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A Tour Through a Sunless Field: McGath's Small Murders Oct 30, 2007
In her debut collection, Small Murders, Carrie McGath has an unflinching engagement with a world of murder, male-female relationships, fetish, plastic surgery, unbridled unapologetic female sexuality and the dark side of art typefied by Egon Schiele, Frida Kahlo and the dollmaker Hans Bellmer. She tills in the literary ground broken by Sylvia Plath, yet McGath is emotionally stronger than Plath as McGath harvests the rank and vital crop that flourishes in a field without sunlight. The poet is careful when leading the reader onto this estate, and she starts her tours into this dark latifundia with familiar objects or images, such as a dashboard virgin bobblehead from Barbados, a scene from an film noir movie, a simple tube of lipstick or a twin bed from a young girl's room.
Most of the collection's poems begin innocently enough, but soon, the weight of human content is permitted to ambush and crush the reader. One moment we are contemplating a woman working as a green grocer; next, we are asked to confront an implacable hummingbird, gorged on radishes, contemplating a more carnivorous diet. This poem, "Rat-Tailed Radishes", makes William Carlos Williams and his ice-box plums seem like a tale from the Walt Disney canon. The poems ooze that familiar oil of our human condition; yet, the experienced reader of poetry cannot help but rub this viscosity between thumb and forefinger as he reads addictively onward.
Delightfully, Small Murders does not wallow in the dregs of failed relationships, one night stands, booty calls and mayhem in the world of dolls. Many of the poems are fun and sarcastic, with witty cloak and dagger allusions to the world of film noir, and these poems are popular when McGath reads to live audiences. After all, even a failed relationship contains hours of clandestine pleasure. As an example, "A Good Nympho Can Get a Lot of Guys Killed" leaves the male reader interested in dating the good nympho personified in the poem, willing to risk the possiblility of a bullet-riddled demise.