Love And Death: Anna Thilda May Swenson

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Considered to be one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, May Swenson, full name Anna Thilda May Swenson, was born May 28, 1913 in Logan, Utah. She grew up being the eldest of ten siblings in a small house, where she was often expected to take care of the younger ones while her father worked and her mother attended the home. At a young age Swenson began to keep many journals where she experimented with different genres, she was most heavily influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe. She would use these writings as a way to escape her siblings and get away from the chaos of the home. As she grew older Swenson began teaching poetry. She taught at six different colleges, including Purdue University, located here in Indiana. While…show more content…
We know the shape of death,” these words are straight out of May Swenson’s poem “The Shape of Death.” In the poem Swenson compares love and death as intangible objects that still hold a shape we remember, such as death being an immense cloud that shadows over us. Yet, why would Swenson compare love and death when life and death is a more common controversy? If we remind ourselves about Swenson’s childhood and how she struggled with being a lesbian, than it’s easier to understand why, in her eyes, love and death are not too different from each other. During the era in which Swenson was growing up the LGBT community was just starting to get some basic rights, such as being able to be together sexually, but only in the privacy of their own homes. Many people still struggled to come to terms with treating gays just like everyone else. If the societal norm of that period was finding a man, settling down, and raising a family, then Swenson was born in the wrong era. She wanted to be able to love who she chose without having to face social repercussions. In “The Shape of Death,” Swenson writes a line that reads, “...a sheath to keep us pure of fear” she is referring to what love is shaped like. If death is this immense cloud that shadows her from being happy than love is the close-fitting cover which protects her from the fear of not fitting in with society. She chooses to contrast death and love within her poem because to her death was the end all be…show more content…
Which was simply a woman who could love another woman without being ashamed of it. Swenson’s parents made her scared to express who she was, and her poems “The Shape of Death” and Bleeding” showed how she felt oppressed by society for wanting to be something they weren’t comfortable with. In the end Swenson grew up to continue to write in a way that stood for her sexual orientation, not in a way that tried to hide it from the world. Today Swenson’s poetry stands for the most influential poetry of the 20th century. Many young members of the LGBT community find solidarity within Swenson’s poetry, often using it to express how the effects of society has on the LGBT community even in the 21st century. In her interview with Lee Hudson Swenson stated that all she truly wanted to come from her poems was touching the minds of someone else, which is exactly what it

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