Howie Good: “Mood Piece”

Mood Piece

Nights back then somehow seemed darker than they do now. I resigned myself to long empty hours of insomnia. Someone said, “Have you been checked out by a psychiatrist recently?” The house across the street from ours was strung with Christmas lights way into the spring. Police treated any outdoor gathering of three or more people as a riot. The latest idea in art was that only when a painter destroyed a painting, scratched it out, was it ready to be seen. A life’s work could just about fit inside a shoebox.

About the Author: Howie Good is a poet and collage artist on Cape Cod. His latest poetry books are Famous Long Ago (Laughing Ronin Press) and The Bad News First (Kung Fu Treachery Press)

Image Credit: Herbert Crowley “A Dark Landscape” Public Domain image courtesy of Artvee

Mike James: “Howie Good’s Path of Most Resistance: An Appreciation”

  

Howie Good’s Path of Most Resistance:

An Appreciation

By Mike James

“It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.”
     - Bob Dylan

During his brilliant and destructive youth, Steve Earle (singer-songwriter extraordinaire) once proclaimed, “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Later, older and sober. Earle recanted such unorthodoxy and admitted that Van Zandt was not as good as the forever mutable Dylan.

What does this story, which sounds almost apocryphal, have to do with the prose poetry of Howie Good? Well, like Steve Earle talking about Van Zandt, Good’s prose poems summon similar hyperbolic and unorthodox statements. In his varied landscapes which encompass the political, the personal, the pop, the historical, and the surreal, Good’s prose poems are unique in American literature. 

Unlike the masterful prose poems of Robert Bly and James Wright, his work is seldom vatic. The characters which occupy his poems believe in horror more than transcendence. The god he comes across is “absorbed in his own thoughts” and acts “like he didn’t believe he ought to exist.”  Within these poems, as in life, the mundane and the awful happen side-by-side. People die or climb a tree to survive, but hope left on a train to an unnamed camp long ago. 

The world Good creates is both visual (he loves to reference painters) and apocalyptic. His work does not re-state the commonplace. A reader will not think, “I have also felt this way.” Instead, Good offers a kaleidoscope view of another reality which often bleeds into our own. 

None of this is to imply that his work is without humor. Good often laughs at himself, but his humor is not like vaudeville. It is like the existential jokes of Steven Wright or the ironic jokes of Franz Kafka or the exit door jokes of the patient in the cancer ward. Even his many book titles like The Bad News First, The Titanic Sails at Dawn, and The Death Row Shuffle display his dark humor. Sometimes Good’s characters laugh until they cry and then they keep crying. 

It’s important to say characters since these poems are occupied by various figures. There’s no self-willed persona in Good’s work as there is in the work of Bukowski and his acolytes. Only the constancy of themes (fear of the unknown, the certainty of pain and death, the cruelty of existence, and the occasional redemption of art) reveal anything about the man behind the writing.  

In his essay, “A Small Note on Prose Poetry”, Good wrote, “All poetry worthy of the name exists in opposition to the churn of mass culture.” The idea of opposition is the force behind Good’s work and aesthetic. He writes as an outsider who makes arguments against the easy and expected.  

Good’s background in journalism gives a clarity to his work even when he seems to take notes from a made up country. Journalism taught him the value of a strong declarative sentence and he is a solid student of the ways a sentence can be shaped.

Good’s outsider status is confirmed in his life and in his poetry. He’s a bit like Alfred Starr Hamilton: tied to no group or school he has few readers and fewer supporters, but many fine poems. His writing career includes approximately 40 books from small and tiny presses in the United States and England, but involves neither a MFA program nor a WPA conference. Since no one told Good what kind of poems he should write, he went off and wrote like no one else. 

Uniqueness is both difficult and rare. Howie Good’s work is not difficult, but it is rare in the quality of the language, the vibrancy of the images, and the challenges of the worldview. What he offers the reader is a tilt-a-whirl ride where the landscape is always changing and where frogs rain in abundance.

For more of Howie Good’s poetry on AIOTB Magazine, check out our archives.

About the Author: Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His most recent book, Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021, was published by Red Hawk in April 2022. Mike’s previous poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog.) 

