Dreaming in Red
Howie Good’s latest full-length collection, his fourth, is the first book issued by the online magazine right hand pointing, and it was produced to benefit the Crisis Center in Birmingham, Alabama. 100 percent of the profits, about $5.50 per book, go to support the center’s work, which includes suicide counseling, services to victims of sexual assault, day treatment for the indigent mentally ill, and other services. You can get it through Lulu.com.
Is the book worth reading, though? If you like spare, haunting poems with dystopian themes and a healthy dash of surrealism, absolutely. As with most of the other books I’ve been reading this month, I read it to Rachel over Skype, which was an interesting experience for both of us. While I’ve read many of Howie Good’s books and chapbooks over the years, this was her first — and the first one I’ve read out loud. My pauses were rarely long enough for the full meanings to sink in. It made me appreciate just how much time is required to absorb Howie’s poems.
Rachel admitted to confusion about some of the leaps between stanzas or sections of poems, but said she was impressed by how well the poems captured the sort of everyday paranoia in which we are all enmeshed. As a volunteer at a similar organization to the Crisis Center, she fields phone calls from true paranoiacs and other highly disturbed people on a daily basis, and said she thought the book did a great job of illuminating the very fine line between ordinary thinking and madness.
I doubt the poems were chosen with the Crisis Center in mind; Good just happens to be a very noir-ish poet. Dreaming in Red is an excellent title, though: blood or the color red figure in many of the poems. 20th-century nightmares mingle with 21st-century premonitions of worse to come. “The city is full of smoke, dust, fever, flies, parading and singing and holding banners aloft” (“History is Silent”), and “To get red, you need dust and haze. Pollution makes the sky so beautiful” (“A Walk on the Moon”).
Instead of a standard review, I thought I’d try an imitation of Howie’s style as a kind of homage to this very distinctive poet whose poetry and work ethic are such an inspiration to me. Following that, I’ll embed a video that the Belgian artist Swoon Bildos made for three of the poems in the collection. Enjoy.
after Howie Good
All the clocks have guilty faces because they are being watched by secret police. You show me the new finger you had grafted on in prison, still red and slightly swollen. When we shake hands I feel it twitching spasmodically, a dog dreaming about its previous owner who shot things with it and made it point.
It’s always disconcerting to learn that you’ve been blind from birth, and everything you thought you saw was merely something suggested by the prosecuting attorneys of your better nature. Then again, here on Mars, two colors capture everything. Paradise has been postponed indefinitely due to the shortage of fruit.
The information paradigm followed by the mass media is fundamentally Euclidian, you said. We were cleaning out the rabbit pens with an air compressor. Even the dried blood wanted to fly. The monastery had switched from bells to sirens, so a 3:00 a.m. siren could mean fire, prayer, or both. Time hasn’t been the same since it was used to regulate trains.