Monica Mcclure's new chapbook, Concomitance (Counterpath), is both a laundry list of McClure's own time-consuming preening rituals and a careful celebration of the process of reinvention. She has several lines solely devoted to explaining the lipstick she's wearing, her skin care routine, or debating how to part her hair. Additionally, each poem is named for a city, divulging the connection she feels to them and the effect it has on her beauty routine.
McClure examines the idea of clothing as tangible fiction, comparing fashion to poetry. Just like in poetry, there is both structure and simplicity to fashion, indications about the author and their influences. Both exist only for their own sake. Poetry and fashion alike have a complex history that builds on itself. McClure considers herself like a documentarian, or a critic, peeking into the status and invented status that comes with clothing. Like a Bolshevik theorizing about labor and class, she examines the role of capitalism in poetry and fashion, both marketable yet without a tangible utility.
McClure shifts between deeply personal anecdotes or philosophical musings on gender performity, other times she slips into advertisement-style writing about products. She spends several lines talking about her makeup routine, or the dress she's wearing. Somewhat frustratingly, the references to makeup and fashion seem unending. They gnaw away at the reader, making them search for substance. They remind us of repetition, of the constant and unending effort that must be put into beauty. However, there is also a peacefulness in it. That routine is a means of mediation, of easy and simple nothingness.
This comforting mindlessness is not a new topic. James Wright's famed "Lying in a Hammock at at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" has been widely reviewed, analyzed, and assigned in college poetry classes. He romanticizes the beauty of his friend's farm, even describing horse droppings as "golden stones." His famous closing line "I have wasted my life" indicates his own desire, however temporary, to continue laying there is his own nostalgic oasis.
This is similar to a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, "Archaic Torso of Apollo", where the speaker worships the physical beauty of the a statue, ending his poem with a call, "you must change your life." One poem is a celebration of the therapeutic power of doing nothing, another a fixation on the undeniable power of beauty. In a realm of fiction that has largely ignored women, McClure uses the same lense to take an unglamourous look at the great expenditure of femininity. She marks a new shift in poetry, away from the Greek-nature revival of the 1990s. McClure has a more modern, daring approach — one that strips itself of affected erudition. There is a bravery in her work, being a poet unabashed at her femininity. She treats fashion as a topic worthy of study, instead of an unliterary, unintelligent consequence of civilization.
McClure's work is available in print and ebook through the Counterpath Press website.