Chris Nealon is Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of The Shore (Wave Books, 2020) as well as two books of literary criticism, Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion before Stonewall (Duke, 2001) and The Matter of Capital: Poetry and Crisis in The American Century (Harvard, 2011), as well as three earlier books of poetry: The Joyous Age (Black Square Editions, 2004), Plummet (Edge Books, 2009), and Heteronomy (Edge, 2014). He lives in Washington, DC.
Reading Nealon, one feels as though Homer has been reincarnated in sound bites, or as though Coleridge has succeeded in reviving the song of the damsel with her dulcimer, and we realize it is both as delightful and as laughable as we could have imagined. Nealon is both god and jester, beckoning us close even as he warns us to beware.
Political poetry might bring to mind the activist tone of Denise Levertov or the cadenced rhetoric of Gil Scott-Heron. Nealon's version is a more playful and self-aware reverie, finding political unease in the passing thought.
—Johns Hopkins Magazine
Nealon taps into the energies of popular culture without condescension or self-congratulation or (easy) irony; his poems are at once totally well-wrought and unaffectedly conversational; he is clear-eyed about the catastrophe of the present but refuses to descend into mere melancholy; he has no illusions about poetry’s practical power but he is not in love with—or particularly tortured by—its marginality; Nealon—an accomplished literary critic—neither disavows his learning or retreats into it.
—Ben Lerner, The Millions
Nealon, through his own flights and musings, is frequently able to tap into our collective frustrations and joys. He understands that we are all, to some extent, heteronomous, subject to powers outside ourselves. Yet, Nealon also understands that an awareness of this fact, an awareness that poetry can often bring, can help us escape these strictures.
—Blake Bergeron, Noo Journal
Nealon's bracing and bitter debut both enters and mocks the tradition of kaleidoscopic, difficult poetry as grand social critique, and makes most new work in that mode sound sloppy or bland by contrast.
—Stephanie Burt, The Believer
Reviews of books by Chris Nealon
The Shore (forthcoming)
- "A Dream" (in Harper's Magazine)
- "You Surround Me" (in Pen America)
- Three Poems (in Reading between A&B)
- "Heteronomy" (in Matter Monthly)
- "Sea Reliance" (in Everyday Genius)
- The Volta, with Joshua Clover and Juliana Spahr
- Johns Hopkins Magazine, with Brett McCabe
Reading for the Hearts Desire Reading Series:
Reading "The Dial" for The Sectional Blog:
Reading for the General Idea reading series: