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Strange Husbandry by Lorcán Black
Poetry Book Society Recommendation Autumn 2024
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Published 15th July 2024. Available for pre-order.

Lorcán Black’s Strange Husbandry, contrasts modern-day stories of queer passion with older stories from myth and history. Strange Husbandry is rooted in the city of London during the years of the COVID-19 pandemic and the beginning of war in Ukraine, and it is a strange moment in the metropolis characterised by lockdown, missing persons and terror attacks. Black’s world is indeed a place where care is needed, and the quality of care in these poems means acknowledging the pain and precariousness that exist in both personal stories and external conflicts.

Figures from myth offer larger-than-life stories about passion and love, which might teach us something about how we live our lives today. Stories of Circe turning men into pigs, the wily Salome, or Juno having her revenge on Io, channel anger and the instinct for survival, reminding us of the human hurt behind actions that may initially seem morally dubious. Alongside mythical tales are woven modern stories of queer love and passion, pinpointing the joys and difficulties of tending to these relationships in a heteronormative society.

Family appears in the collection, in a poem dedicated to the poet’s sister, or in ‘Louise, No Matter What Happens, I’m Glad I Came with You’, the poet and his mother are compared to the dynamic duo in the movie, Thelma and Louise. In ‘A Poem in the Voice of My Dead Uncle’, the uncle reimagines what being a man might look like: ‘My heart is learning to be a butterfly.’ Compassion for men damaged by a toxic kind of masculinity extends to a broader context too, so ‘Sweetbread’ tells of Ukrainian compassion for a captured Russian boy-soldier, too young to understand the why and how of the violence he has been asked to commit.

The title poem ‘Strange Husbandry’ struggles with jealousy as it depicts a relationship with a lover who continues to keep a sexual partner from the past on the hook. Via a sensuous celebration of queer eroticism, the poem asks the lover not to be cruel, but to adopt a queer husbandry, which means not vanilla monogamy, but a deep, erotic connection.

Without minimising the cruelness and hurt of worlds, modern and historical, Strange Husbandry suggests the possibility nevertheless of a queer quality of care, where we manage our impact and are open to others.

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