A Writer's Statements on Beauty: New and Selected Essays and Reviews
by Wally Swist
This collection of essays and reviews extends and complements the work collected in two earlier volumes: Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (The Operating System, 2018) and On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays (Adelaide Books, 2018). The essays and reviews presented in Parts I and II were written roughly between 2010 and 2021, while the reviews in Part III are selected from work written in previous decades. Since this earlier work did not signify itself as being dated and rendered itself still pertinent, the author found that work significant enough to collect in this volume as it contributes to the overall themes and ethos of this book—a literary work of aesthetic and social consequence.
LITERARY COLLECTIONS / Essays
ISBN: 978-1-951651-36-5 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Copyright 2022; released April 12, 2022
Wally Swist is the author of some three dozen 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). Also, his book Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love was selected as the co-winner of the 2011 Crab Orchard Series Open Poetry Contest, which was chosen by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, who served as judge, and the book was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2012. The book 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. Swist has also published five previous books of poetry with Shanti Arts of Brunswick, Maine, including Candling the Eggs (2016), The Map of Eternity (2018), The Bees of the Invisible (2019), Evanescence: Selected Poems (2020), Awakening and Visitation (2021), and Taking Residence (2021). His books of nonfiction include Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (Brooklyn, NY: The Operating System, 2018) and On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays (New York & Lisbon: Adelaide Books, 2018).
Some of his 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. Swist’s poem “After Long Drought” was also composed to an electroacoustical score written by Professor Lillios, and the composition also premiered at Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory of Music in June 2016 by percussionist Scott Deal.
A recipient of Artist 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) in Fort Juniper at the Robert Francis Homestead in Cushman, Massachusetts, the home of his former mentor.
Swist’s work has appeared in such national periodicals such as The American Book Review, Commonweal, The Galway Review (Ireland), The North American Review, Rattle, Rolling Stone, Transference: A Literary Journal Featuring the Art & Process of Translation, Your Impossible Voice, and Yankee Magazine.
He currently makes his home in western Massachusetts, where he is semi-retired and works as a freelance editor, writer, and researcher.
“Wally Swist is a prolific and long-standing poet of remarkable insight into the human condition, but there’s another side to his work. His third anthology of essays gives you the focus in the title: beauty, experienced in many different ways through literature and our common life. A favorite saint, Gregory of Nyssa, taught us that the pursuit of beauty is endless because beauty can never be exhausted. Wally’s collection of essays proves that. He evokes a wide range of writers, many of them very well known (D. H. Lawrence, Margaret Atwood), others unknown to large audiences (Jayne Anne Phillips) or, oddly, undeservedly unknown (North T. Cairn). Swist’s wide-ranging interests and writing on literature old and new weaves a tapestry of many colors, juxtaposing writers unknown with writers well known (Peter Matthiessen as counterpoint to North Cairn, for instance). This interweaving allows us to see more than the words: through his eyes, we see each writer as a person in full by such comparisons and, almost as a bonus, we see into Wally Swist’s values and soul as well.”
"Lovely essay [regarding ‘On Gratitude: Persevering through the Coronavirus Pandemic’]: it took me on a journey to the English countryside and makes me want to read Hardy. And right now I would prefer to be a sheep farmer in nineteenth-century rural England than an American during the Trump years, where everything is so fraught and uncertain. Courage in personal heartbreak then courage in national heart break now? And our moral compass does not seem to point true north anymore (or North is not where we thought it was). An African American friend told me that when we see devastation, name it, but ‘lift up the good’ too. I guess that is a form of gratitude."
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