Made With Words collects prose by May Swenson (1919-89), whom critic and poet John Hollander has called "one of our few unquestionably major poets." Born in Logan, Utah, she spent most of her adult life living and writing in New York City. She was an editor for New Directions Paperbacks, and a writer-in-residence at numerous universities during the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout her long and illustrious career, Swenson produced nine volumes of verse, including New and Selected Things Taking Place and In Other Words: New Poems. She was a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and received a multitude of grants and awards during her lifetime.
Made with Words includes a rich assortment of Swenson's prose, including several short stories, by turns amusing, provocative, and poetic, and inextricably bound with her poetic oeuvre; a one-act play entitled The Floor, produced in New York in the mid-sixties; interviews and book reviews that shed light on Swenson's poetic development as well as her literary and artistic tastes; and finally, a collection of Swenson's letters to the poet Elizabeth Bishop that reveal the intricacies of three decades of their personal and professional relationship. The critical and biographical introduction provides an engaging glimpse into the creative life and prose work of an important contemporary American poet.
Gardner McFall is Assistant Professor of Literature, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. She is the author of The Pilot's Daughter; Naming the Animals; and Jonathan's Cloud.
I. Fiction 9
Mutterings of a Middlewoman 11
From "Fables of Things" 46
The Power and the Danger 47
From the Window 56
II. On Poets and Poetry
A Poem Happens to Me 75
On Richard Wilbur's "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World" 80
A Matter of Diction 86
The Poet as Antispecialist 91
A Note about Iconographs 102
An Interview with Cornelia Draves and Mary Jane Fortunato 104
An Interview with Karla Hammond 121
The Term Line in Poetry 138
"Big My Secret, but It's Bandaged" 143
Sylvia Plath: A Recollection 172
III. The Floor 175
IV. Letters to Elizabeth Bishop 193