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Zoë Brigley

Notes from a Swing State

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‘Zoë Brigley chronicles frightening and disorientating political shifts across Trump’s America, as well as aftershocks felt across the Atlantic. With journalistic rigour and a poet’s attentiveness to the least obvious detail, her sense of social justice is woven into her writing with delicacy and strength, in a voice that is neither daunted nor hectoring. Whether writing about motherhood or girlhood, home or abroad, she is particularly attuned to the most subtle forms of both violence and hope, and so with startlingly beautiful imagery can offer the reader new ways of gathering morale in disheartening times.’ – Emily Trahair, editor of Planet magazine

‘Whatever her declared subject, Zoë Brigley writes out of loss. The traumas of the past are ever present, as are the horrors of the political contemporary. But in each of these luminous essays – some rising out of lived experience, others residing in the dreams or silences of the creative spirit – she paints for us a world where beauty beckons and hope prevails. “We have the language now,” she tells us, “to imagine what freedom might look like.” Read Zoë Brigley and rejoice.’ —Maureen Freely, author of Sailing through Byzantium


These creative nonfiction essays consider girlhood, motherhood, violence at home and abroad, violence against women, the consolation in writing, trauma, and redemption.

The essays celebrate and interrogate popular and literary culture: for example the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Alun Lewis’s love letters, and David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’.

These timely meditations on women, ethics, and writing bring insights that only an immigrant and traveller like Brigley could provide.


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Zoë Brigley (also Zoë Brigley Thompson), originally from Wales, is now assistant professor at the Ohio State University. She has three poetry collections The Secret (2007) and Conquest (2012), and her most recent, Hand and Skull (2019). She also co-edited the volume Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives (2010). She is currently editing the Bloomsbury Guide to Poetry in the UK and Ireland.