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May Swenson Papers (MSS111)


Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description



Material Toward Books

Manuscripts By Others

Personal Papers




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May Swenson Papers (MSS111), 1929-1998 | MSS Manuscripts

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Collection Overview

Title: May Swenson Papers (MSS111), 1929-1998Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1929-1998


Primary Creator: Swenson, May (1919-1989)

Extent: 224.0 Boxes

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The May Swenson Papers contain manuscript and editorial material toward most of her books including Another Animal (1954), A Cage of Spines (1958), To Mix with Time: New and Selected Poems (1963), and Half Sun Half Sleep (1967). This material includes drafts of individual poems as well as letters to and from various editors, friends, and readers. Swenson’s correspondents include John Hall Wheelock, and Burroughs Mitchell, but the most fascinating portion of the May Swenson Papers is her correspondence with the American poet Elizabeth Bishop. The two were close friends and Washington University holds 268 of their letters written from 1950 to 1979, the year of Bishop’s death.

Collection Historical Note

Anna Thilda May "May" Swenson (May 28, 1913 – December 4, 1989) was an American poet and playwright. Born in Utah, Swenson grew up as the eldest of 10 children in a Mormon household where Swedish was spoken regularly and English was a second language. She received a B.S. from Utah State University in 1939 and taught poetry at as poet-in-residence at Bryn Mawr, the University of North Carolina, the University of California at Riverside, Purdue University and Utah State University. From 1959 to 1966, she worked as a manuscript reviewer at New Directions publishers. Swenson left New Directions Press in 1966 in an effort to focus completely on her own writing. She also served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1980 until her death in 1989.

Her poems were published in Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, Carleton Miscellany, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Saturday Review, Parnassus and Poetry. She received much recognition for her work, including: Guggenheim fellowship (1959), Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship (1960), Ford Foundation grant (1964), Bollingen Prize for poetry (1981), and MacArthur Fellowship (1987).

Since her first collection of poems, Another Animal, was published by Scribner in 1954. Swenson's other collections of poems include A Cage of Spines (1958), To Mix with Time: New and Selected Poems (1963), Half Sun Half Sleep (1967), Iconographs (1970), New & Selected Things Taking Place (1978), and In Other Words (1987). Posthumous collections of her work include The Love Poems (1991), Nature: Poems Old and New (1994), and May Out West (1996). She is also the author of three collections of poems for younger readers, including Poems to Solve (1966) and More Poems to Solve (1968); a collection of essays, The Contemporary Poet as Artist and Critic (1964); and a one-act play titled The Floor, which was produced in New York in the 1960s. As translator, she published Windows and Stones: Selected Poems of Tomas Tranströmer (1972), which received a medal of excellence from the International Poetry Forum.

Administrative Information

Repository: MSS Manuscripts

Access Restrictions: Open

Use Restrictions:

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or spec@wumail.wustl.edu. (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)

Acquisition Source: Gift and Purchase

Acquisition Method:

