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Reviews as it is by its unchosen encounters.

A double volume in two parts, Toxicon & Arachne is like a Möbius strip with two twists or sides that darkly mirror each other unequally, pushand-pull. Tox i co n opens with ‘Detonator’, which serves as an epigraph or hole to fall into and is followed by ‘Ars Poetica’, an overview of sorts of McSweeney’s radical vision of a (necro)poetics – of which more shortly. Tox i co n is devoted among other things to the tuberculosis bacterium that killed Keats and toxic gestation, drilling deep down inside as well as outwards. Prefaced by ‘Terminator’, the second part, Arachne, is a set of (at times) more direct meditations adjacent to and encircling the death of the poet’s third daughter in early infancy. McSweeney has spoken of how, aft er Arachne’s death, the preoccupations in Tox i co n became prophetic to her – and this grim suture, where the future lies in the past, turns the strip back onto itself.

It is diffi cult to descend into Tox i co n without the right accessories or amulets – such as handgrenades, pomegranate seeds – in this case, McSweeney’s concept of the Necropastoral, which is intrinsic to the book and is conceptually scaff olded in her monograph The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults (University of Michigan Press, 2014). To briefly summarise using some of McSweeney’s terms, the Necropastoral is a non-rational, political-aesthetic Hadean zone focused on non-human material processes such as viruses, toxins, weeds. This realm is a deathly, obscene, nonlinear site that irrupts and continually re-emerges in our collapsed ecological time in the Anthropocene, where the past continually collides with the present. A shadow other to Keatsian poeticlyric ideals of aesthetic beauty as a static, pristine, fenced-off Arcadia, the Necropastoral has its own aesthetics: corroded, corrupt, stinking, decayed, obscure, poisonous, wounded, forever-interconnected, the seeping of beings and bodies noisily back out of the earth. In this the Necropastoral is also apocalyptic, redemptive – not in terms of being restorative, but that things literally can’t be wasted or forgotten – they never leave, but circulate, violently, always re-resurrecting in spectacular and exhibitionist ways. Many poems in Toxicon & Arachne refer to murder victims, snuff sites, painful deaths, war, trenches. McSweeney’s gathering and stitching together of so many skeletal fragments also reminds me of writer and Jungian psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ mythical archetype of La Loba, a wolf woman who collects bones

142 The Poetry Review

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