Joyelle McSweeney

Joyelle McSweeney is a poet, prose writer, playwright, critic and publisher. With Tarpaulin Sky Press she has published a baroque noir entitled Nylund, the Sarcographer (2007) as well as a collection of prose, Salamandrine: 8 Gothics (2013). McSweeney’s forthcoming poetry volume, Toxicon, will be published by Nightboat Books in 2019. McSweeney’s other recent books include The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults, a collection of poetics essays proposing a decadent ecopetics for our age of decay (University of Michigan Poets on Poetry Series, 2015); Percussion Grenade, a volume of poems including the infernal verse play, “Contagious Knives” (2012); and the ecopoetic farce Dead Youth, or, the Leaks (Litmus Press, 2014), a denatured version of The Tempest which won of the inaugural Leslie Scalapino Prize for Innovative Women Performance Artists. Her first poetry collection, The Red Bird, was chosen by Allen Grossman to inaugurate the Fence Modern Poets Series in 2002; her second, The Commandrine and Other Poems, featured her first verse play (Fence, 2004). Also published by Fence is her lyric sci-fi novel Flet (Fence, 2008). McSweeney is co-founder and co-publisher of Action Books, an international press for poetry and translation. The press focuses on modern and contemporary works from Latin America, Asia, the US and Europe.

Joyelle McSweeney

Joyelle McSweeney is a poet, prose writer, playwright, critic and publisher. With Tarpaulin Sky Press she has published a baroque noir entitled Nylund, the Sarcographer (2007) as well as a collection of prose, Salamandrine: 8 Gothics (2013). McSweeney’s forthcoming poetry volume, Toxicon, will be published by Nightboat Books in 2019. McSweeney’s other recent books include The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults, a collection of poetics essays proposing a decadent ecopetics for our age of decay (University of Michigan Poets on Poetry Series, 2015); Percussion Grenade, a volume of poems including the infernal verse play, “Contagious Knives” (2012); and the ecopoetic farce Dead Youth, or, the Leaks (Litmus Press, 2014), a denatured version of The Tempest which won of the inaugural Leslie Scalapino Prize for Innovative Women Performance Artists. Her first poetry collection, The Red Bird, was chosen by Allen Grossman to inaugurate the Fence Modern Poets Series in 2002; her second, The Commandrine and Other Poems, featured her first verse play (Fence, 2004). Also published by Fence is her lyric sci-fi novel Flet (Fence, 2008). McSweeney is co-founder and co-publisher of Action Books, an international press for poetry and translation. The press focuses on modern and contemporary works from Latin America, Asia, the US and Europe.

Salamandrine: 8 Gothics
by Joyelle McSweeney

Prose | Parenting | Occult
188 pages. Paperback. 2013

Masquerading as a collection of short fictions, Salamandrine is a channeled text, moonchild, unholy offspring of poetry and Loser Occult. Refracting the dread and isolation of contemporary life through a series of formal/generic lenses, producing a distorted, attenuated, spasmatic experience of time, as accompanies motherhood, Salamandrine renders impossible any thinking in terms of conventional temporalities or even causalities, let alone their narrative effects. Salamandrine is the high magick of art so low it crawls. Like a toddler at a poetry reading. With a taste for achilles heels. Hell-bent on bringing literature itself to its knees.

Salamandrine: 8 Gothics
by Joyelle McSweeney

Prose | Parenting | Occult
188 pages. Paperback. 2013

Masquerading as a collection of short fictions, Salamandrine is a channeled text, moonchild, unholy offspring of poetry and Loser Occult. Refracting the dread and isolation of contemporary life through a series of formal/generic lenses, producing a distorted, attenuated, spasmatic experience of time, as accompanies motherhood, Salamandrine renders impossible any thinking in terms of conventional temporalities or even causalities, let alone their narrative effects. Salamandrine is the high magick of art so low it crawls. Like a toddler at a poetry reading. With a taste for achilles heels. Hell-bent on bringing literature itself to its knees.

