Cole Swensen, one of the most intellectually curious experimental poets writing today, will conduct a reading Thursday, March 2 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence University Wriston Art Center auditorium. A reception and book signing will follow the reading. Prior to the reading, Swensen will discuss her work in an open forum at 4:30 p.m. in Main Hall, Room 105. Both events are free and open to the public.
The author of 10 books of poetry, Swensen’s most recent, “The Book of a Hundred Hands,” (2005) is a collection of poems in which she explores the expression of human emotion through the position and musculature of the hand, covering the spectrum of possibilities, from sign language to shadow puppets.
Swensen’s 2004 collection, “Goest,” which was loosely based on John Beckmann’s 19th century text “A History of Inventions, Discoveries, and Origins,” celebrates inventiveness, using facts as “diving boards for pools of rhyme and pun, distortion and song.” It was a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award in the poetry category.
She also has earned two Pushcart Prizes, which honors distinguished short stories, essays and poetry that are first published by small press houses. Her poetry collection “Try” received the 1998 Iowa Poetry Prize and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award.
“Swensen’s work rewards the attentive and imaginative reader both with its breadth of focus and with its lyrical language,” said Faith Barrett, assistant professor of English, who is organizing the poet’s appearance.
In addition to writing poetry, Swensen is also a translator of contemporary French poetry, prose and art criticism. Her translation of Jean Frémon’s “Island of the Dead” earned her the PEN American Center Award for Translation.
A native of California who has lived in London, Denver, Washington, D.C. and most recently, Paris, where she maintains a part-time residency, Swensen began her career as a teacher at an alternative high school. She joined the faculty at the University of Denver in 1996 and also has taught at Grinnell College and the Naropa Institute. She is currently an associate professor at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
Swensen earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree at San Francisco State University and has undertaken doctoral studies at the University of California.
Swensen’s appearance is supported by the Mia T. Paul Poetry Fund. Established in 1998, the endowed fund brings distinguished poets to campus for public readings and to work with students on writing poetry and verse.