A Postpastoral

Winner of the 2018 Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry

“A girl has two choices: / to be a tree or / to be the forest.” Catechesis combines Grimm fairy tales with horror movies and the Book of Revelation to construct a vision of the dangers and apocalyptic transformations inherent in girlhood. This lyric lore, which includes curious diagrams and collages of the botanical and the anatomical, contains hidden instructions to prepare girls for the hazards ahead.

In retelling lore alongside other Grimm-style stories, the poet turns horror classics The Silence of the Lambs and Alien into macabre fairy tales in their own right. Herein lurks violence and decay, but also a wild, overgrown beauty. Mothers and fathers are as much a part of this treacherous landscape as the carnivorous flora and shape-shifting fauna—and their effects are just as devastating. Framing all of this within biblical language and motifs gives these fabulist poems an ominous sense of urgency. Catechesis is a hybrid collection of textual and visual poems that examine belief and obsession. It explores how beauty leads to danger and danger births another kind of beauty, in a cycle of creation and destruction.

Lindsay Lusby is the author of two previous chapbooks, Blackbird Whitetail Redhand (Porkbelly Press, 2018) and Imago (dancing girl press, 2014), and the winner of the 2015 Fairy Tale Review Poetry Contest. Lusby is assistant director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College, where she serves as assistant editor for the Literary House Press and managing editor for Cherry Tree.

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Praise and Reviews:
“Lusby’s shivery sequence strews a trail of gems through fairy tale’s shadiest, most iconic location—the Forest. We meet our heroine in very unfortunate medias res—under the axe—but which way will fortune tilt? As each lyric spills its elixir, a swarm of dialogue and diagrams, allusions and images cluster like corpse-fauna, rise. Catechesis reminds us that every occult canon, every sweet herbarium is a library of poisons, and invites us to drink deep.”
—Joyelle McSweeney, author of The Red Bird and The Commandrine and Other Poems

“Both raw and beautiful in its rendering of terrors, Catechesis reforms moments of gendered violence into moments of transformation, in a dynamic illustration of Adrienne Rich’s feminist tenet that ‘her wounds came from the same source as her power.’ Lusby’s language is like the ‘flint-strike of tooth on light,’ and this book is ‘such lungspan, / such bright palpitation’ from beginning to end.”
—Sara Eliza Johnson, author of Bone Map

"Lindsay Lusby takes fairytales and horror movies and twists these stories into utterly new creations. Here the Brothers' Grimm 'Maiden without Hands' is a girl who elusively 'prefers to imagine herself a bird' and asserts 'An unhanded bird / is still a bird, / is still worth its weight in breadcrumbs.' Time and again Lusby splinters off from language’s predictable paths: 'If a felled girl falls in a forest, / does it sound // inevitable?' In her collages, as in her poems, there are no barriers between humans, animals, and their environment, which results in eerie butterflies with bones and plants sprouting tooth-blossoms."
—Matthea Harvey, author of If the Tabloids Are True What Are You?


“I find myself so deeply impressed by this book, that I’m a bit speechless. Lusby’s work is both gruesome and lovely. It’s like following a butterfly off of a cliff and then just staring up at the sky as you confront the grim reality that you’re falling to your death. The raw horror and beauty of the pieces of Catechesis are heartrending. This is one of the best poetry books that I’ve read, ever.”
—Jessica Drake-Thomas, This Week I