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Joyelle McSweeney is the author of eight genre-crossing books, from her debut volume The Red Bird which inaugurated the Fence Modern Poets Series in 2002 to her influential work of Decadent ecopoetics, The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults in 2015. She has written lyric prose, verse plays, Gothic tales and absurdist farces and is interested in hyperdiction, anachronism, and the uncanny prerogatives of Sound and Art, including the political force of non-compliance in all its manifestations. With Johannes Goeransson, she founded the internationalist press Action Books and teaches at the MFA program at Notre Dame. She lives in South Bend, Indiana.
"Joyelle McSweeney is a poet with a vocation-a calling to the
world. What is given her (the vocation) is to make others see what
is given her to see."-Allen Grossman
"The kamikaze fantasy arises, like everything in this frightening and brilliant book, not from a pleasant 'brainstorm' but from the animal reflexes of the 'brainstem.' The defeat is total: a rout, a blowout. Now that the tables have been permanently turned, 'the popsong plays' on 'the toy turntable' in the nursery and also-you can hear the faint pun-'in eternity.'"-Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker "McSweeney is much more formally inclined - the book contains a crown of sonnets and two sestinas, perhaps the only good sestinas I've ever read. In the free verse poems too, sound and rhythm are the governing principles, with deeper connections almost feeling like a bonus to the surface pleasure of the sonic riffing... At their most disorderly, McSweeney's poems highlight errors of history, genetics and luck - and that contemporary feeling of being in the wrong timeline."-Elisa Gabbert, The New York Times "Formally brilliant, emotionally heartbreaking, and considerably terrifying, this is a stunning work from one of poetry's most versatile experimentalists."-Publishers Weekly Starred Review "McSweeney remains clever, far cleverer than I, but by the end of this masterful double-text in which even the unequal parts seem appropriate to staggering grief any sensitive reader should feel as if they've shared in the poet's singular struggle: that of finding some form, some phrase, that might convey what's inconceivable."-John Domini, The Brooklyn Rail "Joyelle McSweeney's Toxicon and Arachne, published by Nightboat a month into America's fight against the novel coronavirus, depicts a world of chemical spills and pestilence."-Keziah Weir, Vanity Fair "McSweeney is one of our most dynamic poets of theme, mood, and syntax, and this new paired collection unifies those ranges in a most powerful fashion."-Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions "Arachne subverts and elaborates upon Toxicon. Toxicon sharpens the cuts of Arachne. With these two texts-this book, Toxicon and Arachne-Joyelle McSweeney has created a work of incredible honesty, exploring suffering and trauma through the lens of the necropastoral. This landscape of moss and bugs and dilapidation."-Mike Corrao, Empty Mirror "'Each thought strikes my brain / like the spirals of a ham,' keens Joyelle McSweeney late in this vertiginous book's waking nightsweat. Meat cut thus summons the cycles of violence that aggrieve the poet's mind, chiming with the sonic associations that ring through Toxicon & Arachne's textual-psyche, coming to signify, for me, culpability in systems of gross brutality. We breathe to euphonize, thus we conspire. Reader, that grief and anger are rendered here, entangled with such snarl and venom may stun none who know this searing, delirious, furious poet's work. Still. In this seething collection, McSweeney, wields her wildest knife while making public her arcing, aching cuts of deep and private mourning without blinking. It's stupefying."-Douglas Kearney "McSweeney treats words, like images, as instances of their precise contents rather than symbolic references."-Matthew Henriksen "Joyelle McSweeney's Toxicon and Arachne is a very remarkable book. She deals with a vast array of the physical and spiritual, without ever succumbing to the tired cliches of our current stale poetry scene. The book beggars all description, but its own incredible inventions, both lyric and tragic (and much else). All otherhow and otherwho...."-Mac Wellman "I've never read anything by Joyelle McSweeney that wasn't totally exciting. She's one of the most interesting people working now in terms of the forms she uses, and she's extremely deft, and playful, and yet the stuff that's going on, content-wise, is really super-smart, and has really good politics and stuff. I just find her a thrilling font of new stuff."-Dennis Cooper "Unequivocally, these poem's build their right relation with the truth of the matter and the fact of suffering--where the speaker must go, with 'with cerements,' into how 'an epigenetic/code remembers trauma.' McSweeney recalls, remembers and remembers again, and lets the poem examine how to 'live in shame/as blood floods the vaulted chasm' in order to look at the poem's points of survival and how they turn to speak to anguish. I am in deep awe of the resilience found in these pages, and the enduring strength and clarity these poems expel forth."-Prageeta Sharma "She has managed very brilliantly and bravely to risk a greater openness to dread and to maintain as much control of it as an animal trainer had better with leopards. I am saying Toxicon is a major book."-Cal Bedient, Lana Turner