Thursday 17 June 2021

Pattie McCarthy, "wifthing"


Pattie McCarthy is the author of seven books of poetry and over a dozen chapbooks. wifthing (2021) is her sixth book with Apogee Press — previous Apogee books by McCarthy include, most recently, Quiet Book (2016) and Marybones (2012). She is a non-tenure track Associate Professor in the English Department at Temple University, where she teaches Literature and Creative Writing. 

You can read more work by Pattie McCarthy on Creative Writing at Leicester here.

About wifthing

By Susan Howe

Pattie McCarthy's meticulously researched wifthing sequence traverses history's gaps and silences throughout the medieval English vocabularies she has always been drawn to. Beginning with the fourteenth century English mystic Margery Kempe who wrote through spirit dictation, wifthing scours vows of chastity, devotions, pregnant queens, cross-dressing heretics, goodwives, births, daugherthings, boychiks, court records, kaleidoscopic New England witchcraft testimonies. McCarthy's ear is sharp, her eye, demanding and disciplined. Eighty unpunctuated sonnets, both austere and rebellious, are carefully arranged on each page as verbal grid maps through pre- and postmodernity. Small things, various hagiographies, fabric [Latin textus], piecework syntax, 'The goodwyf will call you back.' Through threads and threats of mothering history the intercession of love pardoned and restored with fury and reverence.

Below, you can read three poems from the book.

From wifthing, by Pattie McCarthy


you wolf   what is this cloth that you put on
you strumpet   a dated noun of middle
english unknown origin   not of her
own cunnyng   thou art comyn here to lure
our wifthings from us & whether she means 
with her heart what she does with her mouth   
vernacular patience with ostentatious 
weeping it's a lucky creature escaped the fire
take it in the barn & sound
it out figure it out amongst yourselves
margery kempe gives birth & gives birth & gives
birth & gives birth & gives birth & gives birth &
gives birth & gives birth & gives birth & gives birth
& gives birth & gives birth & gives birth & gives

qweyne wifthing

my daughter asked me how babies are made
I told her they're made when a tudor twice
your age fucks you you've got to lean
into it like a volta or a polska
& like a volta   which elizabeth
the future will dance with leicester     she'll make
it semi-respectable but not dignified
doughter & heyr   keep your dress from flying 
up with your left hand & his right hand firm
beneath your busk his left thigh against your right
a busk is a splinter a stiffening
strip that shifts      the volta should appear here
tastes like something on fire in my mouth
where is his body now   the relict asks


tastes like something on fire in my mouth
I want to live forever whisper
that into your husband's ear tonight abed
my invisible scrutinized midlife
goodwyf body   minivan & tankini
my children say back to me phrases I 
say to them in darkness things fall silent
at dinner you could start an argument
this creature bled for fifty-two days &
the goodwyf body splits up the middle
winged textured like paint two figures
looking at a landscape shoulder to shoulder
facing opposite directions it comes
back to you like this without the word for it

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