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May Swenson Biography

(1919–1989), Another Animal, A Cage of Spines, To Mix with Time: New and Selected Poems

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American poet, born in Logan, Utah, educated at Utah State University. Swenson's first volume of poetry, Another Animal, was published in 1954 but it was several decades later that she secured her standing as one of the most significant of post-war American women poets. Despite the semantic simplicity of her verse her poems are often abstruse and elliptical. Like many of her contemporaries she saw poetry as a kind of magic and she frequently drew on mythological and necromantic imagery to suggest the intractable mysteries of being. The verse frequently suggests equations between natural landscapes and the human body, notably in ‘Sketch for a Landscape’. Her second volume, A Cage of Spines (1958), was followed by To Mix with Time: New and Selected Poems (1963), which combines earlier poems with new poems resulting from her travels through France, Italy, and Spain in 1960 and 1961. Other volumes include Half Sun Half Sleep (1967), Iconographs: Poems (1970), The Guess and Spell Coloring Book (1976), New and Selected Things Taking Place (1978), In Other Words: New Poems (1987), The Love Poems of May Swenson (1991), and Nature: Poems Old and New (1994); she also wrote several volumes for younger readers, particularly Poems to Solve (1966), More Poems to Solve (1971), and The Complete Poems to Solve (1993). In addition she has translated Windows and Stones (1972) from the Swedish of Thomas Transtromer. See Alone With America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950 (1971), by Richard Howard.

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