May Swenson: Poems

Style, imagery and eroticism

Swenson is credited with creating the iconograph style of poem, first published in her 1970 book Iconographs, in which Swenson shaped lines of her poetry to create images relating to the poem's content. Her work "The Lowering," for instance, a memorial poem for Robert Kennedy, explored the late Kennedy's military funeral, with lines arranged in the shape of a folded flag. Swenson is known for her heavy use of natural imagery, mixed with religious and philosophical themes. Her poem "By Morning," which was published in The New Yorker compares a snowfall to the biblical fall of manna. Swenson's sense of imagery also lends itself to erotic poems, as she describes human bodies, breasts and limbs and the "pelvic heave of mountains." Author Jean Gould describes Swenson's work as "sensual as well as sexual."[5]


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