Poet May Swenson honored at Logan Library

Poet May Swenson’s poem “Earth Your Dancing Place” has found a permanent home at the Logan Library.

Members of the May Swenson Project, which aims to spread Swanson’s name and poetry, presented library staff with a framed copy of the poem Thursday night. 

USU Professor of English Paul Crumbley said, “It’s all about trying to increase appreciation for May Swenson. Even though she has received all of these awards and even though her poetry is universally appreciated, she’s relatively unknown here in town.”

Swenson is a Logan native, and some of her large family still lives in the valley, but locals hardly seem to know her name, Crumbley said. 

Swenson, who USU English graduate student Aubrey Loomis said was “probably Logan’s most famous poet and a wonderful icon,” was born in Logan in 1913. Swenson grew up in a house at the base of Old Main Hill – then called College Hill – and at 12 years old she began writing in a diary. She attended Logan High School where she won some writing contests and graduated from USU in 1934. Loomis said Swenson thought her hometown was “pure and boring,” so she moved to Salt Lake City and later to New York City. 

Swenson submitted her work to the New Yorker magazine, though USU graduate student Devin Patten said Swenson’s work was rejected several times. In 1953, the New Yorker published one of her poems and eventually published 59 total of Swenson’s poems. She received several awards including a MacArthur Fellowship, known as the Genius Grant. 

Swenson’s poetry ranges in topics from sports and current events to science and Utah State University.

“While May Swenson is a prolific writer who appealed to a broad audiences over the course of several decades, I personally think it is this youth, lightheartedness and joyfulness in her writing that makes her such a special figure here in Cache Valley,” Patten said. 

By the time she died in 1989, Swenson had published nine collections of poetry. Several more collections were published posthumously. Swenson is buried in the Logan City Cemetery.

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