Biography May Swenson

May Swenson

photo of May Swenson
  • Time Period1919 - 1989
  • PlaceUtah
  • CountryUnited States

Poet Biography

May Swenson was born in Logan, Utah, on May 28, 1919. She attended Utah State University, Logan, and received a bachelor's degree in 1939. She taught poetry at Bryn Mawr, the University of North Carolina, the University of California at Riverside, Purdue University and Utah State University and was an editor at New Directions publishers from 1959 to 1966.

May Swenson became one of America's most inventive and incisive poets. English was actually her second language since Swedish was spoken in her childhood home.

Beginning in 1954, she published ten collections of poetry during her lifetime and one book of translations of the poems of Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. Swenson's work is wide and varied. Many of her poems delight in the natural world. Others incorporate scientific research, particularly that having to do with space exploration. Others root themselves in love and eroticism, especially lesbian sexuality. Many of her love poems were published as a single collection in 1991 as The Love Poems of May Swenson.

Nature and sexuality are not separate categories in her work; to be a part of Nature, as we all are, joins us to a common sexual energy. Her strongest love poems, such as Fireflies, Dark Wild Honey, and Wednesday at The Waldorf, rely on Nature imagery for much of their vitality and beauty.