All’s Good in the State of Poetry

Among the books that line the shelves of digital media and journalism professor Howie Good’s office are published works of his own. 

On the SUNY New Paltz campus, where he’s been an educator since 1985, he is mainly known for his academic texts. But in what he calls the “small indie press world,” Good is known for a pithier sort of writing.

“I’ve been writing [poetry] since I was 14 or 15,” he said. “Professionally, my academic books are used in classes and cited in other people’s studies, but psychically, emotionally, existentially, I find this more fulfilling.”

Good has been publishing his poetry for 15 years now. He is a frequent contributor to the online magazine Right Hand Pointing, founded by designer Dale Wisely. Though they’ve never met in person, Good and Wisely have collaborated for 10 years on collections, with Good writing the poems and Wisely contributing his illustrations. The duo eventually started their own online publication, White Knuckle Press, where Good selects others’ poems to feature.

But their reach spans beyond the Internet to print. Recently, Good was approached by an England-based publisher, Thunderclap Press, to contribute to the chapbook series “Poetry WTF?!” Naturally, Good brought on Wisely to produce the illustrations. The tiny pamphlet, released early this year, is a collection of found poetry.

Also known as “remixed poetry,” found poetry is a form of writing where the poet takes pieces of text from other sources and reworks them into their own creation.

“It can be a news article, it can be instructions for a washing machine, it can be a recipe,” Good said. “You look at it and you go, ‘Jeez, this is weirdly poetic’ and maybe if I move this here or do this with that, it can be liberated from its original meaning.”

Good’s poems often focus on struggling with identity in a world that is constantly changing. His upcoming book “Hitchhiking Through the Apocalypse,” which will be released later this year by Grey Stone Press, demonstrates these themes. For “Poetry WTF?!” he had to move more outside the box, visiting museums and naming some poems after paintings, true to remixed poetry fashion.

“I had some stuff squirreled away, but I also had to generate material,” he said. “I would consciously go out to find raw material that I could use to shape into a poem, clay that I could sculpt.”

He explained that all texts have a firm, set-in-stone purpose, whether it’s to market, entertain or inform. Remixed poetry rearranges these conventional ideas and “infuses consciousness with something new and challenging, maybe even revolutionary.” The goal of poetry, he insists, is to help people to see things outside the confines of what they are used to.

By these standards, the journalism professor finds poetry not much different than the discipline he teaches. 

“I think good poetry is news,” he said. “It tells you things you need to know. And it can tell it to you in fresh and startling ways.”