Review of T.A. Noonan's Petticoat Government


Petticoat Government
by T.A. Noonan
Gold Wake Press, 2011.
Paperback: 80 pages
ISBN: 978-0982630945

In her latest book Petticoat Government, T.A. Noonan positions a seemingly personal account of her exploration into Wicca in her essay, “The Trouble with Correspondence,” alongside several poems which address body image and esteem issues specific to the female experience. The poetry creates interest and tension by vacillating between accounts of anxiety and self-acceptance. While many of the poems address seemingly personal topics, they do not sacrifice art for theme. This work holds lines heavy with meaning and as artfully written as “I am one so thick-fingered that I miss the keys; / my throat one thick, guttural vowel” from “The History of Thick.” In another poem “Mariko no jirenma,” Noonan conveys a similar sentiment in the lines, “Everything I know about language / I learned from the slim backs of other girls” and “—& my name’s fat syllabic chunks / etched in every saucer.”

These poems move from real-seeming life content to translation to fantasy realism to fictional accounts of celebrity—all linked by the theme of the feminine archetype that combats normative female stereotypes. Yet the work also contains many surprising, funny lines which provide a sort of comic relief in a largely serious book. The following is an example from “Dorothy Hamill’s Guide to Practical Demonology.”

In winter, he recites Shakespeare
(“And if my legs were two such riding-rods . . .”)
as his wife shouts into her rosetone cell.
(“Daddy, send me a harem and a sheaf of villanelles!”)

Petticoat Government contains inventive language within provocative poetry. It challenges the reader’s concept of femininity and offers multiple alternate definitions.