“Swift writes the kinds of poems that make one ache deep down, poems that soothe with their lyrical freshness, that startle into new ways of seeing the ordinary, into understanding. At times she mixes the lovely with the horrible and the results are terrifying and beautiful.”
(on The Dark Path of Our Names)
Joan Swift first tried her hand at poetry when she was a five-year-old in upstate New York. Now, a longtime resident of Washington State (with a few years off in California), she is the author of five books of poetry (two of them out of print) and a small book of the early history of the city of Edmonds, Washington. Along the way, she earned a B.A. degree from Duke University and an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Washington where she studied with Theodore Roethke in his last class. She has been the recipient of three National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships (1982, 1990, 1995), a writing grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation (1985), and a Writers Award from the Washington State Arts Commission (1989.) Two of her books of poetry, The Dark Path of Our Names (Dragon Gate, 1985), and The Tiger Iris (BOA Editions Ltd., 1999), were given Washington State Governor’s Awards. Other honors include a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Small Presses 1989-1990, an Ann Stanford Award from the Southern California Anthology, and a King County (Washington) Publication Grant. Scores of her poems have appeared in such publications as The Atlantic, The New Yorker, DoubleTake, The American Poetry Review, Field, The Iowa Review, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, Poetry Northwest, Northwest Review, and the Amicus Journal. Her poems are represented in twenty-one anthologies.
Many of Joan Swift’s poems are written in form, often strict, sometimes with innovative variations. Much of her work has its roots in her childhood, her parents’ stormy marriage and early divorce. Other poems find their source in forests and rivers, in her children, in observations gleaned from travel, in the violence of a personal rape.