Link to From Inside/ High Window Press

Can also be purchased at Tangoshiva on Ebay

Chilcot, Arkan, Dick Cheney, the Middle East: subjects, some topical, that find expression in these new poems which explore the genre of “Immoralism” – a notion developed from the writings of André Gide which describes a tendency to identify with the suspect, as with the personae of Robert Browning.  The words take us beneath the external face of society.  A long piece, My Part in the Downfall of Everything, is a satire on deceit.  Beyond the pale of convenient mores, there are lines here which may have lost touch with decency.  The poems hone the edge of a trope that is perhaps more sinister than irony. Their author taught in prisons until he was taken off the books for helping the inmates write material the authorities deemed inappropriate. Sometimes an incarcerated view and a criminal underworld get contrasted with an “overworld” of privilege and conspiracy.  Meaning here has a swingeing accuracy, which is perhaps remarkable, coming from a poet who pioneered abstraction in the seventies.  Yet nothing can be taken for granted.  The words still have a life of their own.

‘… Howell has style to spare and is happily unclassifiable.’  Peter Porter,  The Observer


‘…So much good poetry that one is astonished that Howell’s name is not better known.’   John Greening, The Poetry Review


‘…Curiously strong.’ John Ashbery, The PN Review


‘It is possible to overstress the similarities between one writer and another.  Howell, however, courts such an approach - not because he is an emulator, rather that he is an eclectic original’ – Peter Reading, The Times Literary Supplement


From Inside: Anthony Howell

The High Windows Press, 72 Welholme Avenue, Grimsby DN32 0BP. 102 pages, perfect bound.

£9.95. ISBN 9781326741334

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.





Review by Andy Hickmott in THE JOURNAL #52, September 2017


This is Anthony Howell’s nineteenth poetry collection, so he’s got form. That throwaway sub-clause is apt: Howell taught in prisons until, according to the blurb, the authorities saw what he was encouraging the convicts to write. Evidently From Inside draws on this experience: ‘there are lines here which may have lost touch with decency’ (ibid). For example, in ‘Dues’ Howell has the poem’s speaker protest, ‘whether that time in Manilla / Could be construed as a rape, I mean / Technically speaking.’ Or this from ‘Cuntaholic’:


Just want to goggle at bottoms and fronts

In knickers or not, all hairy or bare,

And masturbate ad infinitum. Hate

Being without an aching, do-it-myself erection.


I’m sure many will be offput. But note the subtlety of that line break after ‘Hate,’ how the speaker is made to self-castigate. I want to dispel any impression that this collection, though sometimes sordid, lacks artistry and poetic command. From the first it oozes style e.g., this from ‘Homily’:


Who will pity the charmer who is bitten with a serpent?

Though the need be urgent,

Nobody at all.

Isn’t this akin to throwing stones

When glass comprises your external wall?


There is much to commend. In fact, I would say the collection’s biggest flaw is not its moral equivocation but its tendency towards polemic. Its centrepiece, a 215-line poem ‘My Part in the Downfall of Everything (A Satire on Deceit),’ ends: Understanding that others stoke divisiveness, / And harems aren’t laid on for one in Paradise.’ Subtle, eh? Or there’s this (from ‘Terror and Tyranny’):


We hear a lot about terror.

Nobody talks about tyranny these days.

Isn’t cool to refer to it.

Or we get opinions mired in bullshit...


Howell is a fine stylist with much he wants to say, but, it seems, only a sledgehammer with which to say it. Nonetheless, From Inside is a provocation worth breaking out.

Review by Andy Hickmott in THE JOURNAL #52, September 2017