TOXICON & ARACHNE is a a raw, personal and indelible double volume of extraordinary lyric poetry, at once thrilling and sinister, by 'one of poetry's most versatile experimentalists' (Publisher's Weekly)
'The power of McSweeney's work cannot be separated from its association with forms of oracle and soothsaying, and so it is uncanny that it should arrive in the middle of a global pandemic... Frightening and brilliant' Dan Chiasson, New Yorker
How does the body gestate grief? How does toxicity birth catastrophe?
In the months leading up to her daughter Arachne's birth, US poet Joyelle McSweeney set out to write a quiver of poems like a quiver of poison arrows: formally and sonically virtuosic, laced with the poet's obsessive concerns with contamination, decay and the sublime, featuring a crown of 'toxic sonnets' for the tuberculosis bacterium that killed Keats. But when Arachne was born with an unexpected birth defect, lived briefly and died, the poet was visited by a second welter of poems, odes of love, grief, perplexity and rage. These two books, Toxicon & Arachne, form a double collection of poems weighing love, grief, art and survival in increasingly toxic days.
Toxicon & Arachne is the culmination of eight years of engagement with lyric under a regime of global and personal catastrophes.
The power of McSweeney's work cannot be separated from its association with forms of oracle and soothsaying, and so it is uncanny that it should arrive in the middle of a global pandemic... Frightening and brilliant - New Yorker
Formally brilliant, emotionally heartbreaking, and considerably terrifying, this is a stunning work from one of poetry's most versatile experimentalists - Publishers Weekly Starred Review
McSweeney is one of our most dynamic poets of theme, mood, and syntax, and this new paired collection unifies those ranges in a most powerful fashion - The Millions
I've never read anything by Joyelle McSweeney that wasn't totally exciting. She's one of the most interesting people working now in terms of the forms she uses and she's extremely deft, and playful, and yet the stuff that's going on, content-wise, is really super-smart. Thrilling