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The Good Dark

  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Poetry
  • by: Annie Guthrie
  • Date Published: October 2015
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-936797-59-2
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 55pp
  • Price: $16.95
  • Review by: Melinda Ruth
Annie Guthrie’s first book The Good Dark is a rhythmic journey where darkness occupies the spaces in between silence and belief, morphing into the things needed most: sand, sight, star. Guthrie’s haunting sonic landscape shakes the foundation of belief, and gives darkness a cadence to its face.

The Good Dark, consists only of four poems broken into multiple verses, with each canto inhabiting its own darkness. We begin with “unwitting,” where the darkness enters as a storm: “the world unwound, shut down // thunder, a newly reckoned darkness,” and concludes as “a cave / that begs to be entered.” Immediately, the reader is slammed by internal rhymes that leave them gaping, like an abyss that begs to be filled. “unwitting” chops away the certain, like hammer to pick.

The speaker continues to struggle with faith throughout the book; “I wish I had a soul I could discern / there’d be a river in it.” The soul, which is given to man by God, slowly splits, creating a divide, like a river between speaker and God. The river, however, also connects the soul to other things, like the body and the sea. However:
with vigil, I see outlines
are only choices made by eyes
like a river stepped in by mistake
I think to take you in. 
The split is redefined as blunder, yet the speaker absorbs it nonetheless.

Divided into solos: the gossip, the others, the priest, the oracle, the reader, and the unnamed speaker, “chorus” presents as a manifestation of the disconnect between god and religion, body and mind. “chorus” performs as the visible embodiment of darkness as multifaceted. The gossip acts as a tense conversation between God and speaker; however, God disappears, leaving the speaker in a one sided dialogue that imminently collapses into thought “when she found out she might be the inventor of herself.”

The reader acts as the key to deciphering the speaker’s obscure refrain, where “the spread reveals in threes— / Magician, Star and Liar. // Hands, light, and mouth,” while the oracle foreshadows the unfolding of the coming stanzas: “humble are those made alone.” The others manifest doubt while disrupting belief, drawing the speaker further into darkness. Yet, darkness is not innately bad, as seen in “dusk, grasses wind the hymn / silence is reverence,” and “darkness makes the birds sound otherwise.”

Following “chorus,” the “body” overlaps with nature and its perseverance of life from death. A body dies and another is born, the old is replaced by the new. The “body” ends in darkness, morphing into the curtain that falls over the light, illuminating the growth of doubt:
constellations, a gown
and off again:
[ . . . ] lightspliced
the robes fall, dark. 
Yet the darkness can also represent the triumph of religion over doubt, with the robes closing dark a nod to “the Priest as himself . . . / People in robes feel more walls / so they probably know the openings.”

Attached to the end of “body” is the “epilogue,” which defines the darkness as a thing that “has no end.” Throughout the book, the darkness acts as its own form of foreshadowing, as the darkness entered as a tempest, transmuted into human, and morphed into immortality.

Center in the speaker’s struggle to not divide, is the struggle to recognize the sameness in things, as well as the struggle to not trap oneself in words, as “the difference between fantasy and prayer / is innocence.”

Much like The Good Dark, “the body took the blame / for the deeds of the mind,” becoming a physical manifestation of internal strife. With soul-slicing sounds, The Good Dark is sure to keep you searching for more, where in the end, the darkness “was this kind of human.”
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Review Posted on February 01, 2016 Last modified on February 01, 2016
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