Swenson, May

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May Swenson (1913-1989) was born in Logan, Utah. Graduated from Utah State University in 1934. Notable author and poet. Became the editor for New Directions Press in 1959. Frequently classified as a nature poet, Swenson received much praise for her descriptions of natural phenomena and her sensory tone. Her chief themes were animal and human behavior, sexuality, death, and the nature of art and perception.

From the description of May Swenson papers, 1932-1998. (Utah State University). WorldCat record id: 70049609

May Swenson was born on May 28, 1913, in Logan, Utah, the daughter of Swedish immigrants. (Her father, Dan Swenson, was a professor of mechanical engineering at Utah State University.) Following her graduation from USU in 1934 she took a job as a reporter for the Deseret News . A year later she moved to New York City where she worked in a variety of jobs, including as a stenographer, until she became the editor for New Directions Press in 1959. In 1966 Swenson quit working as an editor in order to devote herself full time to writing. For the remainder of her life she lived in Sea Cliff, New York. She died on December 4, 1989, and was buried in Logan.

Swenson's trademark was her use of complex wordplay in her poems, which frequently took the form of riddles or unusual arrangements of the words on the page. These "iconographs" often were arranged to resemble the shape of the poem's subject. Frequently classified as a nature poet, Swenson received much praise for her descriptions of natural phenomena and her sensory tone. Her chief themes were animal and human behavior, sexuality, death, and the nature of art and perception. Swenson's poetry has often been compared to the writings of Elizabeth Bishop, e.e. cummings, and Gertrude Stein. Over the course of her career, Swenson published seven volumes of poetry (see list below). In addition to her poetry, Swenson also wrote three books of poems for children, a play, three short stories, and a book of translated poems by the Swedish author, Tomas Tranströmer. Several additional volumes of Swenson poetry have been published posthumously.

May Swenson received a wide variety of recognitions and honors during her career, including serving as poet-in-residence at several universities in the United States and Canada during the late 1960s and early 1970s. She was the recipient of Guggenheim, Ford, Rockefeller, and MacArthur fellowships and a National Endowment for the Arts grant. In 1972 she received a medal from the International Poetry Forum for her translation of Tranströmer. Swenson also received the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Bollingen Prize from Yale University, and an Award in Literature from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. She was also elected a member of the latter organization, as well as the Academy of American Poets of which she later served as chancellor. In 1967 she received a Distinguished Service Gold Medal from Utah State University, and in 1987 an honorary doctor of letters.

Books of Poetry: Another Animal (1954) A Cage of Spines (1958) To Mix with Time (1963) Half Sun Half Sleep (1967) Iconographs (1970) New and Selected Things Taking Place (1978) In Other Words (1987)

