Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

New and Selected Things Taking Place brings together more than a quarter-century’s worth of May Swenson’s best verse. Together with In Other Words (1989), a collection published two years before her death, this volume provides an excellent overview of Swenson’s skill, range, and development as a respected voice in contemporary American poetry.

The book, which contains works from Swenson’s five previous volumes of poetry, reveals the wide range of subjects and forms with which she worked. Although she was sometimes characterized as a nature poet because of her perceptive treatment of birds and other wild creatures, she was just as much at home writing about a flight into space or a visit to the dentist. Much of her work is witty and playful, showing the reader the world through a child’s eyes, as in “By Morning”:

Some for everyoneplentyand more comingFresh dainty airily arrivingeverywhere at once.

This poem, one of the several “riddling” poems in the book, scatters clues before the reader, but never mentions its subject—snow. Rather, Swenson leads the reader to discover the subject through images that are at once fresh and familiar: “By morning we’ll be children/ feeding on manna/ a new loaf on every doorsill.”...

(The entire section is 523 words.)