Joyelle McSweeney

An award-winning poet, playwright, novelist, translator and critic, Joyelle McSweeney is fiercely interested in what happens when art presses across national, linguistic, generic and bodily boundaries—creating fecund, non-binary zones, releasing new energies, and configuring wondrous forms of thinking and living.


McSweeney’s most 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). She published the prose collection Salamandrine: 8 Gothics (Tarpaulin Sky, 2013), the baroque noir Nylund, the Sarcographer (Tarpaulin Sky, 2007) and the lyric sci-fi Flet (Fence, 2008).

McSweeney’s upcoming poetry volume Toxicon is forthcoming from Nightboat Books. She is co-translator of the prose selections in a new volume of works by Korean modernist Yi Sang to be published by Wave Books.

In addition to her own writing, McSweeney is co-founder and co-publisher of Action Books, which since 2005 has been publishing aesthetically urgent, politically driven works from all over the world. Action Books authors include Gayath Almadhoun translated by Catherine Cobham, Maria Negroni translated by Michelle Gil Montero, Raúl Zurita and Jaime Luis Huenún translated by Daniel Borzutzky, Kim Hyesoon translated by Don Mee Choi, Hiromi Itō translated by Jeffrey Angles, Josué Guébo translated by Todd Fredson, and Aase Berg translated by Johannes Göransson, among many many others. As a critic, she has written widely about both US poetry and works in translation, including a recent series of columns called The Toxic and the Lyric, featuring writers such as Anaïs Duplan and Douglas Kearney. 

Widely acknowledged as an expert in the fields of poetry, publishing, and translation, McSweeney has served as judge or jury member for a variety of arts grants and prizes, including the Iowa Review, the Black Warrior Review, the Illinois Arts Council, the Windham-Campbell Prize, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is guest editor of the Wesleyan University’s Best American Experimental Poetry series for 2019. Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, McSweeney lives in South Bend, Indiana. She counts the Rust Belt as one of her most persistent necropastoral muses.


“I love spectacle, overload, magic materials, magic words, incantation and litany,
incarnation and possession, spilling and wounds. Art as a sacred event.”

- Joyelle McSweeney