Acclaimed poet Patricia Lockwood had an unusual childhood in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and discovered a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the man who would later become Pope Benedict – despite already having a wife and children.
Lockwood interweaves emblematic moments from her childhood and adolescence – from an ill-fated family hunting trip and an abortion clinic sit-in where her father was arrested to her involvement in a cult-like Catholic youth group – with scenes that chronicle the eight-month adventure she and her husband had in her parents’ household after a decade of living on their own. She details her education of a seminarian who is also living at the rectory, tries to explain Catholicism to her husband, who is mystified by its bloodthirstiness and arcane laws, and encounters a mysterious substance on a hotel bed with her mother.
Pivoting from the raunchy to the sublime, from the comic to the deeply serious, she paints an unforgettable portrait of a deeply odd religious upbringing, discussing issues of belief, belonging and personhood and exploring how one balances a hard-won identity with the weight of family and tradition.
Image credit: Grep Hoax