Sea Cliff, New York
68 at time of award
December 4, 1989
Area of Focus
Published July 1, 1987

About May's Work

May Swenson was a poet who used nature as a symbol of the human spirit.

She was known for her inventiveness with sounds and shapes, technical capacity, and sense of human sympathy.  Swenson’s books of poetry include Another Animal (1954), A Cage of Spines (1958), To Mix with Time (1963), Poems to Solve (1963), Half Sun, Half Sleep (1967), Iconographs (1970), More Poems to Solve (1971), New and Selected Things Taking Place (1978), In Other Words (1987), The Love Poems of May Swenson (1991), Nature: Poems Old and New (1994), and May Out West (1996).  Her poems appeared in such publications as the Atlantic Monthly, the Nation, the New Yorker, the Paris Review, Parnassus, and Poetry.


Swenson was poet-in-residence at Purdue University, the University of North Carolina, Bryn Mawr College, Lethbridge University, Utah State University, and the University of California, Riverside.  She also served as the editor at New Directions publishers (1959-66) and as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (1980-89).  She was the recipient of fellowships from the Rockefeller (1955), Guggenheim (1959), and Ford (1964) Foundations, and the National Endowment for the Arts (1974).  Among her honors was the Bollingen Prize in Poetry (1981) from Yale University. 

Swenson received a B.A. (1939) from Utah State University.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

Select News Coverage of May Swenson
April 1, 2007
"Book review: 'Body My House' Is Stellar Tribute to Swenson"
Deseret News
May Swenson , 1987 MacArthur Fellow
December 5, 1989
"May Swenson, a Humorous Poet Of Cerebral Verse, Is Dead at 76"
The New York Times
May Swenson , 1987 MacArthur Fellow
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