Accession number 1448. Laid in material, January 2, 1976

Accession number 1541. Gift of May Swenson, January 22, 1982

Accession number 1640. Purchase, November 5, 1984

Accession number 1646. Purchase from May Swenson, December 17, 1984

Accession number 1801. Gift of the Estate of May Swenson, September 12, 1989

Accession number 1829. Gift of the Estate of May Swenson, March 10, 1990

Accession number 1843. Gift of the Estate of May Swenson, September 26, 1990

Accession number 1847. Gift of the Estate of May Swenson, October 9, 1990

Accession number 1854. Gift of the Estate of May Swenson, October 28, 1990

Accession number 1856. Gift of the Harry C. Smith, October 4, 1990

Accession number 1868. Gift of Diane Ackerman, March 6, 1991

Accession number 1869. Gift of Peggy Lockard, Pepper Publishing, March 6, 1991

Accession number 1876. Gift of the Estate of May Swenson, May 2, 1991

Accession number 1885. Gift of the Estate of May Swenson, June 11, 1991

Accession number 1918. Gift of the Estate of May Swenson, June 28, 1991

Accession number 1927. Gift of the Estate of May Swenson, August 7, 1991

Accession number 1935. Rozanne Knudson, October 21, 1991

Accession number 1936. Gift of Rozanne Knudson, December 30, 1991

Accession number 1948. Unknown, April 22, 1992

Accession number 1951. Gift of the Estate of May Swenson, July 27, 1992

Accession number 22750. Unknown, October 23, 2003

Accession number 22770. Unknown, October 23, 2003

Accession number 22780. Unknown

Accession number 22915. Purchase from Rozanne Knudson, October 13, 2003

Accession number 22942. Purchase from Carole Berglie, December 2, 1999

Accession number 22943. Unknown, Purchase

Accession number 22944. Estate of May Swenson, unknown

Accession number 23017. Unknown

Accession number 23018. Unknown

Accession number 23019. Unknown

Accession number 23020. Unknown

Accession number 23021. Unknown

Accession number 23029. Gift of Rozanne Knudson, November 3, 2003

Accession number 23035. Purchase from Rozanne Knudson, 2004

Accession number 23046. Rozanne Knudson, unknown

Accession number 23055. Unknown, September 8, 2004

Accession number 23056. Rozanne Knudson, unknown

Accession number 23070. Rozanne Knudson, January 2005

Accession number 23913. Gift of unknown, 2007

Accession number 23925. Gift of unknown, October 23, 2007

Accession number 23960. Purchase from the Estate of May Swenson, August 10, 2010

Accession number 2013.009. Purchase from Carole Berglie, January 1, 2013

Accession number MSS2016-015. Purchase from Carole Berglie, May 15, 2016

Preferred Citation: Name of the Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: Manuscripts],
[Series 3: Material Toward Books],
[Series 4: Manuscripts By Others],
[Series 5: Personal Papers],
[Series 6: Ephemera],
[Series 7: Audiovisual],
[Series 8: Realia],

Series 4: Manuscripts By OthersAdd to your cart.
Manuscripts By Others consists of manuscripts by others, arranged alphabetically by author's last name, then by title or first line. Some material had no author identified, this material is filed under unidentified and arranged by title or first line.
Box 165Add to your cart.
Folder 5331: Abernathy, IlaAdd to your cart.

Grace, 1 page

If Nothing Else Is Clean, Wear the Red Socks, 2 pages

An Inheritance From the Prophets, 1 page

Zuni, 1 page

Folder 5332: Balog, Betty E.Add to your cart.

Book Review: May Swenson's New and Selected Things Taking Place, 1 page

"Read Spider, Mom...", 1 page

Folder 5333: Baro, GeneAdd to your cart.
Spring Poem, 2 pages
Folder 5334: Biggs, MaryAdd to your cart.
The Publishing of American Poetry, 1950-1980, 11 pages.
Folder 5335: Blessington, FrankAdd to your cart.
Report of May Swenson's Golden Rose Reading of September 10, 1984, 4 pages
Folder 5336: Bortz, DanielAdd to your cart.

Night Flies, Music score, 3 copies.

Located in oversize

Folder 5337: Butler, LindaAdd to your cart.

Living in the Jelly Bean Age or Thoughts On a Jelly Bean Presidency, 2 pages

On Learning That the Peacemaker in the White House is a Modern Hoax, 1 page

Folder 5338: Chamberlain, Kent ClairAdd to your cart.
Bear I My Call, 1 page
Folder 5339: Cobb, V. BruceAdd to your cart.
Unconnections, 1 page
Folder 5340: Combs, TramAdd to your cart.
The Stilt, 1 page
Folder 5341: Coombs, PatriciaAdd to your cart.
Gorgon's Lament, 1 page
Folder 5342: Davenport, Sister Mary AaronAdd to your cart.
The Theme of Search in May Swenson's Poetry, 114 pages
Box 166Add to your cart.
Folder 5343: Deutsch, BabetteAdd to your cart.
Introduction to WNYC Program "Poets of Tomorrow," 1 page
Folder 5344: Duling, PaulAdd to your cart.
To Jagannath, 4 pages
Folder 5345: Eberhart, RichardAdd to your cart.
New Hampshire - February, 1 page
Folder 5346: Elman, RichardAdd to your cart.
May From My Bluff, 1 page
Folder 5347: Emig, JanetAdd to your cart.

Natural Bridge, B.C., 1 page

Radioed Bear, 1 page

Folder 5348: Eyre, RuthAdd to your cart.

For Mothers On Her 50th Wedding Anniversary, 1 page. Includes For Dad On His 50th Wedding Anniversary by Grace "Michael" Turetsky.

