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Old 05-18-2018, 06:58 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Default May Swenson

She is amazing. Two great ones:

Bleeding (formatting matters so I have to link to it rather than post it)


Ocean, Whale-Shaped

Ocean, whale-shaped, rocking between the dunes,
in the gateway of their great naked knees,
horizon chafing a tame sky,

your vast back purple, your shoreward side
wallowing blue, fretted with racing foam,
green, then diamond your fin flashes on sand.

Glazed monuments of the wind, the dunes,
their sprawling limbs Olympian lift and fall
to slopes and platforms seeming hard as bone,

but footsteps scar their flanks like snow;
their white bodies shift,
are shunted by you, blue-black, boisterous whale—

and whittled, are rewhittled by the wind
unsatisfied with any shape or perpetuity.
The land, the sand we tread is not the steady

element our feet believe.
Indelible ocean, humped beside the sky,
you unsubstantial we can’t grasp or walk on,

you pry at these gates and break them when you will—
overwhelming whale of water, mover and shaper,
over and over carving your cradle here.

– – – – – – – – – –

That last line!!! I wrote a bit more about the second poem here, if you're interested. Any other Swenson fans here?
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Old 05-18-2018, 10:13 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

I'm not sure I've ever heard of her. But this is lovely.

Cheers,
John
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Old 05-19-2018, 06:28 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Aaron,

I've not read Swenson a great deal, but your website post on "Ocean, Whale-Shaped" and your directing me to "Bleeding" have got me intrigued.
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Old 05-19-2018, 06:36 AM
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I bought her Library of America volume solely on the strength of Bleeding. The first few books collected in it were good, but mixed bags. But with Half Sun Half Sleep she really found herself—what an amazing volume of poetry. And "Bleeding" is from Iconographs, her next book—looking forward to that one as well.

She plays a lot with formatting, with how the poem looks on the page, while also being deeply attuned to how the poem sounds. (She's adept with both meter and rhyme.) Concrete poetry that liquifies in the mouth.
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Old 05-19-2018, 07:14 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Novick View Post
She plays a lot with formatting, with how the poem looks on the page, while also being deeply attuned to how the poem sounds. (She's adept with both meter and rhyme.) Concrete poetry that liquifies in the mouth.
This is what I saw in "Bleeding," and that's absolutely up my alley in ways that a lot of poetry is not. It's an enticing combination.
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Old 05-19-2018, 07:26 AM
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Here's another I really like:



Interestingly, I discovered in searching for a version of this that had the formatting that it was published in The New Yorker formatted as three four-line stanzas. I wonder if that was TNY's decision, or whether it simply took her time to hit on the formatting.
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Old 05-21-2018, 07:16 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Thanks for introducing her. I, too, think there is more that can be done on the page with formatting than to simply stack your lines one ontop another.
The Egg poem is excellent, too.

And this:
"Concrete poetry that liquifies in the mouth"
is the most imagistic description of what a poem does that I've heard in quite a while.
x
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Old 05-21-2018, 07:39 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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I've finally gotten around to working my way through Ashbery at your request. Enjoying, slowly, the selection of Some Trees, but jumped ahead to the famous "Self-Portrait," which I had somehow avoided reading. Stunning.

Bought Swenson after that. I'll have her collected in my hands tomorrow.
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Old 05-23-2018, 12:10 PM
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I had never read any of her poems until recently. There are certain similarities between her and her contemporary, though he lived much longer, Edwin Morgan in that each poem seems to invent a new form, the expensiveness of their subjects, and an eye on how the poem looks on the page (which, as a side note, her Collected as published by the Library of America should have printed no more than one poem per page). I connect with Morgan’s work more but there are delights in hers throughout, like this last part of “Summer’s Bounty”:

melons of Water........glories of Morning
melons of Musk..........rooms of Mush
cherries of Pie............days of Dog
cherries of Choke.......puppies of Hush
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Old 05-23-2018, 06:58 PM
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Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
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This is my favorite Swenson:

Question

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?
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