“Dead Souls”: A “conversationalist’s” pro-abortion poem

By Dave Andrusko

Monica McClure

Monica McClure

Editor’s note. My family will be on vacation through the end of this week. I will be posting an occasional new story, but for the most part we will be re-posting columns that ran over the last year. Many will be strictly educational while some will about remind us of notable victories this legislative cycle.

As more and more celebrities and wannabe celebrities share their abortion stories, it becomes more and more difficult to avoid ridiculing the jaw-dropping statements they made. In the echo chambers in which they operate, there is nobody there to tell them how painfully silly they sound.

For example, yesterday we wrote about actress Jemima Kirke, star of “Girls.” She’d shot a Public Service Announcement [!] for the Center for Reproductive Rights, part of the CRR’s “Draw the Line” campaign where celebrities talk about their abortions.

We are to believe that Kirke was so poverty-stricken that when she had her abortion as a college student in 2007 she couldn’t afford the anesthesia. I suppose it could be true, but, if so, what does it say about the local Planned Parenthood?

That if Kirke couldn’t pay the full freight, they would allow her to suffer while they killed her child? Not the kind of PSA PPFA would want broadcast.

Then, I ran across “Poet Monica McClure Boldly Confronts The Problem With How We Discuss Abortion,” an interview conducted by Maddie Crum and Irina Dvalidze with McClure that appeared on the Huffington Post.

My wife is the Phi Beta Kappa English Major, so she, rather than I, can better critique McClure’s abortion poem, “Dead Souls.” While I will make a passing comment or two to the poem, this post will focus primarily on the interview and on her reading of “Dead Souls” which you can see at the same link the story appears.

Reader alert: there is a crude, tasteless ad that flashes on the screen before the reading. Not a big surprise.

In “Dead Souls” you only get a taste of McClure’s deep, deep, DEEP hostility toward organized religion. The poem is filled with many “if only” sentiments, including, “If only my mother wasn’t a Christian.”

In the interview, which reads like a parody of the self-indulgent prattle from our college days we cringe when we remember, McClure assures her interviewers that in the old days (aka Medieval Times), women were organically growing their own abortifacients.

But “During the slow transition to capitalism, the Catholic Church helped the powerful landowners conduct witch hunts so these secrets went way underground and were eventually lost to medicine.” CC [Catholic Church] + C [Capitalism]=disaster for women.

Speaking of the Middle Ages, McClure opines that by and large it was probably better for women. And before we go any further, I didn’t make up the first quote, or this one, or any other ones. This is what McClure actually told Crum and Dvalidze:

You know. The horror of it all continues to our current moment. Everyone likes to compare this right wing faux religious extremist push to medieval times, but I wonder if Medieval times were not better for women. Even though the feudal system was terrible in that it reduced the life of the serf to mere survival, essentially unpaid labor by men and women serfs on their little plot of land was shared, and within the peasant family and community structure men and women were considered equal based on the value of their different but mutually valuable skills. I’m not a Medievalist, but this is generally what the scholarship describes.

So, poorer than dirt, absolutely powerless, bound to the land for life, it was still better than in America (following the Supreme Court’s “Hobby Lobby” decision) because, well, “men and women were considered equal based on the value of their different but mutually valuable skills.”

Let me offer one more example which is too revealing to ignore. Crum and Dvalidze ask McClure “What role do you think outward appearance plays in poetry performance?” A few paragraphs in, McClure opens the throttle:

The myth of the artist, the politicized body of the performer (especially if she’s a woman), and the ways in which art is made by a body are part of the conversation, whether we’re explicit about it or not. For this particular performance, I thought the expectation would be for me to appear youthful, urban, and ultra-feminine so I went with something softer and more generic. I was thinking of angels, which aren’t human but are as anthropomorphized euphemisms for gentle, beautiful women in our culture. The poem is harsh on patriarchal religions and the outfit is soft like an angel. I like the contrast.

I get it. Angels=good. Patriarchal religions=bad.


Crum and Dvalidze tell us “McClure is one of a bevy of young women writers working against the established notion that poetry is a stodgy, predominantly male pursuit. The tone of her work is conversational — even confessional. She says she aims to describe her own views in a relatable way by sharing experiences she’s had, or potentially could’ve had. ‘I study women very closely,’ she said. ‘We study ourselves very closely.’”

Well, “Dead Souls” may be conversational, in a casual, man-hating sort of way, but the interview is as stodgy as any turgid poetry reading by the stuffiest of male professors.

My guess is she didn’t study “Deal Souls” very carefully. Of course, since what she wrote was self-evidently true (at least to McClure), there was no need for a self-criticism or even a tinge of self-doubt.

And, as if it need be added, there is not a syllable that suggests somebody’s life came to an end.

But why would there be? Only a right wing faux religious extremist could believe an acknowledgement would be needed.