cover image Toxicon and Arachne

Toxicon and Arachne

Joyelle McSweeney. Nightboat, $16.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-64362-018-3

The psychologically rich latest from McSweeney (The Commandrine and Other Poems) is haunted by an excruciating event that is alluded to throughout but only briefly described. With references to a toxifying Earth filled with weapons of war, drones, and digital overstimulation, McSweeney presents the loss of a child to a public facing the end of the world. In doing so, the internal and the external calamities echo each other, allowing a plethora of lyric forms (short and long poems, sonnets, villanelles) to cast mourning rites for her child, for the planet, and for life itself: “a plastic jug rides a current with something like the determination/ that creases mine own brow/ as I attempt to burn my lunch off/ the determination of garbage/ riding for its drain/ hey-nonny it’s spring/ and everything wears a crown/ as it rides its thick doom to its noplace.” Formally brilliant, emotionally heartbreaking, and considerably terrifying, this is a stunning work from one of poetry’s most versatile experimentalists. (Apr.)