Review: A Complex Accident of Life by Jessica McHugh

A Complex Accident of Life: Blackout Poetry Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Jessica McHugh
Apokrupha (June 2020)
104 pages; $18.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre

Writing poetry is a tough gig. Trying to put together poems from someone else’s words, even tougher. Putting together personal, meaningful poems from someone else’s words and using their location to make for impactful, visually appealing art seems nigh impossible. So, of course the inimitable Jessica McHugh has done just that.

A Complex Accident of Life takes the original text of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and, through selective deletion, molds those words and ideas into something solely Jess. The resulting poems are sometimes playful, sometimes heartbreaking, and always incisive. Take “A Blessed House” for example. It’s simple and short but cuts right to the heart of our issues of past and poverty.

Not only that, but Jess manages to use the unused space to create wonderful, vivid images of and along with the poems. This is one of those situations where I am going to highly suggest the physical copy, as it has both the altered text pages and the simplified poems side by side; you really want to see the art she has put into this.

A Complex Accident of Life feels just as much like a conversation between writers as it does an independent collection of poems. You can see the themes and ideas of Shelley’s work shining through, but they do not overshadow what McHugh brings to the table. Instead, both shine clearly and work together to create something altogether new and special.

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