FROM INSIDE – my new book of poems.


At last a review! Scroll down on the link here to find it. And in print, there is now one in the latest Poetry Salzburg Review – which can be found by scrolling down to the end of this post.


Son, never boast of the bird you have done.                                                                           Masters of the art of crime seldom serve                                                                                          A scrap of time. They may shit on  everyone                                                                                      They keep their noses clean. A fable says,

There was a crooked horse who kicked an ass                                                                                For being an ass, and down the line
He got stitched up by his mule. Here’s the moral:                                                                    Never disapprove, never harbour a scruple.

Cater to all tastes. One will help you rob
A bank-vault if you let him rape a little boy.
A ritual murder binds people together.
Where’s the chick as close as an accomplice?

Differentiate between being and appearance
And become as far as possible indistinguishable                                                                     From your mark. Love is not a problem. Love                                                                            Will find a way to provide you with an unassailable

Alibi. Robin Hood had it all wrong.

(First published in The Spectator)

“The novelty meets with neglect; neglect provokes attack; and attack demands a theory.”

xxxxxxxT. S. Eliot, Reflections on Vers Libre – an article published in the New Statesman, 22 May 2013

You don’t have to like the person in these poems. The person in these poems is no champion of rights; animal, vegetable or mineral. Views that many espouse are not his views. Those chosen to bestow awards must take the readership of this “many” into account. A poem is valued primarily for its humanity. Ideally there should be a theme that threads a few poems together. Here a touch of novelty is called for. Most important of all, there needs to be a person in them who comes over as likeable, decent and liberal. Add pathos, and you’re in on the game. Pathos goes down very well indeed.

None of this is the case with the person you encounter when you start From Inside. This is because the person in these poems is a mask. Just as the ancients wore masks that expressed the spirits who spoke through them, spirits of those who might have murdered their children, slept with their mothers or flouted authority, these poems speak through their personae. It’s a strategy more often to be found in fiction, for it is fictive. It’s a way of writing pioneered by Browning – My Last Duchess provides the standard example, but that is just one poem among many that utilize a dramatic monologue.

So, underneath, I may happen to be likeable, liberal etc, of course I may; but in my poems I speak through masks, come from another location and stand in another’s place. Or so I would have you believe.

There is also operating that irony that is inherent in speeches or in some situation set up in a play; an irony that is understood by the audience but not grasped by the characters in that play. In the same way, the person in these poems may not be aware of what the reader is aware.              

Pound refined the technique; and now I try to take it further by reducing the distance between the voice of the spirit and my own. I am trying to resolve the enigma of how one may fetchingly express the unpleasant – make it readable, entertaining even – however, if the character bears little resemblance to my own experience, a distance weakens the impact. There is much to admire in the movies of Nicholas Roeg. In Bad Timing, a plausible young psychiatrist asserts the control over his girl that he has always hankered for by making love to her while she is in a coma – having adjusted the clock, to give himself time to rape her before he calls an ambulance. The action that enables him to seriously endanger her life is in itself an innocuous one, a movement of a finger on the minute hand. It seems a conceivable crime. I can imagine myself doing this. And that is what makes the film’s proposition so powerful.

In the same paragraph as contains the quotation above, Eliot goes on to suggest that “In a sluggish society, as actual societies are, tradition is ever lapsing into superstition, and the violent stimulus of novelty is required.” A violent stimulus is more than a touch, and I aspire to just such a jolt. I would revive satire, long out of fashion in poetry, but I can’t go along with Eliot when he asserts, in the same essay, that “we only need the coming of a Satirist – no man of genius is rarer – to prove that the heroic couplet has lost none of its edge since Dryden and Pope laid it down.”  To my ear the couplet grows tedious, and seems nostalgically dated formally. Eliot was wrong about the sonnet too, which he thought long past its prime. In fact, the sonnet goes from strength to strength, but the Augustan couplet has lost its appeal.

Satire needs to discover a fresh and contemporary form.

