Winner of the 2017 The Journal/Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize
Ohio State University Press, 2019
In her new poetry collection, Lethal Theater, Susannah Nevison reckons with the rituals of violence that underpin the American prison system, both domestically and abroad. Exploring the multiple roles of medicine in incarceration, Nevison’s poems expose the psychological and physical pain felt by the prison system’s inhabitants. Nevison asks readers to consider the act and complications of looking—at the spectacle of punishment, isolation, and interrogation, as mapped onto incarcerated bodies—by those who participate in and enforce dangerous prison practices, those who benefit from the exploitation of incarcerated bodies, and those who bear witness to suffering. Unfolding in three sections, Nevison’s poems fluidly move among themes of isolation and violence in prisons during periods of war, the history of medical experimentation on domestic prisoners, and the intersection between anesthesia used in hospital settings and anesthesia used in cases of lethal injection. Lethal Theater is an attempt to articulate and make visible a grotesque and overlooked part of American pain.
"Susannah Nevison’s searing second collection, Lethal Theater, is not about how we die, but how we kill, protected by procedure, faith in duty, cruel appetite, and the State. Nevison steadfastly rejects dulled indifference; instead, her poems—lyric, found, urgent—pulse with sound anger, grief, and complicity’s persistent ache." —Douglas Kearney
"Susannah Nevison’s Lethal Theater is a testament to the moral imagination. Many times, the speakers of these poems seem perched at the edge of the kind of all-consuming empathetic seeing that defeats witness, but they never fall over. Instead, again and again they say what they see—'the eye says what it can'—in imaginative defiance of the urge to be overwhelmed by grief into silence. And what they, and Nevison, see most clearly is that we are to be known and measured by the ways we treat those over whom we have power, and yet most often we do not want to know the power we have over others, nor what is done to others in our name. Lethal Theater speaks our name." —Shane McCrae
"Susannah Nevison’s Lethal Theater is a powerful, nuanced accounting of the physical and spiritual price violence exacts on its victims and perpetrators. This stunning lyric meditation on imprisonment relentlessly pushes the limits of mercy in asking us to bear witness to the ways in which we inflict pain on others in places where “the dark touches / everything, spreading its wound.” —Erika Meitner
Winner of the 2014 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize
Persea Books, 2015
This rich debut collection explores the psychic states compelled by physical imperfection or abnormality. Set in vivid yet unsure spaces, like those between consciousness and anesthesia or dream, Susannah Nevison’s poems name and reclaim the body, making and unmaking it, portraying the “marvelous monsters” that we all are—whether outside or in. Unflinching and brave, Teratology marks the emergence of a highly imaginative and compassionate poetic voice.
“Teratology is a dynamic and beautifully hewn collection of poems.... Redolent images create a past and a present that must cope with an underlying uncertainty about what experiences of and within the body make one less than human, make one superhuman.” —Foreword Reviews
Forthcoming from Persea Books, 2020
In the Field Between Us is a collaborative project between poets Molly McCully Brown and Susannah Nevison that tackles questions of identity and belonging in the aftermath of lifelong medical intervention. An epistolary sequence of poems that comprises a dialogue between two disabled speakers, the book traces their struggle to find purchase in an increasingly inhospitable landscape. As the poems unfold, the speakers encounter a natural world that begins to mirror the trauma they have faced, and must continue to face, in their search for a true point of origin.