Souls of the Labadie Tract finds Susan Howe exploring (or unsettling) one of her favorite domains, the psychic past of America. This time the presiding tutelary geniuses are Jonathan Edwards and Wallace Stevens.
Three long poems interspersed with prose pieces, Souls of the Labadie Tract
takes as its starting point the Labadists, a Utopian Quietest sect that moved from the Netherlands to Cecil County, Maryland in 1684. The community dissolved in 1722. In Souls
Howe is lured by archives and libraries, with their ghosts, cranks, manuscripts and material scraps. Souls of the Labadie Tract
presents Howe with her signature hybrids of poetry and prose, of evocation and refraction. One thread winding through Souls is silken: from the epigraphs of Edwards ("the silkworm is a remarkable type of Christ...") and of Stevens ("the poet makes silk dresses out of worms") to the mulberry tree (food of the silkworms) and the fragment of a wedding dress which ends the book.