A Heart with a Dirty Windshield by Howie Good, Bewrite Books (2010): http://www.bewrite.net/. 114 pages, ISBN: 978-1-906609-47-4
When I first heard the title of Howie Good’s new collection of poetry, A Heart with a Dirty Windshield, many random thoughts raced through my mind. Who would take on this daunting topic, the heart? Who, in one line could create a compelling image that does stand for this impressive collection in its entirety?
Howie Good, that’s who. He’s the author of 21 chapbooks, nominated four times for Pushcart, six times for Best of the Net anthology.
He’s everywhere these days, in print and online zines daily, weekly. Seems you can’t read an issue without coming across this writer’s dazzling wit, immense capacity for inventive work, creative twists and turns.
The new collection is divided into five sections, much like the heart’s four quadrants with that sinewy muscle, septum, right down the middle. The sections are subtitled, the first is “Pain, Sex, and Time.” With Howie’s first poem, “Exit Visa,” he sets the tone for the entire collection. He juxtaposes rich lines:
The sky was the dismal gray of neglect.
A street musician played the same song on his horn over and over.
In the poem “Pig/Iron,” the urgency of first person, present tense, sweeps us into the opening lines:
Up the difficult stairway, it’s the new year, or nearly.
Within the numbered segments (10) of the poem, “Half-Life,” Good takes us through ceaseless transitions of a relationship during war, as if this is a given, and the leaps from line to line, even within sections, are masterful, an entire world within a poem:
You see her sometimes
on the boulevard
of strip malls
and chain motels
dressed all in black
like a crow
or a sad country
As the title of this collection indicates, we are invited to experiences the poet’s heart. A daunting task to pull off without drippy sentimentality, yet Good does so with expertise and panache. The word “heart” appears in no less than half the pages of the collection, it represents character. “Heart” moves in a world inhabited by moon in a fur-trimmed hood, leaves like birthdays, the thud of night smashing into your windshield. In scenes with border police, firemen, peasant girls, bushwackers, Howie’s heart tries to talk directly to the poet:
A dot of blood where the sun should be. “I’ve nothing to say about it
my heart said.”
Good also observes his heart:
My heart attends twice weekly meetings. I accompany it sometimes
for something to do.
Throughout this entire collection, Good negotiates the language of the heart. His poems convey seemingly ruthless backgrounds: degrees of violence, impermanence, transience, the dirty windshield, and infinitely more.
Yet against this backdrop, the poet gives us the tenderness of “another day of me explaining night with my hands.” Or the haunting image of a mother, or love waiting for police to come.