Book cover in muted earthy tones. "A complex accident of life. Blackout poetry inspired by Mary SHelly's Frankenstein. Jessica McHugh." A hand made of flowers and flesh.

A Complex Accident of Life is a collection of poetry created by carving out new meaning from the words of Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein.” Author Jessica McHugh accomplished this through one of the most aesthetic forms of poetry I’ve seen yet- blackout poetry.

What is Blackout Poetry?

Blackout poetry is the art of taking a page of existing written work and blocking out all words except those that form the poem the poet wishes to reveal. My fist exposure to this style of poetry was seeing the early pieces of A Complex Accident of Life by McHugh on twitter. It immediately grabbed my attention because of how visual and expressive the style was. And I kept thinking that if a poem could be somehow be a punk rock anarchist and feel classic at the same time it would look like the blackout poetry McHugh was making. When she came out with this collection of poems I couldn’t wait to read them!

If a poem could be a punk rock anarchist- it would look like the blackout poetry by @theJessMcHugh.

On Reading McHugh’s Poetry

Even though I received this book pretty early on, I ended up reading it the same way I do all poetry books- slowly. Though I can whip through novels like a fiend, something about poetry forces me to slow down, savor the words and spend time in between poems thinking about their meaning and how they made me feel. Especially given that I read this on (unironic) day 200 and something of my COVID life, I really enjoyed the slower pace of reading with this. It’s part of why I like poetry. Good poems make you linger and I found myself doing that often with the work in A Complex Accident of Life. But my lingering wasn’t just due to the poetry- it was due to the artistry of the pages. Each page of the book contains one side with the actual scanned page and the other with a typed up version of the poem. Which makes it easier to enjoy the poetry in both of its forms and get more out of the experience.

I love how the pages are blacked out in a variety of ways. Some with black and red, some in aggressive graphite, some in a soft blend of colored pencils. It makes each page completely unique. The effect is fun to explore as you read the book each piece calling up a spectrum of emotion.

Check out the following two poems, Destroyer and Worked Up by Kindness.

Each page has a very different energy.

Destroyer ends up feeling very severe, determined even, where as Worked up by Kindness feels more like a sunset sinking into a sense of gloom. Both poems are enhanced by the artistic expression displayed on the pages. This is a huge part of why I loved reading this book. A Complex Accident of Life is less a collection of poetry and more an art book with poetry as it’s pulse.

“A Complex Accident of Life,” is less a collection of poetry and more an art book with poetry as it’s pulse.

Rating

I fully admit I have a biased opinion. I’ve been a Jessica McHugh stan since hearing her work on The Wicked Library Podcast. With the beauty and inspiration I found in A Complex Accident of Life, I have only strengthened that fan-girl feeling. To anyone looking for an edgy collection of both poetry and art given a classic flair by Mary Shelly’s words, I can’t recommend this book enough.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Where to find the book and it’s author

You can purchase a copy of A Complex Accident of Life on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2K5UBIH. If you purchase a copy through this link, thank you! This is an affiliate link which means Amazon shares a small portion of the sale with me, without any additional cost to you.

You can find Jessica McHugh in the following places:

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