sing.' Patricia Prime reviewed the collection in Poetry New Zealand 45, writing 'Full of risk and wonder, The Incomplete Poems shows the range of Howard’s abilities, but also strikes out for new territory. He remains consistently one of our finest living lyric poets and each of these astonishing poems is clear and memorable. They are achingly wonderful poems on the quest for the numinous, celebrating love and coming to terms with grief, and the mysterious that is always just beyond our reach.'

In 2012 Holloway Press published his collaboration with the artist Peter Ransom, You Look So Pretty When You're Unfaithful To Me. Reviewing the book for Landfall in July 2013, Robert McLean stated, 'Sounding a Wintersian note from the get-go, I assert that David Howard is our finest poet... His peers are poets of such an ilk and character as Clive Wilmer, John Matthias, and John Peck. And, it must be said, Allen Curnow. His poetry is muscular and burnished when so much else is limp and etiolated. Rebarbative, scabrous, strident, prickly: why not make the leap to condign satire? Howard, with a clutch of prods, might just be the Swift de nos jours. I find it disagreeable to mention poetry other than Howard’s when space is at a premium, but to emphasise its difference to the buzz and clinker that swamps it seems worthwhile.'

David received the New Zealand Society of Authors Mid-Career Writers' Award (2009), the University of South Pacific Poetry Prize (2011), the University of Otago Robert Burns Fellowship (2013), the Otago Wallace Residency (2014), the UNESCO City of Literature Residency in Prague (2016), the University of Canterbury Ursula Bethell Fellowship (2016), the Pazin Writers' House Residency in Croatia (2017), and the UNESCO City Of Literature Residency in Ulyanovsk (2019).