“Another Good Day Begins: Poems” by Dave Morrison; Soul Finger Press, Camden, Maine, 2022; 54 pages, paperback, $12.95.

I don’t know what the psychologists call it when you wake up in the night believing everything you think, most of it bad, and almost all of it detached from reality. I call it nightspin.

Nightspin runs in never-ending loops, it’ll turn into nightmares if you let it, and it rarely subsides on its own. You have to go out of your way to ghostbust it. One of the most effective ways is to listen to music. It requires some faith, but when you cooperate with it, it’s better than a drug.

This winter when I got into some nightspin, I found a 24/7 classical music radio station whose hosts seemed to already understand the problem. When one night I experienced some slippage in the strength of my concentration on the music, I went another step — to music’s twin sister, poetry. Luckily, I had on my night table a copy of Dave Morrison’s new collection, “Another Good Day Begins,” which I knew would work because Morrison’s poetry has worked before, and because this particular book is about the very problem itself. Morrison calls it “Soul Fever”:


works like this: small aches, a

twinge of loss, a pang of unsatisfied


hunger, a stiffness in your spine.

You begin to lose your balance, you

see things out of the corner of your

eye and grow suspicious, you

hear snatches of conversations

mostly concerning what a


disappointment you are. …

You begin to have bad dreams

that don’t stop when you wake up.

People begin turning against you

because they resent something

you don’t remember doing. …


Your stomach is like a washing

machine filled with angry


Everything is wrong, or soon

will be …



In this poem, the fever breaks of its own accord — “thank God.” But as you might infer from the title, the book itself is in large part about soul fever countermeasures. The opening poem, “Harvest Moon,” sets the subject matter: “when something perfect and / effortless occurs, you / take it, and hold it.”

There are a number of poems about people trapped in dreams, which is perilously close to the same thing as nightspin. “Does She Dream?” is about an old woman in her own sleeping world. “Wake Up” is about a younger woman whose sinister dreams carry over into day. “The Ballad of Bill Frisell” is about the jazz musician, who feels his whole life has been a nightmare of failure. These poems are about the shadows. Other poems show that where there are shadows, there is light.

“Good Day” runs through a disabled man’s stream of consciousness balancing negative with positive (“It was a beautiful day for / the races, he thought, even / though he’d never been to / the track and had no intention / of going”). “Animals” suggests that the chronic heartbreak of life is alleviated when we stop thinking of ourselves as special superior beings—“it’s easier to bear” that way. The title poem itself begins: “The dream ends, which is fine,” then goes on to detail the main character’s day in which he recognizes he’s “bombarded with quiet / miracles, starting with each breath / in and each breath out” (another ghostbusting method).

All the explicit “messages” of these poems speak comfortably to a theme. But as everyone knows, advice and commiseration by themselves are nice but almost useless against the worst aggressions of the psyche. The power of these poems lies not in the meaning of the words, but in the part that speaks like music. What one of the radio hosts called magic—the energy that carries through music as intangible meaning, one of whose inexplicable effects is to heal maladies like nightspin. Dave Morrison’s ability to channel this kind of energy through his poetry has few parallels in Maine letters. This is partly because he has the skills of a literal rock musician from his youth, but mainly because his poetic voice so clearly carries whatever that kind of meaning is that soothes the savage breast.

“When the music hits, you feel no pain,” was reggae genius Bob Marley’s way of crystallizing this cosmic truth. When I opened Dave Morrison’s book, it set me free.

Dave Morrison lives in Camden where he manages the opera house. He is the author of 17 collections of poetry,  innumerable inspiring rock and roll riffs, and at least two novels. “Another Good Day Begins” is available through midcoast and online bookstores.

Morrison will be giving a Poetry Rocks Happy Hour performance starting at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 16, at 40 Paper bistro in Camden.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first Friday of each month. Dana Wilde is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Contact him at dwilde.offradar@gmail.com.

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