Four Incarnations, New & Selected Poems


Her third eye is strawberry jam
has a little iris in it
her eyelids
are red
she’s sleepy
and the milk
has gone down
the wrong way.
I’ve just had breakfast
with the smallest person in the world.

From Publishers Weekly

Introducing these poems, Sward writes that in 1966 he was “hit by a speeding MG” and lost his memory for 24 hours. Curiously though, Sward’s poems, even prior to his accident, manifest a kind of amnesiac’s perspective on the world. Many poems in Kissing the Dancer discover an alarming novelty in experience using a child’s syntax.

In “The Kite,” a woman who has just hung herself is described as, simply, “skypaper, way up / too high to pull down.” In “At Jim McConkey’s Farm,” Sward’s unusual takes on reality evoke a Zen-like calm. “Overwhelmed by the complexities of skunk cabbage,” the poem’s speaker suddenly realizes that “at this moment / for this day even, we have belonged here.”

At times Sward’s technique gives his poems a disorienting and diffuse quality: “children screaming and feeling slighted / The next minute we’re walking along canals on the planet Mars.” In two inventive new poems, however, Sward’s style is at its best. “Basketball’s the American Game Because It’s Hysterical” uses the sport to discuss poetic prosody, and “On My Way to the Korean War . . .” depicts the levitation of “2,000 battle-ready troops.”
– Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The New York Times Book Review
Sward can handle not only a Lardner-Hemingway back room kind of American speech, but the attitudes that betray it. He can also describe odd-ball birds not found in Audubon with the mosaic deftness of Marianne Moore.

Carolyn Kizer
Here is Robert Sward, now in his fifties, still fresh, ingenuous, and funnier than ever. His life–and what a life–is an open book. You can read all about it here. What’s more, you will want to call your friends and read poems to them over the phone. I know. I’ve done it.

William Meredith
Like other good works of art, these poems have the air of having been made for people rather than for other artists.

Harvard Review
Humorous…satiric… The best poems are exuberant, often surreal, jammed with ideas and images; they exude energy.

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