The stream of consciousness of an unhinged mother…. McSweeney’s breakneck prose harnesses the throbbing pulse of language itself. (Publishers WeeklySexy teleological apocrypha of motherhood literature, a siren song for those mothers “with no soul to photograph.” (Carmen Giménez Smith, The Brooklyn Rail) McSweeney writes like a synesthete sculpting sound, her sentences cross-wiring and corrupting our senses. It’s as if McSweeney wrote these sinful and sinewy stories with the knife of mad scientist, slicing and resuturing syntax, as prose unexpectedly breaking into verse. (Tasha Matsumoto, Quarterly West)

The stream of consciousness of an unhinged mother…. McSweeney’s breakneck prose harnesses the throbbing pulse of language itself. (Publishers WeeklySexy teleological apocrypha of motherhood literature, a siren song for those mothers “with no soul to photograph.” (Carmen Giménez Smith, The Brooklyn Rail) McSweeney writes like a synesthete sculpting sound, her sentences cross-wiring and corrupting our senses. It’s as if McSweeney wrote these sinful and sinewy stories with the knife of mad scientist, slicing and resuturing syntax, as prose unexpectedly breaking into verse. (Tasha Matsumoto, Quarterly West)

Nylund, The Sarcographer
by Joyelle McSweeney

A Small Press Distribution Bestseller

Novel. 132 pages. Paperback. 2007

Read excerpts in Tarpaulin Sky | Typo Magazine | H_NGM_N | 2nd Avenue Poetry | Fairy Tale Review | /nor

Nylund, the Sarcographer is a baroque noir. Its eponymous protagonist is a loner who tries to comprehend everything from the outside, like a sarcophagus, and with analogously ornate results. The method by which the book was written, and by which Nylund experiences the world, is thus called sarcography. Sarcography is like negative capability on steroids; this ultra-susceptibility entangles Nylund in both a murder plot and a plot regarding his missing sister, Daisy. As the murder plot places Nylund in increasing physical danger, his sensuous memories become more present than the present itself.

Nylund, The Sarcographer
by Joyelle McSweeney

A Small Press Distribution Bestseller

Novel. 132 pages. Paperback. 2007

Read excerpts in Tarpaulin Sky | Typo Magazine | H_NGM_N | 2nd Avenue Poetry | Fairy Tale Review | /nor

Nylund, the Sarcographer is a baroque noir. Its eponymous protagonist is a loner who tries to comprehend everything from the outside, like a sarcophagus, and with analogously ornate results. The method by which the book was written, and by which Nylund experiences the world, is thus called sarcography. Sarcography is like negative capability on steroids; this ultra-susceptibility entangles Nylund in both a murder plot and a plot regarding his missing sister, Daisy. As the murder plot places Nylund in increasing physical danger, his sensuous memories become more present than the present itself.

Flights of campy-cum-lyrical post-Ashberyan prose…. Language dissolves into stream-of-consanguinity post-surrealism and then resolves into a plot again…. Recommended. (Stephen Burt, Harriet) The opposite of boring, an ominous conflagration devouring the bland terrain of conventional realism…. Other than the incomparable Ben Marcus, I’m not sure anyone in contemporary letters can compete with the voracity of ingenuity, complexity, and beauty of McSweeney’s usage. (Christopher Higgs, Bookslut) McSweeney has not only created a unique concept – that of sarcography – she has illustrated it memorably with a masterful redefinition of what constitutes prose, and created a character who is the very embodiment of writing, reminding us of how flexible the narrative form can be. (Cynthia Reeser, New PagesIf Vladimir Nabokov wanted to seduce Nancy Drew, he’d read her Nylund one dark afternoon over teacups of whiskey. Welcome to fiction’s new femme fatale, Joyelle McSweeney. (Kate Bernheimer) If Wallace Stevens had written a novel it might have come close to Joyelle McSweeney’s Nylund, the Sarcographer. But any imagined effort of Mr. Stevens would pale next to Nylund’s journey through the butterflied joinery of syntax, the jerry-rigged joy of this tour de joist. And you thought you knew your own language. This book hands it back to you on a platter and includes the instructional manual for its further use. (Michael Martone)

