McHugh Gives Birth to the Monstrous Feminine in New Poetry Collection: A Complex Accident of Life
If I had to pick my top three favorite books of all time, they would be: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson¸ The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Needless to say, I crave and devour Frankenstein adaptations, and my most recent favorite, prior to Jessica McHugh’s release, was Junji Ito’s Frankenstein (which, yes, please go immediately add this to your TBR list!). There’s just something about the story and how it focuses on the lines between humanity and monstrosity that gets me every time, and so when McHugh announced that she would be publishing a collection of blackout poetry titled A Complex Accident of Life, strictly made from Shelley’s lightning rod of a book, I knew that I had to immediately get my hands on it.
Now I’ve been on the writing scene with McHugh for quite some time now, and while I’ve read her prose (shout of to The Green Kangaroos!), I was somewhat a newbie to her poetry. Having said that, I love the energy and emotion that she forever brings to her novels and to her general outlook about the horror/weird genres, so I was excited to see what she did with Shelley’s work, and my god, I was not disappointed.
When it comes to the poetry I’ve read so far this year, McHugh’s collection is a standout favorite, hands down. I could not stop reading this beautiful, haunting, seductive book, and I would gladly paper the walls of my house with her blackout poetry if my husband and I didn’t already fight about me turning our home into a witchy, horror hovel.
A few favorites of mine were:
· “A Girl of Twenty”;
· “Restrained but Firm”;
· “Expected Disciple”;
· “A Solitary Chamber; and
· “Bent Branches.”
“Bent Branches,” probably my favorite poem and blackout portrayal in the entire book, has a little bit of everything thematically that I love to see tackled in horror and in literature in general. This is a piece that speaks to the entirety of the collection because it talks about the beautiful grotesque, violence against women, strength and empowerment, sexuality, and the sadistic and masochistic thirst for power. I loved experiencing these short, emotionally packed, image-forward pieces that dissected womanhood, the complex nature of gender and sexuality, as well as the forever changing definition surrounding what constitutes a monster.
As an added intellectual tease, McHugh, much like Shelly, incorporates a fair amount of philosophical discourse into her poems that not only stares down the abyss, but dares it to stare back at her. I loved the Nietzschean and Burkean vibes that were filtered throughout, forever commenting on aspects of nihilism and the sublime, and I have no doubt that Mary Shelley is clapping in her grave somewhere, overjoyed and excited about how Frankenstein was turned into and adapted into such a wonderful collection that evoked the monstrous feminine in a way that gives credit, support, and love to every mother of horror out there.
I give this book 5/5 lightning bolts.