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Joyelle McSweeney, Toxicon & Arachne, Corsair, £10.99, ISBN 9781472156051

Lucy Mercer on wormholes, bacteria and toxic poems


Welcome to hell – you will be dragged into it, you are already in it. Joyelle McSweeney’s Toxicon & Arachne explodes out from and traverses across this catastrophic, militarised, toxic, surreal, plastic, bony realm that foams into everywhere. Unstatic, nonlinear, spooling across exorbitantly large macrocosmic and microscopic material-bacterial-conscious scales, Toxicon & Arachne shows what it is possible to do in poetry that is simply not possible elsewhere. The words uncanny or extraordinary seem the wrong descriptive choices here – it is a frothing “boanmeal” spectacular, it is terrifying. I can’t really convey what it felt like to me, falling into and through its wormholes, except that when I looked up “metacarpals” I found out finger bones extend far deeper into the hand than I thought. Suddenly, what I thought was shielded by a protective layer was in fact squishier, more fragile, horrifying and stranger than I thought. I stared at my own hand unsettled, unable to unsee this new fact. An inability to unsee is perhaps one way of thinking about the trajectory of the poetic vision of this book, barraged

141 The Poetry Review

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