Noise by Misti Rainwater-Lites
A Poetry Review by Bess N Mobley
For the first reading of Noise, Misti Rainwater-Lites poetry collection, I was sitting outside the movie theater waiting for my film to begin. There were people all around me, but all I could hear was the poet serenading me. I read the lines, I look at the accompanying images, I go back to the poem, and I continue to repeat this process again and again—especially for my favorite pairings.
There are no page numbers or titles. Each spread is a collage image on the left and a poem on the right. The images include things like condoms, silverware, cigarettes, food, bubble wrap, Scrabble tiles, makeup. The poems include themes such as pop culture, personal growth, and mental health.
In my favorite poem, which begins “had the house to myself,” juxtaposes powerful images such as “melted butter like weed,” “zombie like lithium,” “encased in snow white glass like paxil.” The image on the left side contains colorful condoms, a person with a circle around their mouth, plastic silverware on a paper doily, sandwiches, and packs of Golden Lights cigarettes. These images and the words that accompany them don’t seem to match up at first, but looking more closely a rhyme and reason can be gleaned. For me, at least, I think the poem is about what culture says we should do versus what we actually do. It is about existing and thriving in a world we must admit we don’t necessarily feel safe inside.
In “see the thing is,” the narrator says,
“I was starstruck and stupid
and easily impressed
so I put on the red sequins
and said One More Selfie Couldn’t Hurt
and This is The DAY That The Lord HATH MADE”
The accompanying image on the left page includes drawings of two women, which look like they came from a Look magazine from the 60s, a large tube of lipstick, a page that has been scribbled on except for a sentence that has a rectangle drawn around it with the words, “Don’t make customers think!” There is also a broken and chewed up piece of a pencil on the collage. This poem is dripping with dripping with sarcasm and pokes fun at narration and reliability in general. The last lines are:
“I may have been an unreliable narrator
but fuck me running
I wasn’t lying”
and it feels like we can trust these words because they seem so honest. The juxtaposition of an unreliable narrator to a liar is interesting because it brings doubt upon the words and pictures we find ourselves faced with in this collection.
The poems and collage images in Noise are powerful because they are so packed full of cultural meaning. We are at once faced with healing and with the pain a person is healing from. I have carried this collection around with me everywhere I have gone for the last two months. I know I will carry it forever in the place where poetry lives inside of us.