Winner of the First Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Performance Writers
Joyelle McSweeney is the author of three books of poetry and three books of prose, most of which also contain plays. Her most recent titles include The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults, a book of transnational, transgenre poetics essays (University of Michigan’s Poets on Poetry Series, 2015), Percussion Grenade (Fence), and Salamandrine, 8 Gothics (Tarpaulin Sky Press). She is a founder of the international press Action Books and a contributor to the culture site Montevidayo.org. She teaches at the University of Notre Dame.
Like all of Joyelle McSweeney’s work, Dead Youth refuses to settle into any easy category, delivering a theater experience that’s simultaneously transgressive, classical, visionary, political, and gothic. Although built for the stage, these words still slip, skid, pop, and burrow throughout the page, creating a daisy chain of unexpected associations and indelible effects.
Dead Youth, or, the Leaks, is the shocking gaze upon the most beautiful and obscene gesture that is survival itself. This work takes as truth the statement that violence is such stuff as dreams are made of, that genocide can be converted to a legible surface, that oppression can be exhalation, that knowledge can be devastation, that violence can be humanistic and natural, staggering, immersive. In other words, Dead Youth is a farce, perhaps, but built on the exploitation and death and misery that becomes charisma and complication and sacredness. Heavy, yet easy to consume for its beautiful and profound images, indigestible, yet productive and rapacious in the indigestion that it produces. This is a work like none other. Let the destruction of the world become the rhythm of your life.
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.
Joyelle McSweeney’s new place, Dead Youth, or, The Leaks is savvy, deft, funny, and truly contemporary-- a vision of the 21st century, where secrets, language, internet and the human cell run wild and collapse together along with justice and history.
JULIAN ASSANGE [He is dressed in a grey suit. His shining hair is clean and feminine and light-bearing as a shampoo ad. Lucifer hair! He stands at a podium as at a press conference. He addresses the audience. The DEAD YOUTH pose, swoon, smirk, stand at attention, variously]
Hello my name is Julian Assange. Thank you for your attention to those burka’d teens. They are in a work-study program. They are studying abroad. They are in juvenile detention. They are receiving extra-credit. They are part of a good will exchange between our two nations. They are on a chain-gang. They are all out on work-release. Though DEAD, they are studying for their GED’s. & degrees in dance therapy.
I would like to deliver my prepared remarks. But I am distracted by these teens. They are members of a dance team. They are on their way to an abstinence convention. They are drinking absinthe. They are aspiring drone pilots. They are on their way to an interfaith prayer breakfast. They shot two convenience store clerks for one hundred dollars. Their van has crashed, and they are walking along the highway. If they do not find gas soon, they will have to eat the weakest one. They are going completely feral just a few miles from the highway, listening to death metal, practicing magick. They are running pornographic services out of their bedrooms. They are at soccer practice. They work in their uncle’s convenience store at night. They do their algebra homework. They study war. They are boy soldiers, hustlers, ‘knock-off jihadi’. They invented Facebook. They are entrepreneurs and visionaries. X-game competitors, budding baristas, junior rapists, virgin martyrs and walking delinquencies. They are beauties and atrocities. I can’t stop looking at them. They could not survive what was required of them.
I will now deliver my prepared remarks. Prepared for me by the Author of the feast, which is a cell line, or Fate. The Smirk is full of noises. [returns to teens] The isle is full of teens. I’m bundling up packets of information in strong ribands of junk for its own protection and tossing it into the sea. Perhaps you’ve seen the Tempest. Perhaps you know how this ends. Some things sink, while other things float. Others are enraptured in a tree. We call this plot. And tho I am a well known evangeline for privacy I’m no angel. More like an ancient greek. I like to lift the cloak off a diplomatic channel to watch the current phreak! I love privacee. I love transparancee.