Cole Swensen Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Cole Swensen is primarily known for her poetry and her translations of contemporary French poets. She has written critical articles and reviews for periodicals and essays for collections. Her critical work has been included in Boston Review, Bloomsbury Review, Civil Disobediences: Poetics and Politics in Action (2004), and Moving Borders: Three Decades of Innovative Writing by Women (1998). She coedited American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry (2009) with David St. John.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Cole Swensen’s New Math was selected for the National Poetry Series in 1987. Numen was named an International Book of the Year by the Times Literary Supplement and was a finalist for the PEN West Award in Poetry in 1996. Nef won the New American Writing Award in 1997, and Oh was a finalist for the National Poetry Series in 1998. Try won the Iowa Poetry Prize in 1998 and the Poetry Center Book Award from San Francisco State University in 1999. Goest was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2004. Island of the Dead (2003), Swensen’s translation of L’Île des mortes (1994) by Jean Frémon, won the 2004 PEN USA Award for Literary Translation. She has also been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (2006) and two Pushcart Prizes (2004, 2006).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Ball, Angela. “The History of Sight.” Review of The Glass Age. American Book Review 29, no. 4 (May/June, 2008): 19-20. Ball describes Swensen’s work as “neo-modernist” for its commitment to the importance and seriousness of art.

Fischer, Barbara K. Museum Mediations: Reframing Ekphrasis in Contemporary American Poetry. New York: Routledge, 2006. Examines the relationship between poetry and the visual arts. Contains analysis of some of Swensen’s poems.

Keller, Lynn. “Poems Living with Paintings: Cole Swensen’s Ekphrastic Try.” In Thinking Poetry: Readings in Contemporary Women’s Exploratory Poetics. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2010. Keller discusses Swensen’s Try and its unique approach to ekphrastic poetry. Her introduction to this volume also sheds light on Swensen’s poetry.

_______. “Singing Spaces: Fractal Geometries in Cole Swensen’s Oh.” Journal of Modern Literature 31, no. 1 (Fall, 2007): 136-160. Keller discusses Swensen’s book Oh in respect to its innovative use of space on the page.

Logan, William. “Shock and Awe.” Review of Ours. New Criterion 27, no. 4 (December, 2008): 36-43. Logan discusses Swensen’s Ours in respect to environmental poetry and poetry of landscape.