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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 27, 2004

Nov. 9 WSUI Reading Features UI Poetry Alumna Joyelle McSweeney

Poet Joyelle McSweeney, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, will read from her second collection, "Commandrine and Other Poems," at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9 in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

The free reading will be broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series hosted by Julie Englander on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910. Listen on the Internet at

Her book contains a verse play that in nine scenes tells the story of sailors Zest, Coast, Ivory and Irish, and their watery run-ins with the devil.

McSweeney won the 2001 Fence Modern Poets Series Prize. She is now a staff critic for the Constant Critic, and she has also written book reviews for the Boston Review, Crossroads, Perihelion, Thumbscrew and Oxford Poetry. She teaches at the University of Alabama.

Poet and critic Claudia Rankine wrote, "Joyelle McSweeney's 'The Commandrine and Other Poems' is a necessary series of interrogations. This verse play and poems question what it means to endure knowledge in a global economy. With Yeatsian breadth, McSweeney insists not on anarchy but on an Odyssean journey: beyond the sirens, home. This inventive lassoing-in of reality as we are presently experiencing it leaves no one 'clean' or in the clear."

Allen Grossman, who selected her first book for the Fence Prize, wrote, "[McSweeney's] poems are neither reductive nor fantastic. But they are profoundly mysterious in the way any truthful account of the world must be. 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."

And a review in MaisonNeuve found her work "exuberant, lyrical, and unapologetically disjunctive. She finds joy in dense agglomerations of sounds and images."

The Writers' Workshop is an academic unit of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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