Review: “My Heart Draws A Rough Map” by Howie Good

My Heart Draws A Rough Map

Howie Good’s new chapbook My Heart Draws A Rough Map is published by Blue Hour Press–“a web-based press offering poetry and lyric prose” online. I assume, therefore, that My Heart Draws A Rough Map falls into the category of lyric prose or possibly prose poetry, but I’m not convinced that these definitions matter that much. What counts is the quality of the work and My Heart Draws A Rough Map is a condensed work of superb quality.

The book consists of nineteen intense sections, each little more than a paragraph in length, interspersed with drawings by Mia Christopher. I’m not a lover of the naïve style that Christopher adopts (although it complements the linguistic style of the book), so I’m not the right person to comment on the artwork. Despite the brevity of the text, however (basically nineteen short prose poems or a single poem of nineteen verses), there is more than enough to keep this reviewer happy.

My Heart Draws A Rough Map is an intimate journey, in both past and present tenses, through the travails of the narrator’s heart. Starting with a train journey, “My heart is riding the train into the city”, the nineteen delicately interlocking segments consider what we assume to be key emotional events in the narrator’s life. Each section is filled with echoes and resonances, created and amplified by beautifully crafted images which also subtly link one segment to another. In a process akin to bat sonar, these accumulated echoes outline the narrator’s broader history, although what we actually see is merely a fleeting essence, a series of brief blurred images glimpsed from the train.

The internal complexity of the work’s structure, with its network of interwoven images, is nicely contrasted by the brevity of the book and the simplicity of its vocabulary. In some ways it is a deceptively easy read, but I found myself re-reading back and forth between sections as the initially disparate elements came together to reveal more fully the past journey of the heart that the narrator is roughly sketching out for us from the distance of the apparently judgemental present:

“Just tell what happened in the order it happened,” my heart blandly advises. I would, but all I can recall at this distance is a car honking for me to come out and the moon being lynched from a lamppost and not enough light.

There are other hints of lawlessness, misdemeanours and moral imperatives “no one follows” and in the end it seems it is not just the moon who is a victim of the crimes of the heart teasingly glimpsed from the train window and in the exquisitely drawn map of the heart’s journey that Howie Good has created here.

My Heart Draws A Rough Map is available to read for free online, here:www.bluehourpress.com.

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J.S.Watts lives and writes in the flatlands of East Anglia. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in a diversity of print and online magazines in Britain and abroad. You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/JSWatts.