cover image Trafficke


Susan Tichy. Ahsahta (SPD, dist.), $22 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-934103-60-9

Descended from "the Maryland Magruders, who, like all their landed neighbors, craved aristocratic distinction," Tichy (Gallowglass) traces those roots and considers their consequences in this amply researched work of verse and prose. Family legend connects her to the MacGregors, a daring clan outlawed by Scotland's King James VI (England's James I); pellucid pages record Tichy's moments in Scotland at historical sites, imagining and sometimes debunking genealogical myths. Most of the volume, though, tracks other kinds of discoveries: medieval Scottish history and balladry; the founding of Maryland as a Catholic colony; early interactions between Maryland colonists and native peoples; and the colony's transformation into a plantation economy and a slave state. Each gives rise to fragments of verse and page-long lists mingled with informational prose. "Kinship is vertical," Tichy writes "a trellis of writing, pruned and trained, with white spaces, mended"%E2%80%94an apt description of her own work. Tichy concludes with lyrical paragraphs about her conflicted relation to her past: "I wanted to bury myself, but the poor old castle had fallen down." Readers without an interest in genealogy may feel overwhelmed by all the data in a book that is as much a genealogical quest as a poetic project: conversely, anyone interested in inheritance may find much to learn and remember. (Mar.)