The poems in this collection may feel uncomfortable. Often they may not possess a “point”. I hope however that they always find their presence in verse. For me, the harmonic presence of the poem itself must be equal to the presence of any meaning. As I attempt to resolve this inherent conflict between form and content, I find myself discovering the poem. Its presence, as that emerges, often overwhelms a neatly significant conclusion.

“All art constantly aspires to the condition of music.” Thus wrote Walter Pater when considering the paintings of Giorgione. Music does not concern itself with referential meaning. Here a further irony gets generated: the untoward, discomforting thoughts that may engage the person in these poems are offered to the reader as a music. Harmony is thus impressed into the service of the discordant.

Well, dear reader, as the Possum said, “neglect provokes attack; and attack demands a theory.”

To purchase a copy, here is a link to The High Window/From Inside

For a critique of “humane art” see Ortega y Gasset

Click for my essay on Immoralism.

A Review of From Inside – by Colin Pink – published in Poetry Salzburg Review, 31 – Autumn 2017

There’s a lot of anger in Anthony Howell’s collection From Inside. It powers the poems like rocket fuel and like rocket fuel it can be hard to control and uncomfortable to handle. As Howell says: “Anger is only one letter away from danger.” (“Standfast”, 54) This is not an ingratiating book; these are not poems that want to be your friend; it’s a book that’s out to bite you and does so rather effective­ly. Anyone frustrated with the polite safe­ness and small ambition of much contem­porary English poetry will find this book a refreshing change from the normal fare.

It is also a brave book; the poet in­habits a series of often repellent characters and tells it as it is from their perspective, as in “Sermon”:

Cater to all tastes. One will help you rob

A bank-vault if you let him rape a little boy.

A ritual murder binds people together.

Where’s the chick as close as an accomplice? (46)

Or the self-justifying cant of a paedophile sexual tourist in the ironi­cally titled “Philanthropist”:

To alleviate the poverty in Bangladesh

You could do worse than to download

Families having it off. Or take Kinshasa:

If they don’t accommodate a Westerner,

The children who solicit your attention

Court abuse by sickness and starvation.


I crave the sharp, sour sweetness

Of the unripened being. That’s to my taste,

And if I can help some pretty young thing

Save up enough for an education

Why should I let my desires go to waste? (56)


Howell is acutely aware of power imbalances within society and around the world and never ceases to draw our attention to them in sharply satirical verse that reminds one of the acerbic wit of eighteenth-century poets such as Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope.

The book is full of people lying to themselves and everyone else. In many respects the centre piece of this collection is a long satirical poem on the theme of deceit, a kind of miniature Dunciad for modern times, called “My Part in the Downfall of Everything” (31-40), which chronicles the last hundred years of deceitful history, where the self- justifying words of ruthless demagogues set the tone. For instance, a delegation of Jews is threatened by Goering for spreading ‘lies’ about the Nazi state:

One among the summoned pointed out

That bits of what the papers said were true,

Friends had been subjected to attacks,

Others murdered. ‘Use a plane

And shavings fall,’ said Goering. (31-40; 32)


It’s a chilling phrase, justifying oppression and murder in a metaphor, which is echoed later in the poem:


Prosper then, press forward with the plane

And let the shavings fall as bodies fall

From blazing towers. And blame it, blame it all

On those you use for torches. (31-40; 36)


The poem reflects on the so called “post-truth” age, suggesting that today:


All deal in falsity, taking on the uniform

Of the foe, doctoring the evidence.

The truth being simply what one cannot know. (31-40; 38)


Howell sums up the way many people feel, as a world full of ghastly events unfolds around them, when he says: “My part in the downfall of everything / Includes my inability to do anything / About all this […]” (31-40; 38).

The final section of the book contains a sequence of brilliant and scathing political poems (“Dick”, “Terror and Tyranny”,

“Commons”, “Chilcot”) reflecting on the Iraq War, the so-called War on Terror and its disastrous consequences.



Launch reading was 31 May 2017 at 19:00-21:00 at Housmans Radical Booksellers, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX

About anthonyhowelljournal

Poet, essayist, dancer, performance artist....
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