Friday, November 7, 2008

Remembering May

Last night I read here at Utah State to very receptive, warm audience; it was just a total pleasure. The reading was part of the May Swenson Reading Series, so named because Swenson was a Logan native, and Utah State University Press has been a champion and advocate of her work. To my delight, about eight of Swenson's relatives appeared at the reading. She was born into a characteristically large Mormon family, and grew up just a little down the hill from the campus, and though she took off for Greenwich Village as a young woman to pursue the adventure of her life, she kept a connection to this place and to her big Swedish clan.

After the reading, and after I signed books for a lot of enthusiastic young readers, there was a reception at a house a few blocks away. The Swensons all came, a very distinctive presence among the crowd of students with their slightly alternative look and the forty-something faculty in their sportcoats and nice dresses. The Swensons ranged from Paul, May's youngest brother, who's 70, to Roy, the oldest surviving one, who was born right after May, and who's now 94. Both write poetry, and both belong to a writing group that's also attended by some of the young writers who were in the room.

Turns out the Swenson's childhood home was right next door. It had been given to the University, after they'd all grown up and moved on, and the school bulldozed it to build a parking lot. (So much for preserving writers' homes...) There was something very moving about these lively people remembering their childhoods eighty and ninety years ago next door. And after we'd been talking for a while, I looked up, and all the young people had left. The Swensons closed down the party.


CAF said...

Really enjoyed your reading last night. Thanks for taking time to come to Logan.

Collin Kelley said...

The landscape is gorgeous. Just remember, you can find beauty in Utah and still think the people are a bunch of hateful, right wing loonies.

Mark Doty said...

Collin, I've been given the warmest welcome by everybody I meet here.
Which just goes to show that every place is more complicated than any singular view would suggest. There are lots of educated, liberal people in Utah who are thirsting for a more open, less church-centered culture.
But I'm also outraged by the mainstream LDS, with their anxious,
narrow-minded protection of "the family." Yeah, right.

lu said...

What wonderdful circles you move in, while I'm certain there are times you may run into a good deal of intellectual postureing, I imagine you experience this kind of warm enthusiasm and youthful curiosity from both young and old.

If your ever in the Midwest you should come to Watermark Books
And in Lawrence to my friend Heidi's shop:

We would give you a very warm welcome.