Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Poems: "Water Picture" -- by May Swenson

In the pond in the park 
all things are doubled:
Long buildings hang and 
wriggle gently. Chimneys 
are bent legs bouncing 
on clouds below. A flag 
wags like a fishhook 
down there in the sky.

The arched stone bridge 
is an eye, with underlid 
in the water. In its lens 
dip crinkled heads with hats 
that don't fall off. Dogs go by, 
barking on their backs. 
A baby, taken to feed the 
ducks, dangles upside-down, 
a pink balloon for a buoy.

Treetops deploy a haze of 
cherry bloom for roots, 
where birds coast belly-up 
in the glass bowl of a hill; 
from its bottom a bunch 
of peanut-munching children 
is suspended by their 
sneakers, waveringly.

A swan, with twin necks 
forming the figure 3, 
steers between two dimpled 
towers doubled. Fondly 
hissing, she kisses herself, 
and all the scene is troubled:
water-windows splinter, 
tree-limbs tangle, the bridge 
folds like a fan.
*     *     *    *     *
May Swenson, born in Logan, Utah, is considered by some critics to be one of the most important poets of the 20th century. Her work has been recognized with fellowships from the Guggenheim, Ford, Rockefeller, and MacArthur Foundations, as well as a National Endowment for the Arts grant. She received the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Bollingen Prize from Yale University, and an Award in Literature from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. 
Swenson produced a dozen books of poetry over the course of her career, which spanned five decades. They include Another Animal (1954), To Mix with Time: New and Selected Poems (1963), Iconographs (1970), and Nature: Poems Old and New (2000). She taught poetry at Bryn Mawr, the University of North Carolina, the University of California at RiversidePurdue University and Utah State University. And she served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1980 until her death in 1989.

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