Flights of campy-cum-lyrical post-Ashberyan prose…. Language dissolves into stream-of-consanguinity post-surrealism and then resolves into a plot again…. Recommended. (Stephen Burt, Harriet) The opposite of boring, an ominous conflagration devouring the bland terrain of conventional realism…. Other than the incomparable Ben Marcus, I’m not sure anyone in contemporary letters can compete with the voracity of ingenuity, complexity, and beauty of McSweeney’s usage. (Christopher Higgs, Bookslut) McSweeney has not only created a unique concept – that of sarcography – she has illustrated it memorably with a masterful redefinition of what constitutes prose, and created a character who is the very embodiment of writing, reminding us of how flexible the narrative form can be. (Cynthia Reeser, New PagesIf Vladimir Nabokov wanted to seduce Nancy Drew, he’d read her Nylund one dark afternoon over teacups of whiskey. Welcome to fiction’s new femme fatale, Joyelle McSweeney. (Kate Bernheimer) If Wallace Stevens had written a novel it might have come close to Joyelle McSweeney’s Nylund, the Sarcographer. But any imagined effort of Mr. Stevens would pale next to Nylund’s journey through the butterflied joinery of syntax, the jerry-rigged joy of this tour de joist. And you thought you knew your own language. This book hands it back to you on a platter and includes the instructional manual for its further use. (Michael Martone)

Joyelle McSweeney in the Media

“An agony of trance”: Joyelle McSweeney interviewed at Fanzine

Joyelle McSweeney: "I realized that the walls and the floors, the soil and the air were toxic, everything that could be seen or touched was poison, everything mankind did made the world worse, just moving around and breathing. It seemed to me that I had been walking in fire. Why had I not known it? Nutriment and poison, protection and hazard, comfort and harm were not binaries but indivisible, each one turning over to reveal its attractively hairy reverse or iridisceing, spiny obverse."

Stockholm International Poetry Festival

TSky Press authors Johannes Göransson and Joyelle McSweeney, along with faves Aase Berg and Lara Glenum, are reading at the Stockholm International Poetry Festival, where this year’s theme is Gurlesque.

Joyelle McSweeney’s Salamandrine reviewed at Quarterly West

"In Joyelle McSweeney’s story collection Salamandrine: 8 Gothics, language commits incest with itself.... Sounds repeat, replicate, and mutate in her sentences, monstrous sentences of aural inbreeding and consangeous consonants, strung out and spinning like the dirtiest double-helix, dizzy with disease...."

Joyelle McSweeney’s Salamandrine reviewed at the Brooklyn Rail

"Biological, morbid, fanatic, surreal, McSweeney’s impulses are to go to the rhetoric of the maternity mythos by evoking the spooky, sinuous syntaxes of the gothic and the cleverly constructed political allegory. Salamandrine can be earnest and apocalyptic, playful and arch, but at its core is the proposition that writing the mother-body is a viscid cage match with language and politics in a declining age.... [T]his collection is the sexy teleological apocrypha of motherhood literature, a siren song for those mothers 'with no soul to photograph.'"

Kind words…

...from Patrick Trotti at JMWW, regarding our three 2013 prose titles, from Claire Donato, Johannes Göransson, and Joyelle McSweeney: "Avant-garde writers of the past are put through a blender topped with equal parts muscle relaxer, speed, acid, and a new, distinct style forcing the reader to down the contents in one giant gulp. It will leave you feeling as though they just went speeding through a backyard makeshift house of mirrors ride that was rigged with no brakes, bending through the maze of tight corners to the point where you can the feel the sharp shards of glass on your forearm if you don’t keep your hand inside the ride that is their minds."

Joyelle McSweeney interviewed at Monkeybicycle

Joyelle McSweeney: "For me motherhood was an apocalypse, a rending of the veil, a rendering of the fail. I nearly died; that was a new thing. I developed a labor complication normally associated with heroin-addicted teenage sex-workers. I bled like crazy and my daughter’s placenta looked like hamburger meat, according to the nurse. A fittingly Midwest simile."

Joyelle McSweeney interviewed by John Madera at Big Other

Joyelle McSweeney: "This book of mine is a war against capitalism through the body of the culturally vaunted (but actually exploited) figure of the mother. Here the mothers are totally undone, desperate, weaponized, vacant, bloodthirsty, deranged, or ingenious as hell. None of them is what you’d call wholesome—and neither is the writing."

Publishers Weekly reviews Joyelle McSweeney’s Salamandrine: 8 Gothics

McSweeney's breakneck prose harnesses the throbbing pulse of language itself and thus eludes any sort of straightforward plot development.... The stream of consciousness of an unhinged mother inhabiting a real or imagined apocalyptic landscape.... Vertiginous.... Denying the reader any orienting poles for the projected reality.

