With increasing momentum, it seems, Alexandra Naughton is making a big and bigger brand name for herself. With three chapbooks coming out this year alone, Naughton is a powerful force. The first of these chapbooks to be released is my posey taste like, which is of course available from CA Mullins’ Bottlecap Press. Naughton’s chapbook of poesy is just as powerful as Naughton is. These poems pulse with an electrical charge of life and individuality, with some kind of feeling akin to love, but maybe it’s too soon to use the term ‘love’. As Naughton cold presses these poems, the nutritionally thematic elements are condensed and highlighted. There’s lots of repetition throughout the poems and within each poem, thereby concretely solidifying the chapbook’s sense of ‘wholeness’. One central theme is the crisp presence of a longed-for “you,” occasionally referred to as “honey” in a certain sequence of poems, as well as, of course, the ever-eternal theme of desiring human love. Naughton’s mixture of repetition, words of longing, and rap-inspired odes to showcase feelings of love, infatuation, and desire, as well as heartsickness, melancholy, and sober realizations, make my posey taste like travel through the emotional landscape of love and relationships.
Alexandra’s chapbook opener is the first of several which seem to be rap-inspired odes of love to someone referred to as “honey.” The rap-like quality is most evident due to the use of rhyme, although Naughton interestingly avoids utilizing line breaks, unless it is absolutely necessary; not just in this poem, but throughout the whole chapbook. In this instance, the final, rhyme-scheme-breaking line represents that the persona cannot quite or does not want to or is, perhaps, unable to label their feelings for the bath-soaking “honey.” Alexandra’s second poem is filled with the ache of desire and longs for the presence of a petite ami while maintaining a status of near-complete singlehood. After all, if the persona is “like a queen on a throne,” then it is only fitting for a queen to be terribly lonesome, isolated upon an opulent chair and, thus, terribly desirous of the closeness of one other human being, someone who can be close enough to wrap their “thick limbs around me some times.” But this is often the case of these poems. Throughout the chapbook, there are ever-continuous thoughts of “you,” of “honey,” of a beloved who makes the chapbook a flustered testament to the emotions of desire, as well as a melancholic dirge for the feelings of entrapment caused by fixation upon another. Shy and timid attractions are expressed back and forth in the poem beginning “sitting by the pool…,” although neither party is willing to be too bold about their feelings. In the subsequent bottling of bubbling desire by either party’s unwillingness to express their feelings and thoughts, the external world finds a way to release this pent up energy, manifesting as “the pool filter started spitting.” The following poem is another of the rap-esque rhyming poems, but, building upon the seeds sown in the previous offering, there is more uncertainty, more hesitation in the persona, now that “honey” has definitely entered the mix.
It is interesting to note that Alexandra’s poetry is quite often quite short and/or makes rapid, orbital, and/or elliptical use of repetition. Despite length, the central theme of each poem, and the heart of my posey taste like, is “you”/“honey,” the persona’s beloved. Although the poems remain uniformly focused upon the beloved, repetition, by contrast, is capable of functioning as both an asset and a hindrance, as both an encouraging force and a vicious negative cycle for the persona. The use of repetition renders much of Naughton’s poetry comfortably ambiguous. For the poem beginning “you it’s all ways you…,” many of the tiny phrases which are focused upon “you” are similar to or repetitions of lines spoken or sung in films or songs, which thereby broadens the poem’s thematic index and therefore charges each tiny phrase with a power of its own, thus obviating punctuation. But repetitious, ambiguous, or neither, Naughton’s poetry is infused with intense emotional analysis. In the poem beginning “his choke stained heart…,” there is deep inner sadness and worry, marked by acknowledgement of time’s inevitable cut, which manufactures inevitable change, which is, for the persona, rather intolerable, like water seeping into roadway cracks, freezing, expanding, and breaking apart humanity’s toils (but also, blessedly, their inner turmoil). Despite the persona’s attempt at moving forward with an ordinary life, Naughton’s poetry builds upon the mundane daily activities to reveal the heart of the matter: the absence of one who is deeply cared for is emotionally and mentally tempestuous, so much so that, in many ways, solitude is viewed as an attractive alternative. The third of the “honey”-featured rap-like poems plays upon this pensive realm by dwelling in uneasiness, borne from lack of love, loss of love, both, or, perhaps, something else, primarily evidenced by the persona’s orange soda-flavored anxiety and additional feeling of “being burned alive” while “honey” watches.
