(Micro)Chapbook (Micro)Review: Jonterri Gadson's Interruptions
Jonterri Gadson Interruptions MIEL, 2014 Dimensions: 10cm square (cover), 9cm square (text) Binding: staple 12 pages, €5.00
Jonterri Gadson’s Interruptions is the second book in MIEL’s microseries of tiny books—at 10x10cm, about the size of a coaster. What Gadson achieves in this miniature space, however, is quite remarkable; MIEL’s goal of publishing “difficult, interesting, intelligent, deeply felt” work is clearly realized here in three poems that press the brevity of life sharply against bodily experience.
Interruptions is guided by a significant re-framing of what it means to mother, in which physical power is limited by the needs of “each unrelenting mouth” and acts of mothering are complex and thick. Gadson doesn’t romanticize the physical demands of this relationship: the bodies of children have an instinct for destruction and an evolutionary need to consume, “asses that sit on grocery store eggs” and “hands that sever worms.” Still, the speaker addresses them on the grounds of their shared circumstance, the impossibility of responding to impermanence. Gadson writes:
Children, what are we, if not interruptions? Our bodies
impermanent tattoos on the air's broad back. Nothing to stop us from believing even the space after a colon is meant for us.
The poems drive toward a raw empathy for the “interruptions” and toward a new consideration of what it means to sacrifice the body, in which choice does not negate the significance of pain. The long excerpt “Everything Else Requires My Approval” imagines a response to a son’s suicide with lucidity. As the speaker weighs the probability of the specifics, phone calls and notifications, she conveys the urgency of loss with the very human inquiries of the un-lost: where would he have gotten a gun? Would the rational brain be able to process this experience in the moment? The poem’s progression from process to halt is both formally interesting and emotionally resonant, reminiscent of the directness of Natalie Diaz’s poems on addiction.
What if, Gadson posits, we are not only brief, but helpless? What does a mother do, “having been instructed to call his bluff and watch”? The poems in Interruptions raise the best sort of unanswerable questions, and Gadson’s gift is in depicting the complexity of motherhood with a clarity that leaves them unanswered.
Kate Partridge received her MFA in poetry from George Mason University, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Colorado Review, Arts & Letters, Blackbird, and Pleiades. She lives in Anchorage, where she teaches at the University of Alaska Anchorage.