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In celebration of the centenary of May Swenson’s birth, The Library of America presents a one-volume edition of all of the poems that Swenson published in her lifetime—from her first collection Another Animal (1954) to the innovative shaped poems of Iconographs (1970) to her final work In Other Words (1987)—as well as a selection of previously uncollected work. The collectIn celebration of the centenary of May Swenson’s birth, The Library of America presents a one-volume edition of all of the poems that Swenson published in her lifetime—from her first collection Another Animal (1954) to the innovative shaped poems of Iconographs (1970) to her final work In Other Words (1987)—as well as a selection of previously uncollected work. The collection reveals the sweeping compass of Swenson’s curiosity: nature poems display her keen observation of wildlife; exuberant and erotic love poems celebrate beauty and passion; place poems record her travels to the American Southwest, France, and Italy and her residence in New York City and Sea Cliff, Long Island; verse “analyses” investigate baseball, wave motion, the DNA molecule, bronco busting, James Bond movies, and the first walk on the moon. Swenson was an inveterate reviser: poems in earlier volumes were frequently reworked for inclusion in later volumes, such as To Mix with Time (1963) and New and Selected Things Taking Place (1978). While preserving the order of publication, this volume presents the author’s final or definitive version. Substantive textual variants and title changes are detailed in the notes to the volume....

Title : Collected Poems
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ISBN : 9781598532104
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 976 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Collected Poems Reviews

  • Robin Friedman
    2019-03-19 17:03

    The Library of America published this volume of the "Collected Poems" of May Swenson (1913 -- 1989) in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the poet's birth. The volume includes the seven books of poems Swenson published during her life together with a large selection of uncollected poems. It also includes a short collection of Swenson's essays about poetry. The book preserves Swenson's poetry in an attractive volume and will likely become the definitive edition of her work. Landon Hammer, professor of English at Yale University, edited the volume, which includes as well a valuable chronology of Swenson's life. Hammer also edited the Library of America's volume of Hart Crane's poetry and letters. Settings of two Swenson poems by the American composer William Bolcom in a recording by soprano Carole Farley with the composer at the piano got me interested in the poet and provide a short introduction to her work. The first, "The Digital Wonder Watch (An Advertisement)" (p. 488 this volume) comes from Swenson's 1987 collection "In other Words" and shows her combination of whimsy, satire and depth. Swenson's satire on technology and advertising comes through in the composer's tick-tock piano setting. While describing the many advanced features of her "wonderful watch" the poet asks, "Does it show how to wind up/a broken heart?" The second of Swenson's poems "Night Practice" is included in her 1963 collection "To Mix with Time" (p. 152 of this volume). Bolcom set the work as part titled "I will Breathe a Mountain" of poems by American women. The poem captures the experimental, modernistic cast of many of Swenson's poems in which the theme is mirrored by the form of the poem on the page. The poem is written in the form of a pyramid as the poet meditates and tries to come to terms with the inevitability of death. The poem concludes with the line "I will breathe a valley, I will breathe a mountain", which Bolcom adopted as the title of his song cycle. Swenson was the child of Swedish immigrants who were devout Mormons. She lived until graduating from college in Utah before moving to Greenwich Village where she lived for many years. She lived the Bohemian life of a young artist supporting herself by a variety of jobs until she became established as a poet. Swenson ultimately won a great deal of critical recognition. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Grant, and the Bollingen Prize for poetry among other honors. During her life, she had lovers and companions, male and female. The American poet Elizabeth Bishop greatly influenced Swenson and the two became close friends. Swenson wrote several poems to or about her mentor. As did Bishop, Swenson wrote many fables about animals, such as "The Lion" (p.6). I found that Swenson's work has a teasing quality that moves between fun and seriousness. She has a broad range and writes about animals and nature as well as about city life in for example "Riding the 'A'" (p. 187). She writes about science and its relation to poetry and shows a particular interest in the astronauts and in space exploration. There are poems about Swenson's travels to the American West, to Florida, and to Europe. Many poems are set on the Delaware shore where Swenson lived in the late years of her life. Many of Swenson's poems have an erotic character. After her death, collections made and published of her "love poems" drawing heavily on uncollected works. The poems are rhythmical and beautifully crafted with detailed, specific observation and a poet's eye and ear for the precise word. Many of the poems are immediately accessible. Swenson is best-known as a modernist for her efforts to integrate form with sense, as is the case in "Night Practice" among many other poems. Swenson used many different shapes in different poems and even varied the font size of the text. This collection captures the experimental character of her work. Probably the most characteristic of Swenson's books is "Iconographs" (1970) in which the form captures the poem in the manner of an iconographic painting. Swenson wrote of the surfaces of things, but she did so deliberately. She wrote of sight and language for their own sakes to show things afresh and also to make the reader pause and see things in a new way and for oneself. The poems have depth and concern for meaning together with the surface playfulness. The poems are almost all short, but two of the lengthy poems, "Banyan" and "Some Quadrangles, the 1982 Harvard Phi Beta Kappa Poem" capture much of the spirit and purpose of her writing. In an essay, "The Poet as Antispecialist", Swenson explained: "What is the experience of poetry? Choosing to analyze this experience for myself after an engrossment of many years, I see it based in a craving to get through the curtains of things as they appear to things as they are and then into the larger, wilder space of things as they are becoming. This ambition involves a paradox: an instinctive belief in the senses as exquisite tools for this investigation and, at the same time, a suspicion about their crudeness." The Library of America deserves thanks for its efforts to celebrate the best of American accomplishment in literature and poetry. May Swenson's poems deserve their place in this celebration. I was pleased to have the opportunity to get to know her writing in this volume of her Collected Poems. Robin Friedman

  • Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
    2019-03-10 11:12

    O May Swenson! She is quite the poet! Her poems tend to embrace you and kick your butt at the same time! They are deeply passionate and full of life. Here's a few of my favorites!The UniverseWhat is it about,the universe, the universe about us stretching out?We within our brainswithin itthinkwe must unspinthe laws that spin it.We think whybecause we thinkbecause.Because we think,we thinkthe universe about us.But does it think, the universe?Then what about?About us?If not, must there be causein the universe?Must it have laws?And what if the universeis not about us?Then what?Whatis it about?And whatabout us?Feel Me"Feel me," he said,and emphasized that word.Should we have heard it as a pleafor a caress--a constant caress,since flesh to flesh was all that we could do rightif we would bless him? The dying must feelthe pressure of thatquestion--lying flat, turning coldfrom brow to heel-the hotcowards there aboveprotesting their love, and saying"What can we do? Are you allright?" While the wall opens and the blue night pours through. "Whatcan we do? We want to do what's right." "Lie down with me, and hold me, tight. Touch me. Bewith me. Feel with me. Feel me, to do right."

  • Robin Friedman
    2019-03-08 17:13

    The Library of America published this volume of the "Collected Poems" of May Swenson (1913 -- 1989) in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the poet's birth. The volume includes the seven books of poems Swenson published during her life together with a large selection of uncollected poems. It also includes a short collection of Swenson's essays about poetry. The book preserves Swenson's poetry in an attractive volume and will likely become the definitive edition of her work. Landon Hammer, professor of English at Yale University, edited the volume, which includes as well a valuable chronology of Swenson's life. Hammer also edited the Library of America's volume of Hart Crane's poetry and letters.Settings of two Swenson poems by the American composer William Bolcom in a recording by soprano Carole Farley with the composer at the piano got me interested in the poet and provide a short introduction to her work. Songs The first, "The Digital Wonder Watch (An Advertisement)" (p. 488 of this volume) comes from Swenson's 1987 collection "In other Words" and shows her combination of whimsy, satire and depth. Swenson's satire on technology and advertising comes through in the composer's tick-tock piano setting. While describing the many advanced features of her "wonderful watch" the poet asks, "Does it show how to wind up/a broken heart?"The second of Swenson's poems "Night Practice" is included in her 1963 collection "To Mix with Time" (p. 152 of this volume). Bolcom set the work as part titled "I will Breathe a Mountain" of poems by American women. The poem captures the experimental, modernistic cast of many of Swenson's poems in which the theme is mirrored by the form of the poem on the page. The poem is written in the form of a pyramid as the poet meditates and tries to come to terms with the inevitability of death. The poem concludes with the line "I will breathe a valley, I will breathe a mountain", which Bolcom adopted as the title of his song cycle.Swenson was the child of Swedish immigrants who were devout Mormons. She lived until graduating from college in Utah before moving to Greenwich Village where she lived for many years. She lived the Bohemian life of a young artist supporting herself by a variety of jobs until she became established as a poet. Swenson ultimately won a great deal of critical recognition. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Grant, and the Bollingen Prize for poetry among other honors. During her life, she had lovers and companions, male and female.The American poet Elizabeth Bishop greatly influenced Swenson and the two became close friends. Swenson wrote several poems to or about her mentor. As did Bishop, Swenson wrote many fables about animals, such as "The Lion" (p.6). I found that Swenson's work has a teasing quality that moves between fun and seriousness. She has a broad range and writes about animals and nature as well as about city life in for example "Riding the 'A'" (p. 187). She writes about science and its relation to poetry and shows a particular interest in the astronauts and in space exploration. There are poems about Swenson's travels to the American West, to Florida, and to Europe. Many poems are set on the Delaware shore where Swenson lived in the late years of her life. Many of Swenson's poems have an erotic cast. After her death, collections made and published of her "love poems" drawing heavily on uncollected works.The poems are rhythmical and beautifully crafted with detailed, specific observation and a poet's eye and ear for the precise word. Many of the poems are immediately accessible. Swenson is best-known as a modernist for her efforts to integrate form with sense, as is the case in "Night Practice" among many other poems. Swenson used many different shapes in different poems and even varied the font size of the text. This collection captures the experimental character of her work. Probably the most characteristic of Swenson's books is "Iconographs" (1970) in which the form captures the poem in the manner of an iconographic painting.Swenson wrote of the surfaces of things, but she did so deliberately. She wrote of sight and language for their own sakes to show things afresh and also to make the reader pause and see things in a new way and for oneself. The poems have depth and concern for meaning together with the surface playfulness. The poems are almost all short, but two of the lengthy poems, "Banyan" and "Some Quadrangles, the 1982 Harvard Phi Beta Kappa Poem" capture much of the spirit and purpose of her writing. In an essay, "The Poet as Antispecialist", Swenson explained:"What is the experience of poetry? Choosing to analyze this experience for myself after an engrossment of many years, I see it based in a craving to get through the curtains of things as they appear to things as they are and then into the larger, wilder space of things as they are becoming. This ambition involves a paradox: an instinctive belief in the senses as exquisite tools for this investigation and, at the same time, a suspicion about their crudeness."The Library of America deserves thanks for its efforts to celebrate the best of American accomplishment in literature and poetry. May Swenson's poems richly deserve their place in this celebration. I was pleased to have the opportunity to get to know her writing in this volume of her Collected Poems.Robin Friedman

  • Tony
    2019-03-11 14:02

    COLLECTED POEMS. (2013). May Swenson. ***.This was a recent release from The Library of America. I haven’t read very many poems by Swenson, so here was an opportunity for a full exposure. From all of the poems that I read from this collection, I’m not able to point to any specific style in her work. She seems to range all over the place in both subject matter and poetic style. She did manage to experiment a lot with her schemes and topics, which I found interesting, but if I were handed a poem by her and asked to identify the poet, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Her subjects range from the universe, down to those mysterious particles found in the atom. Although she was not trained in any technical area, she seems to like those themes the best. She doesn’t ignore the rest of the usual topics, however, and you will find poems dealing with love and the other personal emotions. As a poet, I found her difficult to nail down. This collection is worth a look-see to try and find out what she was all about.

  • Isaac Timm
    2019-03-02 12:13

    I don't think you can't cleanly review a poets life's work. I feel at the end I conquered this collection, more then gaining I deeper understanding of Swenson and only more study will unlock this many faceted poet. One thread I was able to follow was "a mind at play". The great joy Swenson finds in words are reflected in all her poems and this playful joy carried me through poems that generally would be too complex and engineered for me to really enjoy. I'll be working through this collection many more times.

  • Mills College Library
    2019-02-27 16:11

    811.54 S974c 2013