Poetry News

Visionary State of Mind: Tracey McTague's Super Natural

By Harriet Staff


Marthe Reed reviews Tracey McTague's first book, Super Natural (Trembling Pillow Press 2013) for HTMLGIANT: "This playful, satiric collection explicitly samples its sources in folklore, myth, and history, even as its subjects are the quotidian world of war, environmental collapse, sex, and children, 'replete with nudie magazines / tarot cards, and dirty jokes.'" Sounds surefire mystic. More:

McTague’s project inherits its impulses from two Modern predecessors or at least shares their attentions: the inebriate, lyrical sound- and word-play of Mina Loy’s Lunar Baedekker, and H.D.’s re-interpretations of mythology and explicit recuperation of cultural history via etymological archeology. McTague’s language is a glorious feast, alliterative impulses spilling one into the next, driving the pulse and power of her arguments forward. Like H.D., McTague draws her reader into the mysteries of words and the freight of history they carry within. As H.D. in Trilogy recuperates the goddess Isis and her virtues of creating and sustaining life, McTague explores the linguistic and folkloric history of a nexus of words central to her own endeavor. As with the title of the middle section of Super Natural, “Ancestor Midden,” McTague digs up the past, citing etymologies, the histories of saints, Levi-Strauss, Sir James Fraser, folklore, and voodoun as she cuts through the stinking ruin of our world—natural, supernatural, societal. Taking up malocchio or the evil eye, the poet integrates the origins of tip and tipple with toasts and drinking, the use of alcohol and other substances to induce altered/visionary states of mind, and the necessity of water to the fertility and survival of animals and plants. McTague excavates the cultural detritus, the debris and deluge of history, calling into question what and how we see.

oracle of disgrace
cat’s eye marble trade
for Mr. Vertigo’s pride

Bartleby’s Wall Street
no way ichiban
platinum all the way
I prefer not to
that couch is my bitch
like if Pound rewrote the Breakfast Club

This midden, charged with signs and meaning, a jumbled, tangled “ruin still made more complete,” its portents “dematerialize in defiance / convinced that twilight was down,” to reveal “rude truths amid chaos.”

Read the full review here.