Poetry Contest Honoring May Swenson Anticipates Groundbreaking for Retreat

“I rode on his shoulder. He showed me the moon.”

When she wrote that line in the poem “The Seed of my Father,” May Swenson was distant from her father and Logan childhood home — in both years and miles. 

Now the Utah State University Department of English and other admirers of Swenson’s poetry are hoping to re-plant that seed in a poetry contest for student writers inspired by the many insightful  and exquisite lines of May Swenson poetry.

Deadline for entries to the Swenson Legacy Poetry Contest is Sept. 7. Winning authors will read their poems at the Sept. 18 groundbreaking for the newly imagined Swenson House. To be built at 669 E. 500 North in Logan, the site of the former Swenson family home, the Swenson House will be a retreat and gathering place for literary artists of all stripes, says Joseph Ward, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

May Swenson is widely considered to be among the most influential American poets of the 20th century. And, a 1934 graduate of Utah State University, she’s perhaps its most famous alumnus. Since her death in 1989, faculty in the Department of English have continued efforts to keep her legacy alive.

The contest, said poet Star Coulbrooke, director of the USU Writing Center, is designed to do just that. 

Coulbrooke and her writing students have created a list of poetry-writing “prompts” made up of lines from Swenson poems. The list can be found at https://chass.usu.edu/news/general-news/poetry-contest.

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A poem entered in the contest “can be inspired by a Swenson line,” said Coulbrooke. “It can have the line in it. It can have the line as a title. Or it can simply cite the line at the end as something that inspired the poem.”

Poets can also choose their own inspiring Swenson line, she said.

There are few other rules for the poetry entries, said Coulbrooke. “We want writers to use their creative ability. May Swenson broke all the rules and used her creative ability to expand poetry in a lot of ways people hadn’t thought of before.”

Cash prizes were be awarded: $300 for first place, $100 for second, and $50 for two finalists. Winners will read their poems at the Swenson House groundbreaking at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 18. Email entries to star.Coulbrooke@usu.edu.

Coulbrooke, who is the official Logan city poet laureate, will host a book-launch event for “Both Sides from the Middle,” a collection of her poetry released in conjunction with the Swenson House groundbreaking. All proceeds from the book sale will be donated to the Swenson House. The book launch is at 6 p.m. Sept. 16, third floor of the Bluebird Restaurant in Logan. The event is free and open to the public.

Related links:
To visit Coulbrooke official poet laureate page (and to read her poem presented tithe city council Aug. 18) go to http://www.loganutah.org/government/mayor_s_office/poet_laureate.php 
For more information on the Swenson House, see http://chass.usu.edu/swenson-house/
More information on the contest and groundbreaking at English.usu.edu

Contact and writer, Janelle Hyatt, Janelle.hyatt@usu.edu, 435-797-0289

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