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Desert Bloom” (2022)

Howie Good: “A Theory of Justice”

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A Theory of Justice

The medical assistant asked in a flat, toneless bureaucratic voice how I would describe the pain. Stabbing? Aching? Sharp? Dull? She entered my answer on the form, but without showing any actual interest in it. A philosopher once said – or should have – that a society is only as just as its treatment of its most vulnerable members: the old, the sick, the poor. Using a dropper, I strategically place .50 milliliters of Triple M tincture under my tongue. I wait fifteen, twenty minutes, and then gray-clad troops burst from the treeline with a rebel yell. The tongue is all muscle.

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About the Author: Howie Good is the author of Failed Haiku, a poetry collection that is the co-winner of the 2021 Grey Book Press Chapbook Contest and scheduled for publication in summer 2022.

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More By Howie Good:

The View from Here

Reason to Believe

People Get Ready

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Image Credit: Howard R Hollem “Transfusion donor bottles, Baxter Lab., Glenview, Ill.” Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Color Photographs. (public domain)

Howie Good: “Red Rosa”

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Red Rosa

In memory of Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919)

She lost a shoe as the political police were dragging her from the Hotel Eden to the waiting car. Lieutenant K. Vogel, the commander of the unit, shouted insults (“Whore!”) and spat at her. She was bleeding from a blow to the head with a rifle butt, but could still see with the eye that didn’t have blood in it. As they pushed her into the back seat, she saw the dark breath of crematoria, Berlin burning, rubble everywhere. Then she passed out. They would take her to the hospital only when they were sure she was already dead.

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About the Author: Howie Good’s latest poetry collection, Gunmetal Sky, is due in February from Thirty West Publishing

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More By Howie Good:

The View from Here

Reason to Believe

People Get Ready

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Image Credit: “Portrait of Rosa Luxemburg in 1910″ Public Domain

Howie Good: “Reason to Believe”

 

 

 

Reason to Believe

By late March, tens of thousands were about to die from the virus. I was sad, so sad. Then the sun would come up and the buds open a little more each day. You could hear the music – the Mister Softee truck was out. You just had to watch for it.

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As I go around town, I see people wearing face masks all wrong, under their noses or even their chins. I don’t want to get into it with them. I just want to get away. Given a choice, I’d live somewhere civilized and safe, somewhere like Switzerland, but without all the cows and glaciers.

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It’s important to pay attention to possible omens. Like the tall weed growing across the street, whose milky white sap is said to relieve pain. Do you have 30 seconds? I swear sometimes it glows.

 

 

 

About the Author: Howie Good is the author of THE DEATH ROW SHUFFLE, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

 

 

More by Howie Good:

People Get Ready

Maiden Voyage

 

 

Image Credit: John Ferrell “Washington, D.C. Good Humor ice cream truck” (1942) The Library of Congress

Howie Good: “People Get Ready”

 

 

 

People Get Ready

Any one of us is every one of us, if you get what I mean. I want to tap this guy and that guy and that woman on the shoulder and tell them, “You can’t be lost in your own world all the time.” But, of course, I won’t. The train is approaching the station, and the degree of courage required to board keeps multiplying. I look at the gray faces of the other travelers skulking about the platform. If they only knew that the same gene that gives birds the ability to sing gives us the ability to speak!

 

 

 

About the Author: Howie Good is the author of THE DEATH ROW SHUFFLE, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

 

More By Howie Good:

The Third Reich of Dreams

Two Prose Poems

 

Image Credit: Jack Delano “Freight train operations on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad between Chicago and Clinton, Iowa. Every time a train is passed, the rear brakeman of each train steps out on the caboose platform, and if all is well, as in this case, gives the other brakeman the high sign” (1943) The Library of Congress.

Howie Good: “The Third Reich of Dreams”

 

 

The Third Reich of Dreams

A professor emeritus was reading in his apartment when the walls around him disappeared. From the street outside, a loudspeaker boomed, “According to the decree of the 17th of this month on the Abolition of Walls. . .” It was now hard to be slow and small. A factory owner had been unable to muster a salute during a visit from the governor-general. He struggled for half an hour to lift his arm, then his backbone just simply broke. Officers pointed a shotgun at his face and an assault rifle at his chest. There was raucous cheering. Banners with the slogan “Public Interest Comes Before Self-Interest” fluttered in endless repetition along a street.

