Nature: Poems Old and New

Swenson, May

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Annotated by:
Terry, James
  • Date of entry: Jan-27-2003
  • Last revised: Sep-01-2006


Swenson’s poems about the body and death express the essential mystery of human experience and of observing the cycles of the natural world. In "Question" she wonders in metaphor about what will become of the Self after death, "when Body my good / bright dog is dead." In "Death, Great Smoothener" Swenson notices the odd roles that the personified death seems to play. In "Feel Me" the poet ponders the curious last words of her dying father, suspecting a considerable indictment of the living by the dying. In "Death Invited" she details the gruesome ending of a bullfight, with death personified by the bull, dragged from the ring only to be replaced by another: "Here comes trotting, snorting death / let loose again."


Swenson’s gift is to observe and catalog accurately while stretching possible meanings to a higher imaginative level. She is therefore both abstract and concrete at once. A vision akin to William Blake’s is mixed with a homely vernacular diction like Robert Frost’s or perhaps Roethke’s, so that even the darker subjects are luminous with Swenson’s unusual or new perspectives.


Houghton Mifflin

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