Christopher Howell was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up on an ancestral farm which the city (and Highway 205) has now completely devoured. He was enrolled in the local public schools, and later attended Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, where he began writing poems, originally as a means of understanding poems his coursework required him to read. The first contemporary poet he read with complete enjoyment and understanding was W.D. Snodgrass.
He was a Navy Journalist during the Viet Nam War and afterward earned graduate degrees from Portland State University and the University of Massachusetts, where he read deeply and productively from the work of W.S. Merwin, Galway Kinnell, Robert Bly, and James Wright—poets of the so-called "Deep Image" school. His principal teachers included Henry Carlile, James Tate, Maxine Kumin, and Joseph Langland. He was close to the late William Stafford and learned (and continues to learn) much from him, as well.
About writing itself he has said, "Poetry, for me, is the only means of reconciling the objective, everyday world with the inner life, the ego with the self. In that reconciliation, that enactment, it seems to me very like worship: a humane and primary response. If I felt otherwise, it would not be worth doing."
The most recent of his nine full-length collections of poems are Memory and Heaven (Eastern Washington University Press, 1996), Just Waking (Lost Horse Press, 2003), Light's Ladder (University of Washington Press, 2004), winner of the Washington State Book Award, and Dreamless and Possible: poems New & Selected (University of Washington Press, 2010).
He has received two National Endowment Fellowships, fellowships from the Oregon Arts Commission and the Washington Artist Trust, and three Pushcart Prizes. He was for thirty years principal editor for Lynx House Press, and in 2006, was awarded the Stanley W. Lindberg Award for Editorial Excellence in recognition of this long service.
He has taught at the University of Massachusetts, Portland State University, Colorado State University, Willamette University, Pittsburg State University (Kansas), Whitman College, Emporia State University, and, since 1996, at Eastern Washington University where he is also Director and senior editor for Willow Springs Editions.
Recognizing the need for poetry in our lives, the Oregon Poetic Voices Project (OPV) is a comprehensive digital archive of poetry readings that will complement existing print collections of poetry across the state.
"We each carry lines of poetry with us. Words that others have written float back to us and stay with us, indelibly. We clutch these "life lines" like totems, repeat them as mantras, and summon them for comfort and laughter."
-Academy of American Poets