The below is excerpted from the foreword to Debths, Susan Howe’s latest collection, out today from New Directions.
Going back! Going back!
“Little Sir Echo, how do you do? / Hello! (Hello!) Hello! (Hello!) / Little Sir Echo, we’ll answer you / Hello! (Hello!) Hello! (Hello!) / Hello! (Hello!) Hello! (Hello!)/ Won’t you come over and play? (and play)/ You’re a nice little fellow / I know by your voice/ But you’re always so far away (away).”
—Bing Crosby and the Music Maids (1939)
When I was eight my parents packed me off to Little Sir Echo Camp for Girls on Lake Armington in the foothills of New Hampshire cofounded and owned by Mary Hoisington and Margaret Conoboy ten years earlier. Apparently the women chose the name because of an echo that bounces off the surrounding White Mountains. An actual child may or may not fit parental fantasies. I hated the place. Most of all I dreaded riding classes and spent many nights praying I would be assigned the tired elderly horse with a creaking stomach for the next day’s obligatory ride around the ring. On the one visiting day allowed per summer we rowed across the lake and picnicked on a secluded beach at the edge of a pine forest. I begged them to ransom me. But no. Around four P.M. they left for Boston, leaving me alone with my dread of being lost in the past; absent. Read More