NIGHT SWIM by Joan Kwon Glass
ISBN: 9781939728487; full-length poetry collection, 6x9" paperback
Publication Date: March 23, 2022
Author: Joan Kwon Glass
Location: Doha, Qatar & Richmond, VA
Distribution: Distributed by Diode Editions
About the Collection
In Night Swim, Joan Kwon Glass navigates the dark sea of mourning after losing her sister and her 11-year old nephew to suicide within a two month span of time. Night Swim does not turn away from the ugly, unreconciled side of grief: the recurring nightmares, life with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, questions that will never have answers, the desire to hold someone responsible for the deaths when there is no one left to blame. The collection begins with a solitary, titular poem which asks the reader to consider what grief feels like when "the landscape doesn’t change // but everything else does."
In this testimony of mourning and memory, the author weaves a suicide survivorship narrative told through the five stages of grief. This narrative includes the author’s memories of the weeks leading up to the deaths, her regrets, scenes from the funerals, erasures from police reports, and the excruciating forging ahead with daily life in spite of deep sorrow, maddening questions, and all that remains unresolved. It gives survivors permission to find their way through on their own terms: to hold a grudge against the dead while also wishing desperately for them to still be alive, to consider taking every door in your house off its hinges just to make more room for ghosts, to measure time by the ages the dead would have been if they were still here. Night Swim suggests that in order to live bravely again in a world without one’s beloved, the survivor may eschew the expectations of “appropriate” grief and tell the truth as it exists for them. What should we hold onto and what should we let go of? Although Night Swim shares a story of extraordinary loss, it is also a testament to how even against the harshest currents, in the darkest waters, we can swim up and through, where light and the shore will be waiting.
In Night Swim Joan Kwon Glass takes us to the strange and terrible country of loss she finds herself in when first her nephew and then her sister kill themselves. We see the funeral home where "The mortician had to come back twice/ to fix where my sister had rubbed her dead child’s face/ all night. We hear her mother’s sobs that begin to sound like/ demons spilling forth from her throat." We follow her through the slow and tortuous years when "the world is so very full of everyone else." With admirable skill, Joan Glass has found words for the heartache that lies beyond words. These mature and deeply-moving poems recognize the universality of grief and leave us with the hard-earned truth that "Every darkness we bear hides such small mercies."
— Ellen Bass, author of Indigo
Night Swim is equal parts crushing and healing—a bold, breathtaking masterclass on grief. In this heartrending collection, Joan Kwon Glass refuses to obfuscate the labor death requires of its survivors as she wrestles with the suicides of both her young nephew and his mother, her sister. Through her relentless, candid examination of both the devastation of such loss and “the times / when we survive in spite of ourselves,” Glass succeeds in articulating the inarticulable with astonishing clarity. What a gift—a path forward—Night Swim is for anyone who has had to live through that which our loved ones could not live through.
— Eugenia Leigh, author of Blood, Sparrows & Sparrows (winner of the 2015 Debut-litzer Prize in Poetry) & Bianca
With deft precision, Joan Kwon Glass measures the unquantifiable ingredients that both characterize and defy the innumerable contours of personal tragedy and grief. These are dark waters and while reading, I feared that I might never reemerge from the deep. Or, as the author asks in the face of loss: “What do we keep, / what do we give up?” A heartbreaking lamentation, Night Swim reveals lyrical memory as a resounding echo against erasure, against chaos and its attendant moans. I will swim with you, brilliant Joan, if just to feel the water’s pressure against our own mortal arms that can only ever hold so much.
— Jessica Stark, author of Savage Pageant
Night Swim is an account of survival—what it means to be left behind, what it means to stay. The book, organized in sections named after the five stages of grief, follows the suicide of a beloved nephew and sister. The poems emerge as a longing to understand their leaving, not only to pick up the pieces, but to do so tenderly, with grace and curiosity. Glass is not only vulnerable, but strikingly human: "I could try to love you/ the way I am told to/ love everyone/ with wonder and detachment,/ hold you, then let you go."
— Diannely Antigua, author of Ugly Music (winner of the Pamet River Prize)
About the Author
Joan Kwon Glass' first full-length poetry collection, Night Swim, won the 2021 Diode Poetry Prize. She is the author of the chapbooks How to Make Pancakes for a Dead Boy (Harbor Editions, 2022) & If Rust Can Grow on the Moon (Milk & Cake Press, 2022). In 2021 she was a Runner-Up for the Sundress Publications Chapbook Contest, a finalist for the Harbor Review Editor’s Prize, the Subnivean Award & the Lumiere Review Writing Contest. Joan is a graduate of Smith College & serves as Poet Laureate for the city of Milford, CT & as Poetry Co-Editor for West Trestle Review. She has spent the past 20 years as an educator in the Connecticut public schools. Her poems have recently been published or are forthcoming in Diode, The Rupture, Nelle, Rattle, Pirene’s Fountain, SWWIM, Dialogist, South Florida Poetry Journal, Honey Literary, Mom Egg, Rust & Moth, Lantern Review & many others. Joan has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize & Best of the Net. She tweets @joanpglass & you may read her previously published work at www.joankwonglass.com.
Select Poetry from Night Swim