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.

Popular Poems