A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Cole Swensen is the author of seventeen collections of poetry, most recently On Walking On (Nightboat Books, 2017) and Gave (Omnidawn, 2017), and a volume of critical essays, Noise That Stays Noise (University of Michigan, 2011). Often basing her poetic collections around specific research projects, she has written books on subjects such as the role of women in opera (Oh), the paintings of Pierre Bonnard (The Glass Age), the anatomy of the hand (The Book of a Hundred Hands), and the evolution of the ghost in western society (Gravesend). Two recent books, Ours and Greensward, focus, respectively, on 17th and 18th century formal gardens, examining the ongoing and often uneasy aesthetic relationship that humans have with their surroundings. She continues this theme in her 2015 book Landscapes on a Train (Nightboat Books). Her current projects include a series of essay/poems on visual artists who take a phenomenological approach to landscape (Art in Time, Nightboat Books, forthcoming, 2020) and a collection on the history of the development of electricity (Zap, Solid Objects Press, forthcoming, 2020). Zap has also been produced by Karen Randall as a limited-edition artist's book titled The Leyden Jar Project.
Swensen's work has been awarded the National Poetry Series, the Iowa Poetry Prize, Sun & Moon’s New American Writing Award, and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award and has twice been a finalist for the Los Angles Times Book Award and once for National Book Award. A former Guggenheim Fellow, she is the co-editor with David St.-John of the Norton anthology American Hybrid and a translator of contemporary French poetry, prose, and art criticism. Her translation of Jean Frémon's The Island of the Dead won the PEN USA Award in Literary Translation, and her translations have been finalists three times for the Best Translated Book Award and once for the ALTA National Translation Award. She is also the founding editor of La Presse, (www.lapressepoetry.com), a small press that publishes contemporary French poetry translated by English-language poets. She spent six years on the faculty of the University of Denver and ten years on that of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently teaches at Brown University. She divides her time between Providence and Paris.
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Photo credit: Amy King
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