Pierce-Arrow takes as its shooting off point the figure of Charles S. Peirce, the allusive late nineteenth-century philosopher-scientist and founder of pragmatism, a man always on the periphery of the academic and social establishments yet intimately conjoined with them by birth and upbringing.
Through Peirce and his wife Juliette, a lady of shadowy antecedents, Howe creates an intriguing nexus that explores the darker, melancholy sides of the fin de siècle Anglo-American intelligentsia. Besides George Meredith and his wife Mary Ellen, Swinburne and his companion Theodore Watts-Dunton are among those who also find a place in the three poem-sequences that comprise the book: Arisbe, The Leisure of the Theory Class, and Rückenfigur. Howe's historical linkings, resonant with the sorrows of love and loss and the tragedies of war, create a compelling canvas of associations. It's the blanks and gaps, she says, that to me actually represent what poetry is-the connections between seemingly unconnected things-as if there is a place and might be a map to thought, when we know there is not.