May Swenson

May Swenson Poems

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

In the pond in the park
all things are doubled:
Long buildings hang and
wriggle gently. Chimneys


Blue, but you are Rose, too,
and buttermilk, but with blood
dots showing through.
A little salty your white

The binocular owl,
fastened to a limb
like a lantern
all night long,

Stop bleeding said the knife
I would if I could said the cut.
Stop bleeding you make me messy with the blood.

My dumpy little mother on the undertaker's slab
had a mannequin's grace. From chin to foot
the sheet outlined her, thin and tall. Her face
uptilted, bloodless, smooth, had a long smile.

Little lion face
I stopped to pick
among the mass of thick
succulent blooms, the twice

It’s about
the ball,
the bat,
and the mitt.


Women Or they
should be should be
pedestals little horses
moving those wooden

A mouth. Can blow or breathe,
be a funnel, or Hello.
A grass blade or a cut.
A question seated. And a proud

The world is a ball of water.
See, it is round-sided.
I move across its topside,

“Feel me to do right,” our father said on his deathbed.
We did not quite know—in fact, not at all—what he meant.

I like being in your apartment, and not disturbing anything.
As in the woods I wouldn't want to move a tree,

What does love look like? We know
the shape of death. Death is a cloud
immense and awesome. At first a lid

The popcorn is greasy, and I forgot to bring a Kleenex.
A pill that’s a bomb inside the stomach of a man inside


Fruit without a stone, its shiny
pulp is clear green. Inside, tiny
black microdot seeds. Skin

A smudge for the horizon
that, on a clear day, shows
the hard edge of hills and

She sat on a shelf,
her breasts two bellies
on her poked-out belly,
on which the navel looked

When in the mask of night there shone that cut,
we were riddled. A probe reached down
and stroked some nerve in us,

I show her how to put her arms around me,
but she’s much too small.
What’s worse, she doesn’t understand.

May Swenson Biography

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 Tranströmer. Personal Life Swenson attended Utah State University in Logan in the class of 1934, where she received a bachelor's degree. She taught poetry at as poet-in-residence at Bryn Mawr, the University of North Carolina, the University of California at Riverside, Purdue University and Utah State University. From 1959 to 1966 she worked as an editor at New Directions publishers. Swenson left New Directions Press in 1966 in an effort to focus completely on her own writing. She also served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1980 until her death in 1989. In 1936 Swenson worked as an editor and ghostwriter for a man called "Plat," who became her boyfriend. "I think I should like to have a son by Plat," she wrote in her diary, "but I would not like to be married to any man, but only be myself." Her poems were published in Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, Carleton Miscellany, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Saturday Review, Parnassus and Poetry. Her poem Question was also published in Stephenie Meyer's book The Host. Awards and recognition She received much recognition for her work. Some of which include: American Introductions Prize in 1955; William Rose Benet Prize of the Poetry Society of America in 1959; Longview Foundation Award in 1959; National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in 1960; Brandeis University Creative Arts Award in 1967; Lucy Martin Donnelly Award of Bryn Mawr College in 1968; Shelley Poetry Award in 1968 Guggenheim fellowship in 1959, Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship in 1960, Ford Foundation grant in 1964 Bollingen Prize for poetry in 1981, MacArthur Fellowship in 1987.)

The Best Poem Of May Swenson


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?

May Swenson Comments

sucker 02 April 2019

pussyto make a comment on. intransitive verb.: to explain or interpret something by comment commenting on recent developments commented on the poem's symbolism

1 1 Reply
M Asim Nehal 23 March 2019

A talented poetess.

2 1 Reply
John Richter 20 August 2015

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....

2 4 Reply
Carole Berglie 10 September 2012

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.

11 15 Reply
Kevan Eyre 10 September 2009

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.

28 27 Reply

May Swenson Popularity

May Swenson Popularity

Error Success