Review of The Midway Iterations by T.A. Noonan (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015)
I love chapbooks that are thematically tight, where each poem makes sense on its own, but becomes even more powerful in the context of its companion poems.
The Midway Iterations by T.A. Noonan is one of the most cohesive chapbooks I have read, even though it incorporates a number of themes and side notes. The title of the chapbook gives you the first clue to this fact. The word "midway" places you in the location of the poems. All of which take place on the road while the speaker is driving through Florida, and the near accident that is one of the focal points of the book occurs at the midway point.
However, the word "iterations" is more significant, as the first poem in the book contains all the epigraphs of the other poems in the book, and themes from the first poem are revisited from different angles.
The fact that the first poem is made up entirely of the 24 subtitles of the other poems contained in The Midway Iterations may seem like a gimmick of some sort. I assure you that it is not. The first poem is very powerful in its own right and the remaining poems suit their subtitles. They also manage to help unpack and explore the very dense first poems.
The titles of all the poems in the book is "M" followed by a number, the number reflecting the order of where the poem appears in the book. The sole exception is the last poem which is titled m followed by the infinity symbol.
One of the poems that stands on its own the best is M2 (// a rag like The Thinker) a list poem that is both witty and thought provoking. I particularly like the opening lines "a sweater like Waterlillies,/ a dryer like Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2".
M6 (// bed to interstate before) is one of my favorites. The poem is short, but each word and line it contains is essential.
slur from bed
to interstate before
birds from their trees
my wheels carve
in oystershell drives
faster than sun
I back down
The poems return over and over again to the event in the title poem, a near tragic car accident, as well as the speaker's bee allergy and love life, the state of Florida and science. These themes weave in and out and some are more significant than others, but are all compelling and give the chapbook a satisfying density, making the book immensely re-readable. I read it three times in as many days before deciding to review it.
Some of my favorite poems are about Florida, even though it is far from my favorite state. The lines "your coasts keep me/never hold me still/I decay lose my/insides as heat" (m20 //as if to say) particularly captures the state in a very visceral way. As does m13 (// that Florida) with the lines "it is gambling for stamps/the dimes in my pockets/for fountains & scratch-offs/it is pretending to be a physicist".
There is also a life outside of the poems that is referenced without explanation or details. The lines "Erin's on the phone again/demanding Swedish meatballs" (m18 // invading) stands out as an example of that larger life as Erin is only mentioned that once and neither Erin or the meatballs are given any context. These references lend a richness to the rest of the poems, makes them seem more real, like a small part of a much larger, very real poetic life.