Thursday, March 26, 2009

Akintoye - Extra Credit: Cole Swensen

Esther Akintoye
March 24, 2009
Poetry – Extra Credit

Cole Swensen is an author, translator, editor, copywriter, and teacher. As a result of her work, Swensen has lived in numerous places, which include California, Colorado, England, and France. Swensen was awarded the 2004 PEN USA Award, due to her work in translation of The Island of the Dead. This can be annotated by the fact that Swensen believes “in the international exchange of words and language, and in the importance of radical and traditional poetries for contemporary society” (Wiki). Other awards she has won include “the National Poetry Series, Sun & Moon’s New American Writing Award, the San Francisco State Poetry Book Award, the Iowa Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and two Pushcart Prizes” (Mclennan) . Some of the books Swensen wrote include: The book of a hundred hands: poems (2005), Ours (2008), Park, Goest (2004), The Glass Age (2007), Such rich hour: poems (2001), New Math (1988), Noon (1997), and Try: poems (2000). She is a professor at the University of Iowa and she created her own press company called La Presse. This company is “dedicated to the translation and publication in English of contemporary French poetry” (wiki)

Swensen was born and raised in Kentfield, CA, a town in close proximity to the San Francisco area. Swensen went to school at San Francisco State University and received her Bachelor of the Arts and Masters degrees from this school. She later went on to obtain her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California Santa Cruz. After achieving these degrees she became the Creative Writing Program Director at the University of Denver. She no longer holds this position though.

For the literature book we are reading in class, Ours, Swensen’s main focus of the poems is on the topic of gardens, more specifically gardens that are related to France. Personally, I think that the reason Swensen was able to successfully craft this book is because she lived in France for some time. Through this experience she was able to directly experience and submerge herself in the botany of French gardens. This allowed her to directly describe her feelings in this book. The Luxembourg Gardens are an absolutely beautiful part of France and I noticed that she mentioned this in her poem Marie (1573-1642). And one of the other reasons as to why I think Swensen wrote about France is because it is one of the most picturesque countries in the world. Many people fall in love with this country and Swensen probably wants her readers to fall in love with or, at least, enjoy her poetic book. In an interview, Swensen said that Paris is “where I do most of my writing. Geography doesn’t inform my work as much as landscape. I’ve written a lot of pieces that are, simply, landscapes...I’m very partial to landscape paintings, and am interested in the way that they create actual space—not the illusion of space, but the space itself, and I want to play with that in language”(blogspot).


Mclennan, Rob. 12 or 20 questions: with Cole Swensen. 25 November 2007.


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