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Swenson, May



  • Existence: May 28, 1913 - December 4, 1989

Biographical Information

Swenson was born in Logan, Utah on May 28, 1913. She was the eldest of ten children born to Swedish immigrants. Swenson's father worked as a professor of mechanical engineering at Utah State University. As the predominant language of the Swenson household was Swedish, Swenson grew up learning English as a second language.

She attended Utah State University and graduated with a BS in 1934. After graduating, she worked for a year as a journalist in Utah. In 1935, Swenson moved to New York City and worked at various jobs to earn money to support her writing. Swenson's first collection of poems was published in 1954. The collection, titled Another Animal, won her recognition in the literary world. Altogether, more than a dozen of Swenson's works for both adults and young readers were published both during her life and posthumously. Swenson worked as Writer-in-Residence at several universities, including: Purdue University, Bryn Mawr, the University of North Carolina, the University of California at Riverside, and Utah State University. Her work was supported by funding from the Guggenheim, Ford, Rockefeller, and MacArthur Foundations, in addition to a National Foundation for the Arts grant.

Swenson also 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. In 1967, she received a Distinguished Service Gold Medal from Utah State University, and in was awarded an honorary doctor there in 1987. In addition to the many awards she received, Swenson served as the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (1980-1989). Swenson passed away in 1989 in Oceanview, Delaware and was buried in Utah.


"May Swenson."