"This is neither a letter nor a postcard...", 2 pages

Folder 5349: Farber, NormaAdd to your cart.
The Poet as Alpinist, 2 pages
Folder 5350: Feldman, IrvingAdd to your cart.

The Life and Letters, 3 pages

Variations On a Theme By May Swenson, 4 pages

Folder 5351: Field, EdwardAdd to your cart.

Introduction of Swenson at Guggenheim, 2 pages

Review of Nature: Poems Old and New, 4 pages

Folder 5352: Francis, ScottAdd to your cart.
The Stilts Made of Plum Wood, 1 page
Folder 5353: Gallop, Marilyn K.Add to your cart.
New & Selected Things Taking Place: Comments and Response, 5 pages
Folder 5354: Gray, PatAdd to your cart.

Family Resemblances, 1 page

The Girl/The Girlie Magazine, 1 page

Journey to the Heart, 1 page

Letter to Judy, Like Me, Divorced in Mid-Life, 2 pages

Personal statement for a Bunting Fellowship, 19 pages

Stripping the Flesh, 1 page

Sunday Menage, 1 page

Thanksigving, 1 page

You're Needed, L'Enfant, 1 page

Folder 5355: Haines, JohnAdd to your cart.
Program notes, 10 pages
Folder 5356: Hanson, KennethAdd to your cart.
Protocol, 1 page
Folder 5357: Harrison, Evelyn M.Add to your cart.
Focus on May Swenson, 6 pages
Folder 5358: Harteis, RichardAdd to your cart.

Gladys, 1 page

The House-painter, 2 pages

Illness, 1 page

The Matriarch, 2 pages

The Painter, 1 page

Sibyl, 2 pages

Superstition, 1 page

Folder 5359: Hemschemeyer, JudithAdd to your cart.

Anna Akhmatova, 15 pages

The Role of the Beloved, 2 pages

Folder 5360: Herman, MartinAdd to your cart.
May Swenson, 21 pages
Folder 5361: Hoffman, DanielAdd to your cart.
Crossing Walt Whitman Bridge, 2 pages
Folder 5362: Hollander, JohnAdd to your cart.
Introduction of May Swenson, 2 pages
Folder 5363: Inman, WillAdd to your cart.

Faults, 1 page

Whose Heaven? Whose Hiroshima?, 1 page

Folder 5364: Irwin, MarkAdd to your cart.
Icicles, 1 page
Folder 5365: Kessler, EdwardAdd to your cart.
A Williamsburg Backyard, 1 page
Folder 5366: Kirby-Smith, TomAdd to your cart.
The True History of a Pair of Shoes, 3 pages
Folder 5367-5368: Knudson, ZanAdd to your cart.

5367. R.R. Knudson 1932-, 47 pages

5368. The Wonderful Pen of May Swenson, 5 pages

Folder 5369: Kunitz, StanleyAdd to your cart.
Acceptance Speech by Stanley Kunitz for Theodore Roethke, author of "The Far Field" Poetry Winner National Books Awards March 9, 1985, 3 pages
Folder 5370: Levine, AlAdd to your cart.

The Camp, 3 pages

Cerf Volant, 1 page

Dollar Bills, 2 pages

Empty World, 1 page

The Girl from Reno, 1 page

Grows in Widlness, 1 page

Hear te Cerf Volant, 1 page

Horseman, 1 page

House Trolls, 1 page

Hunters, 1 page

"I saw the human sun on the grey grass...", 4 pages

In A Moment, 1 page

Lynne, 1 page

March 20, 1 page

Miracle, 1 page

Motion, 1 page

Othin's Birds, 1 page

Russian Thist;e, 1 page

Shulaps Mountain, 1 page

Street, 3 pages

Thistle, 1 page

The Train, 1 page

Traveling South, 1 page

Two Sonnes, 1 page

The Virgin, 1 page

The Ward, 1 page

Yalakom Valley, 1 page

Box 167Add to your cart.
Folder 5371: Loomis, BattellAdd to your cart.
May Swenson, 3 pages
Folder 5372: Macleish, ArchibaldAdd to your cart.
Poem With Plot and Action, 1 page
Folder 5373: MacMahon, CandaceAdd to your cart.
Chocolate-Mint and Metrics, 1 page
Folder 5374: Marshall, CarolineAdd to your cart.

