Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit – Poems
A Southerner by birth, a traveller by upbringing, Susan Swartwout explores the gothic elements of life in the Deep South, a celebration of odd beauties who embellish our plainer lives and who survive in this often unfriendly world by finding a niche where they excel and flaunting the heck out of it, unabashedly.
These poems explore the lives of "freaks"—celebrities of Southern fairs’ sideshows, a parallel to the hidden desires and plots of the rest of us. Our exterior normality belies the internal twisted landscapes—how complicity and silence echo abuse, how depression infects entire families, how a five-year-old learns to use words as weapons. From circus oddities to real-life boogeymen, from Louisiana to a Central American village, earth herein has no dearth of the gothic’s strange fruit, illuminating the complexity of what it is to be human.
Swartwout encourages us to see the others around us and inside of us, to recognize, like the gypsy grandmother in “The Gypsy Teaches Her Grandchild Wolfen Ways,” that “All tongues tell their monsters, shapes / that shift from human to hell [. . .] They leave howls inside you forever.” Swartwout’s poems are memorable in this same way. —The Pleiades Book Review 14.2
About Susan Swartwout (Portland, Oregon Author)
Susan Swartwout, a freelance editor who lives in Beaverton, OR, is the author of the poetry book Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit, chapbooks Freaks and Uncommon Ground, editor of volumes 1 through 4 of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, as well as co-editor of Hurricane Blues: Poems About Katrina and Rita, Real Things: An Anthology of Popular Culture in American Poetry, and A Student’s Guide to Publishing. Among her writing awards are St. Louis's Stanley Hanks Award, the Rona Jaffe Foundation Award, the Davenport Award for Fiction, a Ragdale Foundation Fellowship, and a Hedgebrook Writers Fellowship. Swartwout has had over 100 of her poems, stories, and essays published in national anthologies, collections, and literary magazines.
Swartwout retired as professor of English at Southeast Missouri State University where she also founded (2001) and directed the University Press, the Small-press Publishing Program, and the Creative Writing Program, and edited two literary journals, Big Muddy: Journal of the Mississippi River Valley (15 years) and The Cape Rock: Poetry (5 years). Swartwout has worked in the publishing industry for 29 years as an editor and 17 as publisher. She has written and overseen 14 successful grants and 3 literary prize sponsorships. She is the recipient of the Governor's Award for Excellence in Education, the university's Faculty Merit Award, and the Provost's Award.