May Swenson The Centaur Essay

“Fountain Piece” The confusing perceptual disruption in the image of a bird perching on a wing of an angel statute in a fountain sets the stage for a contemplation on the way art is dependent upon creating reality while also providing for an imaginative sense of the unreal.“God” God is defined here as the name given to a thing that was said to be ever permanent, but could never be found to prove it.

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“The Woods at Night” Entry into the woods when all birds are sleeping except their predatory cousin, the owl.

“Blue/A Trellis for R.” A poem in the shape of a trellis that examines the confusion of gender identity as a part of lesbian sexual experience.

“The Centaur” The complicated anatomy of the mythological creature of the title lends a symbolic meaning to this story of a little girl out playing in a grove in her pretty dress seemingly as content as possible until the imagery of her accessories starts to sink in: her brother’s belt and jackknife.

Gender confusing was never presented so beautifully.

“Water Picture” A seemingly convention poem taking a trite subject like what is seen in a reflection is transformed into something a bit more deeper and unexpected through the absurdism of reflected in the imagery of the reflected images.

“The Truth is Forced” A poem confronting the irony of trying to use wordplay and language games to mask one’s true identity since it only stimulates the desire in others to solve the puzzle.

Her work often appears to be proceeding calmly, just descriptive and accurate; but then suddenly it opens into something that looms beyond the material, something that impends and implies…

So graceful is the progression in her poems that they launch confidently into any form, carrying through it to easy, apt variations.

Swenson left New York City in 1967, when she moved to Sea Cliff, Long Island where she lived with her partner, the author R. She taught and served as poet-in-residence at many institutions in both the United States and Canada, and she held fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Mac Arthur Foundation.

She was the recipient of the Shelley Memorial Award, the Bollingen Prize, and Award in Literature from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.


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