NewPages reviews Joyelle McSweeney’s Nylund, the Sarcographer

At NewPages, Cynthia Reeser reviews Joyelle McSweeney's *Nylund, the Sarcographer* (Tarpaulin Sky Press): "Joyelle McSweeney has not only created a unique concept – that of sarcography – she has illustrated it memorably with a masterful redefinition of what constitutes prose, and created a character who is the very embodiment of writing, reminding us of how flexible the narrative form can be."

At Harriet, Stephen Burt reviews Joyelle McSweeney's Nylund, the Sarcographer

At the Poetry Foundation's Harriet, Stephen Burt reviews Joyelle McSweeney's *Nylund, the Sarcographer* (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2007): "Flights of campy-cum-lyrical post-Ashberyan prose.... The Daisy parts are actually sexy, the murder-mystery parts and the furniture-store bits are genuinely funny, the language dissolves into stream-of-consanguinity post-surrealism and then resolves into a plot again.... It’s recommended"

Joyelle McSweeney interviewed at Prick of the Spindle

At Prick of the Spindle, Cynthia Reeser interviews Joyelle McSweeney (*Nylund, the Sarcographer*, Tarpaulin Sky Press): "Once you put the sarcography in motion as a matter of writing, then anything can happen, because the sentence can always open up trapdoors and catwalks via its clauses and phrases and puns and jokes and fantasies and so forth. In fact, the one rule I had when writing this was not to use good taste or understatement or comely resonance at all, but just to follow all my stray ideas, at the level of the sentence, to keep it opening, twinning, diverging, dividing. I used more conventional aspects of noir—a dead woman, a missing woman, a young hood, an (elderly) femme fatale—as sort of course correction as the book ran along."

Bookslut reviews Joyelle McSweeney’s Nylund, the Sarcographer

At Bookslut, Christopher Higgs reviews Joyelle McSweeney's *Nylund, the Sarcographer*: "Nylund, the Sarcographer is like interesting on steroids. Caution: if you are looking for a typical, straight forward, good old fashioned yarn, you’d do best to look elsewhere; but if you want to experience something fresh, daring, creepy, and significant, this is the one for you. It is the opposite of boring, an ominous conflagration devouring the bland terrain of conventional realism, the kind of work that tickles your inner ear, gives you the shivers, and tricks your left brain into thinking that your right brain has staged a coup d'état....Other than the incomparable Ben Marcus, I’m not sure anyone in contemporary letters can compete with the voracity of ingenuity, complexity, and beauty of McSweeney’s usage."

Joyelle McSweeney in the Media

“An agony of trance”: Joyelle McSweeney interviewed at Fanzine

Joyelle McSweeney: "I realized that the walls and the floors, the soil and the air were toxic, everything that could be seen or touched was poison, everything mankind did made the world worse, just moving around and breathing. It seemed to me that I had been walking in fire. Why had I not known it? Nutriment and poison, protection and hazard, comfort and harm were not binaries but indivisible, each one turning over to reveal its attractively hairy reverse or iridisceing, spiny obverse."

Stockholm International Poetry Festival

TSky Press authors Johannes Göransson and Joyelle McSweeney, along with faves Aase Berg and Lara Glenum, are reading at the Stockholm International Poetry Festival, where this year’s theme is Gurlesque.

Joyelle McSweeney’s Salamandrine reviewed at Quarterly West

"In Joyelle McSweeney’s story collection Salamandrine: 8 Gothics, language commits incest with itself.... Sounds repeat, replicate, and mutate in her sentences, monstrous sentences of aural inbreeding and consangeous consonants, strung out and spinning like the dirtiest double-helix, dizzy with disease...."

Joyelle McSweeney’s Salamandrine reviewed at the Brooklyn Rail

"Biological, morbid, fanatic, surreal, McSweeney’s impulses are to go to the rhetoric of the maternity mythos by evoking the spooky, sinuous syntaxes of the gothic and the cleverly constructed political allegory. Salamandrine can be earnest and apocalyptic, playful and arch, but at its core is the proposition that writing the mother-body is a viscid cage match with language and politics in a declining age.... [T]his collection is the sexy teleological apocrypha of motherhood literature, a siren song for those mothers 'with no soul to photograph.'"

