Toxicon and Arachne
This virtuosic poetry collection asks: how does the body gestate grief? How does toxicity birth catastrophe?
In Toxicon & 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 & 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.
Formally brilliant, emotionally heartbreaking, and considerably terrifying, this is a stunning work from one of poetry’s most versatile experimentalists.