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By Jason Purcell
Categories: Health, Poetry, Disability Literature, LGBTQ+, Gay Literature
Paperback : 9781551528854, 112 pages, 2022


A tender debut poetry collection that examines the queer, sick body as a reaction to an ill world and asks it how to move on toward hope.

Jason Purcell's debut collection of poems rests at the intersection of queerness and illness, staking a place for the queer body that has been made sick through living in this world. Part poetic experiment and part memoir, Swollening attempts to diagnose what has been undiagnosable, tracing an uneven path from a lifetime of swallowing bad feelings - homophobia in its external and internalized manifestations, heteronormativity, anxiety surrounding desire, aversion to sex - to a body in revolt.

In poems that speak using the grammar and logics of sickness, Purcell offers a dizzying collision of word and image that is the language of pain alongside the banality of living on. Beginning by reading their own life and body closely and slowly zooming out to read illness in the world, Purcell comes to ask: how might a sick, queer body forgive itself for a natural reaction to living in a sick world and go on toward hope? In Swollening, Purcell coughs up their own poetics of illness, their own aesthetics of pain, to form a tender collection that lands straight in the gut.


These poems are haunted and strange. You should read them. -Alex Dimitrov, author of Love and Other Poems and Astro Poets

In Swollening, Purcell tears open and probes beneath the physical with precision, only to stitch it back up for intimacy - viscerally encapsulating the push and pull, shrink and swell of being embodied. A welcome debut by a sophisticated and promising writer. -Vivek Shraya, author of even this page is white and I'm Afraid of Men

Swollening is a gorgeous and harrowing performance of self-surgery that demands every word be witnessed in this breathtaking excision of a debut. Jason Purcell beautifully weaves together narrative and pacing while also forging form in concise arcing motions. Swollening is truly an entrance like no other. Prepare to be engulfed, unapologetically swallowed whole. -jaye simpson, author of it was never going to be okay

These poems are delicate magic, a literary reverse osmosis that sifts and shines resonant truths. Wading through lilacs, leather bowls, and myriad water states, Purcell navigates membranes of self, violence, and care - taking the reader's breath away, then offering an lol. Both retrospective and arrival, Swollening is a lyric that "ruined something for the better," a gutsy flourish from a poet gifting us "laughter from the future. "-K. B. Thors, author of Vulgar Mechanics

Jason Purcell's Swollening enters the poetic arena harmed and slanted toward oblivion with a speaker who curtails around ecological doom and chronic pain with multiple queer becomings. Purcell has a masterful understanding of technique that hones in on image and body with scalpel precisions that both highlight the microbial at play within a cavernous, wounded tooth and the large scale death knell the world is now tolling in its finite burning breath. They write like a painter, with measurement and palette exactitude, but also as contained abandonment. They teach us that "neither of us [can] move beyond the syllable." This is a poet to watch, and we must all dare to witness. -Joshua Whitehead, author of Jonny Appleseed

In exploring the body's response to cultural and environmental illness, to the effect of internalized homophobia on the gut, Purcell's collection moves from acidic sickness towards healing, from queerness "locked inside the body" ("On Acicular Ice") to queerness in the garden. At times this collection is starkly funny, while also being brutally compassionate; Swollening is as visceral and complex an experience as the ones it explores. -Prism international

Jason Purcell's debut poetry collection offers a fresh vision of sensuality and aging. These poems defy heteronormative, able-bodied eroticism and point toward new visions of intimacy. -Maisonneuve

Jason Purcell's much-anticipated debut will echo through your body long after reading. These poems are lucid and fearless, facing the whole gamut of urban and rural cruelty with gentleness and precision. You'll feel Swollening - and its astonishing new language for desire, pain, illness, and possibility - in your gut, your teeth, and your bones. -Leah Horlick, author of For Your Own Good and Moldovan Hotel