Agnus Dei, 3 pages

Brule Country, 1 page

Canoeing the Brule, 2 pages

For Franklin Brainard 1920-1976, 1 page

Guide, 1 page

Home On The Mississippi, 2 pages

The Language Of the Body, 1 page

Of Destination, 1 page

On Reflection, 1 page

Relativity, 1 page

Returning, 2 pages

September Weather, 1 page

The Twin, 1 page

Viewing X-Rays The Day Saigon Fell, 1 page

The Way It Is, 1 page

Widow, 1 page

Folder 5375: Marshall, MargaretAdd to your cart.
Sacrament, 1 page
Folder 5376: McFall, GardnerAdd to your cart.

Along the St. Johns, 1 page

Four Corners,1 page

Leaving Heaven, 2 pages

Folder 5377: Mekeel, JoyceAdd to your cart.
Fragment..., 9 pages
Folder 5378: Meinke, PeterAdd to your cart.
The Day Edward Field Came to Dinner, 2 pages
Folder 5379: Mills, MelindaAdd to your cart.
Shakespeare, Plato, and the Chambered Nautilus, 13 pages
Folder 5380: Morgan, Edith WelchAdd to your cart.
"Leaves blown like foam...", 1 page
Folder 5381: Nice, LindaAdd to your cart.
The Comparisons and Contrasts Between the Views of Death in Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman and Selected Poems by May Swenson, 32 pages
Folder 5382: Oliver, MaryAdd to your cart.
Banyan, 1 page
Folder 5383: Orgel, IreneAdd to your cart.
From Sixes and Sevens, 10 pages
Folder 5384: Piercy, MargeAdd to your cart.
Remembering 1979, 1 page
Folder 5385: Schulman, GraceAdd to your cart.
Introduction to May Swenson's Reading at the Poetry Center 92nd Street YM-YWHA, 18 May 1987, 3 pages
Folder 5386: Schwartz, PearlAdd to your cart.
Briefly, 1 page
Folder 5387: Schwentz, ZebeAdd to your cart.
B*A*C*K, Music score, 1 page, 2 copies
Folder 5388: Seagrey, MarkAdd to your cart.
An Odyssey and a Pair of Scissors, 6 pages
Folder 5389: Simmons, LyndaAdd to your cart.
To May Who Has Made a Books That Will Last, 2 pages
Folder 5390: Stanford, AnnAdd to your cart.

The Blackberry Thicket, 1 page

Dreaming the Winter Garden, 77 pages

Folder 5391: Stoloff, CarolynAdd to your cart.
At Night In the High Mountains, 2 pages
Folder 5392: Stuckey, ElizabethAdd to your cart.
The Windshield Wipers1, 1 page
Folder 5393-5396: Swenson, Dan A.Add to your cart.

Autobiography of D.A. Swenson (1880-1963), 132 pages

The Good Servant Who Became A Bad Master, 4 pages

I Have a Friend, 1 page

The Writing on the Earthen Floor, 6 pages

Box 168Add to your cart.
Folder 5397: Swenson, DianeAdd to your cart.
Mayflower, 1 page
Folder 5398: Swenson, K. Warnick and Shirley SwensonAdd to your cart.
Report of the Families of Swen Swenson and Thilda Pehrson, 79 pages
Folder 5399: Swenson, PaulAdd to your cart.

Biography of Dan Arthur Swenson, 2 pages

Life and Death as Existential Riddles in May Swenson's Poetry, 17 pages

Folder 5400: Swenson, RoyAdd to your cart.
Roy Swenson's Talk at Sister May's Funeral, 5 pages
Folder 5401: Tagliabue, JohnAdd to your cart.
"Intuitive and transformed recollections...", 2 pages
Folder 5402: Turetsky, Grace "Michael"Add to your cart.

For Dad On His 50th Wedding Anniversary, 1 page. Includes For Mother On Her 50th Wedding Anniversary by Ruth Eyre.

"Sister is the color...", 1 page

Folder 5403: UnidentifiedAdd to your cart.

