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 Riverside, Purdue University and Utah State University. And she served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1980 until her death in 1989.