Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.
In Logan Cemetery a granite bench marks the grave of May Swenson, a native Utahn and eminent poet. She was born in Logan in 1913 and attended Utah State University where she published her first poem. She moved east in 1936, and eventually, she became one of America’s most inventive and recognized poets, She won many awards including Guggenheim and Rockefeller grants, the Yale Bollingen Prize, and the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Utah State University conferred an honorary doctorate on Swenson in 1987. Despite her many achievements and her years living away from Utah, Swenson never forgot her Mormon heritage or her identity as a Westerner.
Nature played a prominent role in Swenson’s work. In fact, she published a collection of poetry called Nature: Poems Old and New which is brimming with imagery that evokes the beauty and complexity of the natural world.
An example is a poem called April Light. Here it is read by Dr. Paul Crumbley, a professor of English at Utah State University.
Lined with light
the twigs are stubby arrows.
A gilded trunk writhes
Upward from the roots,
from the pit of the black tentacles.
In the book of spring
a bare-limbed torso
is the first illustration.
Light teaches the tree
to beget leaves,
to embroider itself all over
with green reality,
until summer becomes
its steady portrait
and birds bring their lifetime
to the boughs.
Then even the corpse
light copies from below
may shimmer, dreaming it feels
the cheeks of blossom.
To learn more about May Swenson and her work, come to Stokes Nature Center on May 1st at 10 AM. Paul Crumbley will present a program entitled “May Swenson’s Poetics of Natural Selection.” For more information, see www.wildaboututah.org
For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.
Readings: Paul Crumbley, English Department, Utah State University, April Light by May Swenson
Text: Stokes Nature Center: Holly Strand
Sources & Additional Reading
Knudson, R.R. and Suzzanne Bigelow. 1996. May Swenson: A Poet’s Life in Photos. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.
Swenson, May. 2000. Nature: Poems Old and New. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.