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In place of street signs, posters had been put up on every corner, proclaiming in white letters on a black background the 20 words people weren’t allowed to say. The first was “Lord”; the last was “I.”  About a week later, I was awakened in the middle of the night by the ringing of the telephone. A dull voice said, “This is the Monitoring Office.” I found myself begging and pleading that this one time I be forgiven – please just don’t report anything this one time, don’t pass it on, please just forget it. The voice remained absolutely silent and then hung up without a word, leaving me in agonizing uncertainty. Somehow I finally fell back to sleep. I dreamed that it was forbidden to dream, but I did anyway.

 

Sources:

Neglected Books

The New Yorker

 

About the Author: Howie Good is the author most recently of Stick Figure Opera: 99 100-word Prose Poems from Cajun Mutt Press. He co-edits the online journals Unbroken and UnLost.

 

More by Howie Good:

“Maiden Voyage”

“Spy Culture”

“The Anxiety of Influence”

 

Image Credit: Odilon Redon “Head within an Aureole” (about 1894–1895) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Two Prose Poems By Howie Good

 

 

Flying Coffins

My zayde kept begging me not to leave him there. I tried to reassure him, told him there wasn’t always that great a difference between a funeral and a carnival. Even as I spoke, crows were gathering on the headstones, just a few at first, then maybe a couple of dozen. Child, child, the crows cried, you can’t kill what’s already dead. It got me wondering if sunshine was an overrated virtue. I couldn’t decide one way or the other. Since then, where my dog is, that’s where home is, and that’s not bad, that’s about as good as anything.

 

The Deluge

“By three things is the world sustained,” the rabbi said. Then he asked me, in his morbidly conscientious way, to name at least two that laid end to end would stretch from London to Paris, about 300 miles. While I was working out how to respond, the congregation started to yell, “No! No!” as if there needed to be some sort of machine that could detect all things with value that had been taken by the water. It’s why now when my children hear sounds at night, they think the rain is coming back, and even I’m scared to sleep.

 

About the Author: Howie Good is the author of three recent collections, I’m Not a Robot from Tolsun Books, A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel from Analog Submission Press, and The Titanic Sails at Dawn from Alien Buddha Press.

 

More by Howie Good:

“Maiden Voyage”

“Spy Culture”

“The Anxiety of Influence”

 

Image Credit: Alfred Stieglitz “Equivalent, A3 of Series A1″ (1926)  Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

Two Prose Poems by Howie Good

 

Spy Culture

Just before dawn, the train barreled across the border. My carryall bag on the overhead rack contained an entire set of ant-dreams preserved in amber. Spies lurked everywhere, but, after the train pulled in, I eluded them by frequently changing my facial expressions. Later that day, I traveled by sampan and pedicab to meet my contact, an experienced agent posing as an English nanny. We met in a neighborhood playground beside a tree whose round fruit the children pretended were bombs. At one point I forgot the word “cremated” and had to ask her, “What’s it called – incinerating the body?”

 

The Anxiety of Influence

A banner stretching across the building’s exterior said, What’s Shakin’. You entered through a glass door, walked down a long, dim hallway and up a set of stairs into an area with large windows. The view was constantly changing, and you weren’t always sure what you were looking at or how it was happening. Jack Kerouac berated you for your perceived lack of cool. William Burroughs wouldn’t remove his hat. If you were going to be somewhere, this maybe wasn’t the best place. Many years would pass before anyone would realize that among the 20 most common passwords is “trustno1.”

 

About the Author: Howie Good is the author of three recent collections, I’m Not a Robot from Tolsun Books, A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel from Analog Submission Press, and The Titanic Sails at Dawn from Alien Buddha Press.

 

More by Howie Good:

“Maiden Voyage”

 

Image Credit: Alfred Stieglitz “Rebecca Strand” (1922)  Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

Maiden Voyage

Arthur Brown “Man on Bridge” Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

Maiden Voyage

By Howie Good

 

Maiden Voyage

All things are photographable. Two days ago it was a ruined farmer walking slowly over a country bridge, as if looking for a place to jump. Yesterday it was a man washing a car. Today it was a woman arranging a light-up plastic Jesus in a front yard. Meanwhile, the few children ever visible in this broken part of the world seemed even fewer than usual. Does that surprise you? The only explanation I heard I heard at the barbershop. It was that the Titanic sailed at dawn.

 

About the Author: Howie Good is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize.  His latest collection is I’m Not a Robot from Tolsun Books. He co-edits the journals UnLost and Unbroken  with Dale Wisely.