Toxicon and Arachne

Toxicon and Arachne

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Author: Joyelle McSweeney

Publisher: Nightboat Books (2020)

In Toxicon and Arachne, McSweeney allows the lyric to course through her like a toxin, producing a quiver of lyrics like poisoned arrows. Toxicon was written in anticipation of the birth of McSweeney’s daughter, Arachne. But when Arachne was born sick, lived briefly, and then died, McSweeney unexpectedly endured a second inundation of lyricism, which would become the poems in Arachne, this time spun with grief. Toxicon and Arachne is the culmination of eight years of engagement with lyric under a regime of global and personal catastrophes.

"Unequivocally, these poems build their right relation with the truth of the matter and the fact of suffering—where the speaker must go, with 'cerements,' into how 'am epigenetic / code remembers trauma.' I am in deep awe of the resilience found in these pages, and the enduring strength and clarity these poems expel forth."

"Grief and anger, too, spiral here, with snarl and venom that may stun none who know this searing, delirious, furious poet’s work. Yet, in the seething Toxicon and Arachne, McSweeney wields her wildest knife while making public her arcing, her aching cuts of deep and private mourning without blinking. It’s stupefying."

Douglas Kearney