Controlled Chaos: A Review of Jonathan Aprea’s Dyson Poems

Vacuums are the somewhat surprising subject of Jonathan Aprea’s stunning debut chapbook, Dyson Poems. Aprea, who is also a video artist, created a trailer for the chapbook which features blocks of vacuum commercials appearing in a grid one by one, their audio layering on top of one another as each appears. The effect is one that is mirrored in the book itself: tightly controlled chaos—a description, uncoincidentally, that can also be applied the Dyson vacuum. The beginning lines of “Cyclone,” the first poem in the collection, circle around this idea and could even be read as an ars poetica for the rest of the chapbook:

Dyson draws an object from its center
outward. It prevents the picture’s limits
from dictating the constraints
of the medium and confining him.

Here we meet the character Dyson—James Dyson, presumably, a real inventor who founded the Dyson company, but Aprea makes him his own, as we see in the last lines of the same poem:

But everything
has a border, Dyson thinks.
Even I do. In fact, and he smiles,
I might have more than one
of them. In one specific sense
they are friends to me: I would not
work so hard, if not to destroy them.

There is a magically imaginative element to Aprea’s Dyson as more of him is unveiled throughout the book. “Every Island Fled” stands out as a surprising and humbling love poem, unpunctuated and breathless, ending “and every time he wrote a patent / somehow on the paper a piece of her hair.” Another admirable poem, “Fire Fragment,” includes a moment that nicely echoes back to Dyson smiling in “Cyclone.” Rounding out the triad, as these three poems feel linked in their (mostly) absent punctuation and intimate references to Dyson’s family and friends, is “Dyson 360 Eye Release Party,” which gives us a glass-sharp glimpse into this imagined Dyson’s intimate life: “drinks a little finds his wife’s hand a touch below his shoulders tries to listen to his breathing on the drive home breaks down quiet with his wife her voice and hand his windshield dark except for small points of light.”

At intervals in the book, the characteristic short, rectangularish poems take a pause in lieu of a double spread of untitled poems, which use fragments of lines from other poems within the collection rearranged to manufacture new narratives. These lines cling to opposing sides of the page, swirling as if inside a vacuum. Clever, but also undeniably effective, gleaning new meaning from what’s already there. Aprea shows his chops in Dyson Poems over and over again, and these section markers are a place where he does it with deftness and subtlety: you might not even notice until the last section, when you happen to recognize a line from a previous poem. The surprise of discovery alone is worth the price of admission.



Jessica Poli

Jessica Poli is the author of four chapbooks: 'Canyons' (BatCat Press, 2018), 'Alexia' (Sixth Finch, 2015), 'Glassland' (JMWW, 2014), and 'The Egg Mistress' (Gold Line Press, 2013). Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Southern Indiana Review, and Caketrain, among others. She earned her MFA from Syracuse University, and is pursuing her MA at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is the founder and editor of Birdfeast Magazine and can be found online at

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