About May Swenson, 2 pages

"Are you Swenson?...", 1 page

Chapter Eleven: The Colossus and Other Poems, 1960, 20 pages. Possibly an early draft by Linda Wagner-Martin for Sylvia Plath: A Biography

Coto de Caza, February 4, 1973, 1 page

The Eternal Past Is Today, 1 page

The House that Jack Built, 1 page

"Kristen Smith that's my name...", 1 page

May Swenson - Biographical Note & Career Summary - Fall 1966, 1 page

"May Swenson (1913-1989) was born in Logan...", 1 page

"May Swenson was not much given to self-absorption...", 6 pages

"May Swenson's general style presents an image...", 9 pages

"Midnight at the oasis...", 1 page

New York Senegalese, 1 page

Off the Record, 3 pages

The Orbiter vs. the Alligator, 2 pages

Sally's Ride (June 1983), 1 page

The Swenson Reunion, 2 pages

You Are the Day's Remembrance, 1 page

Folder 5404: Vrbovska, AncaAdd to your cart.

Abysmal Yawn, 1 page

The Accomplice, 1 page

As I Lie Upon the Humid Grass, 1 page

"Away from the smoke garden flowers...", 1 page

Circle, 1 page

Clouds, 1 page

Don Quixote's Defense of Dulcinea, 1 page

A Dream, 1 page

The Dream Is A Cradle, 1 page

Eternity Is Manifested In Beauty, 1 page

Flame, 1 page

The Flower In Snow, 1 page

For Thee and Thee, 1 page

Forgotten Graves, 1 page

"From the jetty I saw the driftwood...', 1 page

The Gate Beyond the Sun, 1 page

God Is Our Only Ghost, 1 page

"The grass is moist and green...", 1 page

Happiness,1 page

Hedged-In Paths, 1 page

The Horses Are One, 1 page

Hospital Ward, 1 page

I Lived Near An Ocean..., 1 page

I Saw, 1 page

Invitation, 1 page with clipping

It Was A Fair Trial, 1 page

My Body, This Clay, 1 page

My Shadow Goes From Me, 1 page

Mysteries, 1 page

No Cell No Tree, 2 pages

"Now, in the last lean days...", 1 page

Oh This Arena of Strange Love Making, 1 page

"On January days...", 1 page

"On the hill-side bronze carpet leaves...", 1 page

Other Spheres, 1 page

Outline Of Aim For the Term Guggenheim Fellowship, 1 page

Pagan Prayer, 1 page

The Question, 1 page

The Sanguine Sea, 12 pages

Seagulls, 1 page

Sketch For a Landscape, 1 page

Silent Hours, 1 page

Songs For And Against May Swenson, 1 page

Songs For the Present, 1 page

Soon the Chariot...,1 page

The Sorceress, 1 page with clipping. Filed with The Invitation.

Success, 2 pages

There Are No Crosses Here, 1 page

"This for amusement...", 2 pages

Time Is A Vase Of Memory, 1 page with clipping. Filed with The Invitation.

Time's Embroidery, 1 page

To May, 1 page

Voyagers, 1 page

The Way Is Hesitation, 1 page

What Is Prepared For Us There?, 1 page. Translation of F. Kafka

When We Were Young..., 2 pages

Work Is The Spade,1 page

You Are A Dream In Eternity's Sleep, 1 page

"Your color is the violet of lightning...", 1 page

Folder 5405: Wagner, EliotAdd to your cart.
" A heavy thinker...", 1 page
Folder 5406: Weaver, MaryAdd to your cart.
Interview Journal, 7 pages. Also includes expense reports for interviewing Swenson's sisters and brothers.
Folder 5407: Welge, CamieAdd to your cart.
Four Swallows, 1 page
Folder 5408: Widener, MargaretAdd to your cart.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 1 page
Folder 5409: Wilbur, RichardAdd to your cart.
Love Calls Us to The Things Of This World, 1 page
Folder 5410: Winant, FranAdd to your cart.
A Memory of May Swenson, 1 page
Folder 5412: Woodbury, Margaret SwensonAdd to your cart.
Swedish/American Christmas, 3 pages
Folder 5413: Zigler, DonAdd to your cart.
Market Street or Exploring the Human Psyche in Size Nine Shoes, 2 pages

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: Manuscripts],
[Series 3: Material Toward Books],
[Series 4: Manuscripts By Others],
[Series 5: Personal Papers],
[Series 6: Ephemera],
[Series 7: Audiovisual],
[Series 8: Realia],

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