By the halfway point, the chapbook is firmly within the realm of pensive worry and overshadowing sadness. Like an unfortunate worm squirming on the rain-strewn sidewalk, the persona has been lulled into a false sense of safety. The sense of uneasiness increases as the persona must fight to find satisfaction, happiness, contentedness with the beloved, even though the beloved does not appear to provide any of those things. Thusly, the persona claims the beloved holds the power to maintain or undo whatever this relationship is, which places the persona in an angle of having been snared. Either despite or because of this near-helpless feeling, the persona does, at times, declare and proclaim independence and self-worth, particularly as healthy responses to the reality of dejectedness. Though life may be difficult and turmoil abounds, the person vows to maintain a unique sense of self (via the use of the term “my soul”) regardless of bodily disasters. The fourth and final rap-inspired ode to “honey” has fulfilled the dark realization of an unhealthy relationship. If the “honey” of these rap-odes is meant to be a singular person, these four poems speak of the bond formed by these two individuals, although this final installment serves as a testament to the complete breakdown of their relationship, a breakdown which is laid out and covered during the remaining poems of the chapbook. Taking a tone of near defeat, the chapbook’s persona fails to maintain a healthy sense of self with and love for the beloved, which causes the persona to experience frustration and anxiety.
Alexandra Naughton’s my posey taste like laments the reality that, without desire, there is nothing to live for. A prime example of this theme is the mention and eventual analysis of nightly partying. First mentioned in the chapbook’s third, richly repetitious poem, Naughton elliptically returns to this party lifestyle in order to examine it. The events of a typical evening are laid out in the poem beginning “she and i go out…” Despite the ambiguous relationship, the poem makes it clear that the persona feels something lacking, although this aching for something else, something more, is only slyly hinted at. Indeed, the persona often seeks and requires love and compassion from the beloved, from “honey,” from someone very special. This desire is elegantly expressed as the persona feeling “like something you left in the house and remembered later;” like forgotten but necessary items, the persona often feels overlooked, despite possessing vital importance. But by the chapbook’s end, the persona has realized and accepted that things are not going to work out satisfactorily. For the persona, there is a new understanding that it is perhaps better to undo whatever it was that they were. Truths have been reached and sober acceptance of those truths has overtaken happy feelings of infatuation, but, as it is the truth, neither party seems particularly distraught or depressed by their parting.
The closing poem, appropriately in keeping with the progression of the chapbook, is soberly somber. In this instance, the persona takes the time to examine the self, to analysis how they have changed after finishing this emotional journey. If there was not much of a fuss made to prevent this ‘conscious uncoupling’, does the persona desire unhappiness and solitude? If so, does that make for better experiences? or better art? Is that art, which is deemed by peers to be successful, intrinsically good? Or does the high volume of that art (which implies a high volume of unhappy experiences) warrant the labels ‘good’ and ‘successful’? The persona does not quite give an answer, but seems to lean toward a negative interpretation, hinted at by the coda: “hype imitates art.” It is an honestly examined, albeit sadly realized, closing remark for the end of my posey taste like. Alexandra Naughton’s chapbook, therefore, documents the spark and eventual fizzle of a relationship, spanning initial infatuation to eventual separation. What begins as the promise of love and fulfillment ends on a soured note of melancholic reality: things don’t always work out and maybe, just maybe, that is for the best. On this touching but troubling thought, Alexandra Naughton’s my posey taste like leaves the reader firmly fixed within the sober, reflective mentality of the chapbook’s persona.
AUTHOR BIO:: dom schwab is a reader/writer of poetry/prose. dom is gay, GQ w/ no pronoun preference, a vegetarian, and lives in Chicago. dom’s most recent work has appeared in Zoomoozophone Review’s female/non-gender-conforming Issue 5, Boscombe Revolution Issue 3: Revolution & Gender, and JunkYard Kool, an anthology presented by Kool Kids Press.