From the guide to the Swenson, May, 1932-1998, (Utah State University. Special Collections and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Luening, Otto, 1900-1996. The tiger's ghost / [words by] May Swenson ; [music by] Otto Luening. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Aldan, Daisy. Papers, 1946-1966. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Ostriker, Alicia. Office files of The American Poetry Review, 197x. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Leach, Timothy. Papers, 1964-1965. Washington University in St. Louis, .
referencedIn Nell Blaine diaries and correspondence, ca. 1947-2002. Houghton Library
creatorOf Swenson, May. Living tenderly. Ball State University Library, Bracken Library
creatorOf Swenson, May. Papers, 1989. Harold B. Lee Library
referencedIn Smith, Gary M., 1943-. Gary Smith photograph collection, 1960-1988. Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library
referencedIn Aaron Kramer papers, ca. 1940 -1986. Houghton Library
referencedIn Nielsen, Veneta Leatham, 1909-. Veneta L. Nielsen papers, 1945-1998. Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library
referencedIn American Review records, 1967-1977 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Poetry mss., 1954-2002 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn John Ciardi Papers, 1910-1997, (bulk 1960-1985) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Marguerite Harris Papers, 1901-1978 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
referencedIn Parnassus: poetry in review records, 1971-1996 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Anne Waldman Papers (1945-2012, bulk 1965-2000) University of Michigan
referencedIn Rich, Adrienne Cecile. Papers: Series I-II, 1933-1999 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn New Directions Publishing Corp. records, 1932-2005 Houghton Library
creatorOf May Swenson poetry, 1964-1988 L. Tom Perry Special Collections20th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts
creatorOf Swenson, May, 1919-. Emily Dickinson: The mermaid in the basement : typescript signed : [n.p.], 1984 Mar. 31. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Gary Smith Papers, 1960-1984 Utah State University. Merrill-Cazier Library. Special Collections and ArchivesManuscript Collection
creatorOf Swenson, May, 1932-1998 Utah State University. Merrill-Cazier Library. Special Collections and ArchivesManuscript Collection
referencedIn Meredith, William, 1919-2007. William Meredith papers, 1947-1979. Library of Congress
referencedIn Bishop, Elizabeth, 1911-1979. Elizabeth Bishop papers, 1911-1993 (bulk 1929-1979). Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Pomegranate Press. Pomegranate Press archives, 1972-1981. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Jean Burden Papers, 1931-1992 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
creatorOf Swanson, Howard, 1907-1978. Snowdunes / music by Howard Swanson ; [text by May S]wenson. The Juilliard School, Lila Acheson Wallace Library
referencedIn Fromm Music Foundation scores and recordings, 1943-2011. Houghton Library
referencedIn Van Duyn, Mona. Papers, 1942-1985. Washington University in St. Louis, .
creatorOf Swenson, May. Letter, 1957 Sept. 3, Peterboro, N.H. to Robert Frost. Dartmouth College Library
creatorOf Swenson, May. Letters, 1972-73, Sea Cliff, N.Y., to Stephen M. Savage, Cambridge, Mass. Ball State University Library, Bracken Library
creatorOf Sexton, Anne, 1928-1974. Anne Sexton Papers, 1912-1996, (bulk 1953-1974). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Swenson, May. Poetry, 1964-1988. Harold B. Lee Library
referencedIn Bishop, Elizabeth, 1911-1979. Papers, 1925-1979. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Palaemon Press (Winston-Salem, N.C.). Editorial archive, 1974-1984. Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
referencedIn William Stanley Braithwaite Papers, 1916-1962 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
referencedIn Voice of America (Organization). Voice of America Forum Lectures in American Poetry series scripts, circa 1965. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Schulman, Grace. Office files, of The American Poetry Review, 1973-1993. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Van Duyn, Mona. Papers. Washington University in St. Louis, .
referencedIn Gary Smith photograph collection, 1960-1988 Utah State University. Merrill-Cazier Library. Special Collections and Archives.Photograph Collections
referencedIn Robert A. Wilson collection, 1906-2011 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
creatorOf Swenson, May. Letters, 1975, Sea Cliff, N.Y., to Kathleen Spivack and Roth Wilkofsky of Pomegranate Press, North Cambridge, Mass. Ball State University Library, Bracken Library
creatorOf Swenson, May. Office files, of The American Poetry Review, 1977-1994. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Ciardi, John, 1916-1986. John Ciardi papers, 1910-1997 (bulk 1960-1985). Library of Congress
creatorOf West, Ray Benedict, 1908-1990. Ray B. West papers, 1920-1965. Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library
referencedIn John Hollander Papers, circa 1950-2007 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Luening, Otto, 1900-1996. The tiger's ghost / [words by] May Swenson ; [music by] Otto Luening. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Manuscripts and proofs of New Directions books, 1937-1997. Houghton Library
creatorOf Carpenter, Margaret Haley. Papers of Margaret Haley Carpenter [manuscript], 1898-1985, bulk 1953-1985. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Swenson, May. May Swenson papers, 1932-1998. Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library
referencedIn Veneta Nielsen Papers, 1945-1998 Utah State University. Merrill-Cazier Library. Special Collections and ArchivesManuscript Collection
referencedIn New Yorker records, ca.1924-1984 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Yaddo records, 1870-1980 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Aldan, Daisy. person
associatedWith American Review corporateBody
associatedWith Bishop, Elizabeth, 1911-1979. person
correspondedWith Blaine, Nell, 1922-1996 person
associatedWith Braithwaite, William Stanley, 1878-1962 person
associatedWith Burden, Jean. person
associatedWith Carpenter, Margaret Haley. person
correspondedWith Ciardi, John, 1916-1986. person
associatedWith Fromm Music Foundation corporateBody
associatedWith Frost, Robert, 1874-1963. person
associatedWith Harris, Marguerite, Archives person
associatedWith Hollander, John. person
correspondedWith Kramer, Aaron, 1921- person
associatedWith Laughlin, James. person
correspondedWith Leach, Timothy. person
associatedWith Luening, Otto, 1900-1996. person
associatedWith MacGregor, Robert. person
correspondedWith Meredith, William, 1919-2007. person
associatedWith Modern Poetry Association corporateBody
associatedWith Morrison, Kathleen, 1898- person
associatedWith New Directions Publishing Corp. corporateBody
correspondedWith New Yorker Magazine, Inc corporateBody
correspondedWith Nielsen, Veneta Leatham, 1909- person
associatedWith Ostriker, Alicia. person
associatedWith Palaemon Press (Winston-Salem, N.C.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Parnassus: poetry in review corporateBody
associatedWith Pomegranate Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Rich, Adrienne Cecile. person
associatedWith Rowley, Dennis. person
associatedWith Savage, Stephen M. person
associatedWith Schulman, Grace. person
associatedWith Sergeant, Elizabeth Shepley, 1881-1965. person
associatedWith Sexton, Anne, 1928-1974. person
associatedWith Smith, Gary M., 1943- person
associatedWith Spivack, Kathleen. person
associatedWith Swanson, Howard, 1907-1978. person
associatedWith Swenson, May, 1919- person
associatedWith Van Duyn, Mona. person
associatedWith Voice of America (Organization) corporateBody
associatedWith Waldman, Anne, 1945-. person
associatedWith West, Ray Benedict, 1908-1990. person
associatedWith Wilkofsky, Roth. person
associatedWith Wilson, Robert A. (Robert Alfred), 1922- person
associatedWith Yaddo (Artist's colony) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Utah
Subject
Literature
Poets, American
Poets, American--Utah
Poets, American--20th century
Authors, American--Utah
Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Authors, American
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1913-05-28

Death 1989-12-28

Americans

English

Information

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