May Swenson

(May 28, 1913 – December 4, 1989 / Utah)

May Swenson
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Anna Thilda May "May" Swenson (May 28, 1913 in Logan, Utah – December 4, 1989 in Bethany Beach, Delaware) was an American poet and playwright. She is considered one of the most important and original poets of the 20th century, as often hailed by the noted critic Harold Bloom.

The first child of Margaret and Dan Arthur Swenson, she grew up as the eldest of 10 children in a Mormon household where Swedish was spoken regularly and English was a second language. Much of her later poetry works were devoted to children (e.g. the collection Iconographs, 1970). She also translated the work of contemporary Swedish poets, including the selected poems of Tomas ... more »

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Comments about May Swenson

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  • Gold Star - 4,541 Points John Richter (8/20/2015 12:25:00 PM)

    Kevan, I understand your concerns. Your aunt must have been an incredibly loving person and I can certainly see why you would want to preserve her integrity and talent. But I want to ease your mind by saying the true lover of poetry does not consider a writer's sexual orientation when finding complete joy in his/her poetry. May's lifestyle has nothing to do with my decision to name her as one of the top ten American poets ever. These poemhunter pages are generally self-serve. The publishers are not usually the ones who post poetry here. And poet's biographies mainly come from Wikipedia, where any number of people could have contributed. As an artist myself and given to the idiosyncrasies of a dominant right brain side - I just intrinsically know that May was an incredibly loving person who loved just as powerfully and strongly as the best of the rest of us. It doesn't really matter who or what she loved, or what her undergraduate degree was..... I love her, and that's all I know. But I get the idea that if someone writes a biography they should at least get it right. I just want to ease your mind a little by saying that May's wonderful, talent, extreme love, and fabulous mind stand all on their own without all the extraneous facts....

  • Rookie Carole Berglie (9/10/2012 8:00:00 AM)

    Thank you Kevan for your comment. You are 100% correct. Not only that, but this website has reprinted May Swenson's poems without permission (they are protected under U.S. copyright law) and has reprinted them with errors and other problems, thereby violating Ms. Swenson's ethics and philosophy. In the supposed interests of furthering poetry they have negated the essence of the poetic spirit. They have stolen and misrepresented. All readers should be cautioned to obtain legitmate copies of her work, not these travesties.

  • Rookie Kevan Eyre (9/10/2009 3:21:00 PM)

    May Swenson is my aunt on my mother's side. I knew and associated with her for over 35 years. The brief biography on this site is in error in at least three respects. First, May was born in 1913 as opposed to 1919. Second, May graduated from Utah Agricultural College (now know as Utah State University) before she was 20 years old, so about 1932 or 1933.

    Thirdly, although May was apparently a lesbian she would be greatly saddened to have any of her work pigeon holed with any such label and it is very unfortunate that some people who do not understand her work or her intentions attempt to further their agenda by misrepresenting and twisting one narrow thread of her works. Her most noted works covered dozens of subject areas, most notably her love for her family, her parents, God, nature and the great outdoors. Her 'love' poems mentioned in the biography were not even published until after her death and it is unknown if she ever wanted them published. Most importantly, and in reality, her 'love' poems are NOT rooted in 'lesbian sexuality' and 'eroticism' per se, but are splendid examples of how love, romance and commitment feel to the human spirit regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Of course poetry is not only the expressions of the poet but is most fulfilling when played upon the heartstrings of the listener or reader. It is understandable that readera with differing sexual orientations may find a variety of gender related meanings in the poetry which they are experiencing but it would be offensive to May for anyone to circumscribe her work in such a finite way as has been done here. I hope this site will adjust the biography accordingly.

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Best Poem of May Swenson

Question

Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen

Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt

Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
when Body my good
bright dog is dead

How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye

With cloud for shift
how will I hide?

Read the full of Question

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