Kind words…

...from Patrick Trotti at JMWW, regarding our three 2013 prose titles, from Claire Donato, Johannes Göransson, and Joyelle McSweeney: "Avant-garde writers of the past are put through a blender topped with equal parts muscle relaxer, speed, acid, and a new, distinct style forcing the reader to down the contents in one giant gulp. It will leave you feeling as though they just went speeding through a backyard makeshift house of mirrors ride that was rigged with no brakes, bending through the maze of tight corners to the point where you can the feel the sharp shards of glass on your forearm if you don’t keep your hand inside the ride that is their minds."

Joyelle McSweeney interviewed at Monkeybicycle

Joyelle McSweeney: "For me motherhood was an apocalypse, a rending of the veil, a rendering of the fail. I nearly died; that was a new thing. I developed a labor complication normally associated with heroin-addicted teenage sex-workers. I bled like crazy and my daughter’s placenta looked like hamburger meat, according to the nurse. A fittingly Midwest simile."

Joyelle McSweeney interviewed by John Madera at Big Other

Joyelle McSweeney: "This book of mine is a war against capitalism through the body of the culturally vaunted (but actually exploited) figure of the mother. Here the mothers are totally undone, desperate, weaponized, vacant, bloodthirsty, deranged, or ingenious as hell. None of them is what you’d call wholesome—and neither is the writing."

Publishers Weekly reviews Joyelle McSweeney’s Salamandrine: 8 Gothics

McSweeney's breakneck prose harnesses the throbbing pulse of language itself and thus eludes any sort of straightforward plot development.... The stream of consciousness of an unhinged mother inhabiting a real or imagined apocalyptic landscape.... Vertiginous.... Denying the reader any orienting poles for the projected reality.

NewPages reviews Joyelle McSweeney’s Nylund, the Sarcographer

At NewPages, Cynthia Reeser reviews Joyelle McSweeney's *Nylund, the Sarcographer* (Tarpaulin Sky Press): "Joyelle McSweeney has not only created a unique concept – that of sarcography – she has illustrated it memorably with a masterful redefinition of what constitutes prose, and created a character who is the very embodiment of writing, reminding us of how flexible the narrative form can be."

At Harriet, Stephen Burt reviews Joyelle McSweeney's Nylund, the Sarcographer

At the Poetry Foundation's Harriet, Stephen Burt reviews Joyelle McSweeney's *Nylund, the Sarcographer* (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2007): "Flights of campy-cum-lyrical post-Ashberyan prose.... The Daisy parts are actually sexy, the murder-mystery parts and the furniture-store bits are genuinely funny, the language dissolves into stream-of-consanguinity post-surrealism and then resolves into a plot again.... It’s recommended"

Joyelle McSweeney interviewed at Prick of the Spindle

At Prick of the Spindle, Cynthia Reeser interviews Joyelle McSweeney (*Nylund, the Sarcographer*, Tarpaulin Sky Press): "Once you put the sarcography in motion as a matter of writing, then anything can happen, because the sentence can always open up trapdoors and catwalks via its clauses and phrases and puns and jokes and fantasies and so forth. In fact, the one rule I had when writing this was not to use good taste or understatement or comely resonance at all, but just to follow all my stray ideas, at the level of the sentence, to keep it opening, twinning, diverging, dividing. I used more conventional aspects of noir—a dead woman, a missing woman, a young hood, an (elderly) femme fatale—as sort of course correction as the book ran along."

Bookslut reviews Joyelle McSweeney’s Nylund, the Sarcographer

At Bookslut, Christopher Higgs reviews Joyelle McSweeney's *Nylund, the Sarcographer*: "Nylund, the Sarcographer is like interesting on steroids. Caution: if you are looking for a typical, straight forward, good old fashioned yarn, you’d do best to look elsewhere; but if you want to experience something fresh, daring, creepy, and significant, this is the one for you. It is the opposite of boring, an ominous conflagration devouring the bland terrain of conventional realism, the kind of work that tickles your inner ear, gives you the shivers, and tricks your left brain into thinking that your right brain has staged a coup d'état....Other than the incomparable Ben Marcus, I’m not sure anyone in contemporary letters can compete with the voracity of ingenuity, complexity, and beauty of McSweeney’s usage."