poems by Wally Swist
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in a letter—later collected in the posthumous book Letters to a Young Poet—that a writer always has a storehouse of inspiration to draw upon from childhood memories. Wally Swist’s seventeenth full-length collection of poetry, Taking Residence, begins with poems regarding childhood memories and, in quite a symphonic manner, concludes with them. A collection containing poems honoring the natural world, a suite written as a tribute to a friend who passed, twenty-six poems that are translations from the Spanish of Federico Garcia Lorca and St. John of the Cross and from the Italian of Giuseppe Ungaretti; the poet drawing from mindfulness practice and the practice of presence, the political cacophony of the last presidential administration, and spiritual and substantive nourishment Gastronomique—these are poems that address what it is to take residence in the heart, which Carl Jung spoke to when he offered that after a long life of studying the psyche and the soul, he just might have started to live his life at the level of the heart chakra. Taking Residence is a multifaceted and layered book of poetry built upon the foundational notion that “learning what it is that is taking residence in the heart” is a worthwhile and lifelong pursuit.
POETRY / General
ISBN: 978-1-951651-84-8 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Released June 2021
Wally Swist is the author of over forty books and chapbooks of poetry and prose.
Among his books are The Daodejing: A New Interpretation, with co-authors, David Breeden and Steven Schroeder (Beaumont, TX: Lamar University Press, 2015). His book Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love was selected as the co-winner of the 2011 Crab Orchard Series Open Poetry Contest, judged by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa; the book was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2012, and was nominated for a National Book Award.
Swist is the winner of the 2018 Ex Ophidia Press Poetry Prize for A Bird Who Seems to Know Me: Poems and Haiku Regarding Birds & Nature. The book was published in late 2019 by master printer and book designer Gabriel Rummonds, of Bainbridge Island, Washington. He has also published five previous books of poetry with Shanti Arts, of Brusnwick, Maine, including Candling the Eggs (2016), The Map of Eternity (2018), The Bees of the Invisible (2019), Evanescence: Selected Poems (2020), and Awakening & Visitation (2020) .
His books of nonfiction include Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (Brooklyn, NY: The Operating System, 2018), On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays (New York & Lisbon: Adelaide Books, 2018), and A Writer’s Statements on Beauty: New and Selected Essays and Reviews (Brunswick, Maine: Shanti Arts, 2021).
Some of Swist’s work has been set to music. This includes his poem “The Rush of the Brook Stills the Mind,” which inspired a composition by the electroacoustic composer Dr. Elainie Lillios. The composition was performed by percussionist Scott Deal in Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 20, 2013. It is only one of several venues across the country where the composition has been performed. Dr. Elainie Lillios is Professor of Composition at Bowling Green State University.
His poem “After Long Drought” was also composed to an electroacoustical score written by Professor Lillios, and the composition was also premiere at Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory of Music, in June 2016 by percussionist Scott Deal.
A recipient of Artist’s Fellowships in poetry from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts (1977 and 2003), Swist was also awarded a one-year writing residency (1998) and two back-to-back one-year writing residencies (2003–2005) at Fort Juniper, the Robert Francis Homestead, in Cushman, Massachusetts, the home of his former mentor.
Swist’s poetry and prose have appeared in such national periodicals as Buddhist Poetry Review, Chiron Review, Commonweal, Ezra: An Online Journal of Translation, The North American Review, Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts, Rattle, Rolling Stone, Today’s American Catholic, Transference: A Literary Journal Featuring the Art & Process of Translation, The Woven Tale Press: The Web’s Premier Online Literary and Fine Art Magazine, Your Impossible Voice, and Yankee Magazine.
He currently makes his home in New England, where he continues to write and translate. Although he is semi-retired, he works as a freelance editor, writer, and researcher.
“Wally Swist’s Taking Residence is a carefully crafted fiercely beautiful collection that visits the simple places of life, of earth, as well the subtle spaces of personal revelation. The collection in seven parts offers the reader an examination of nature’s creatures, as well those intimate moments in reflection, sometimes with humor, but always with awareness, an awareness and tenderness only a lifelong practice of Buddhist meditation could offer. Like a prayer, Wally Swist’s words are tracing the landscapes of memory while observing the numinous found in daily encounters. The subtle, sacred places of the heart, where lover and beloved meet are present and captivated. His skillful translations of the magical poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca, St. John of the Cross, and Giuseppe Ungaretti’s musings on life and grief, are also part of a brilliant gathering of a seasoned poet’s contemplations of his and our world.”
“In reading this latest example from Wally Swist’s long and in every sense disciplined career, we are not merely pleased but also instructed, aesthetically, ethically, and spiritually. Cannily constructed, it is what the French call a well-made book; it is stunningly rangy, comprising insights into politics, the meditative life, the natural world, and far more; it includes stimulating and well selected translations from Lorca and Ungaretti. Perhaps most important, Taking Residence as a whole offers a compelling indication of what lyric is. Reader, treat yourself.”
“Taking Residence, by Wally Swist, offers the reader a plethora of gifts. This seven-part collection contains the author's poems as well as his translations from the Spanish of Federico Garcia Lorca and Saint John of the Cross, and from the Italian of Giuseppe Ungaretti. Taking Residence brings one on spiritual journeys and reflections on life.
“Dreams and the Muses provide inspiration. His poems are both gentle and concerned. In a lovely poem, he dreams of Judita Vaiciunaite's youth in Vilnius. In "Windhorse":
“From the Muse, Clio, for history, he writes: You accompany me into the world / like a rose opening.
“Finally, Taking Residence carries one through poems of grief to poems of joy. Beginning and ending on a child's remembrance is magical. It is a book filled with beauty.”
“The act of translation is a loving gesture, the commitment to providing readers who do not read poetry in the original language with the same sort of splendid resonant poetic experience that the translator had reading those original poems. It is an act both of discovery and of rediscovery, the exploration of existing texts and the creation of new and vigorous parallel texts that engage us, heart and mind, in the rendered aesthetic experience. Wally Swist is a brilliant translator because he is a brilliant poet, and he renders Ungaretti here with luminous intensity, giving us poetry that rings in English with the lively and expansive joy of Ungaretti's poems. It is rare to find such powerful connections between poet and translator, and a true delight to have Swist's voice so lovingly singing Ungaretti to us.”
Thomas S. Curren, “Book Bag: ‘Taking Residence’ by Wally Swist,” Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 19, 2021
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