Best-known Poems

May Swenson’s poems have appeared in many anthologies and enjoyed by the general public.  They have also been included in countless schoolbooks and have been studied by students as examples of fine poetry and also to show that poems can be fun.  Many times her poems are used in standardized tests of student reading ability, because they are rapidly understood yet they focus on matters that students can relate to easily.

Here are just a few of her best-known poems.  Her books contain the rest of her work.


Analysis of Baseball
It's about
the ball,
the bat,
and the mit.
Ball hits
bat, or it
hits mitt.
Bat doesn't
hit ball, bat
meets it.
Ball bounces
off bat, flies
air, or thuds
ground (dud)
or it
fits mit.

Bat waits
for ball
to mate.
Ball hates
to take bat's
bait. Ball
flirts, bat's
late, don't
keep the date.
Ball goes in
(twack) to mitt,
and goes out
(twack) back
to mitt.
Ball fits
mitt, but
not all
the time.
ball gets hit
(pow) when bat
meets it,
and sails
to a place
where mitt
has to quit
in disgrace.
That's about
the bases
loaded, a
bout 40,000
fans exploded.

It's about
the ball,
the bat,
the mitt,
the bases
and the fans.
It's done
on a diamond,
and for fun.
It's about
home, and it's
about run.
May Swenson, “Analysis of Baseball” from New and Selected Things taking Place.  Coprygit 1978 by May Swenson.j  Reprinted with the permission of The Literary Estate of May Swenson.



Sleeping with Boa
I show her how to put her arms around me,
but she’s much too small.
What’s worse, she doesn’t understand.
although she lies beside me, sticking
out her tongue, it’s herself she licks.She likes my stroking hand.
even lets me kiss.
But at my demand:
“Now, do it to me, like this,”
she backs off with a hiss.What’s in her little mind?
Jumping off the bed,
she shows me her behind,
but curls up on the rug instead.
I beg her to return.  At first, she did,
then went and hid.under the covers.  She’s playing with my feet!
“Oh, Boa, come back.  Be sweet,
Lie against me here where I’m nice and warm.
Settle down.  Don’t claw, don’t bite.
Stay with me tonight.”
Seeming to consent, she gives a little whine.Her deep, deep pupils meet mine
with a look that holds a flood …
But not my brand.
Not at all.
what’s worse, she’s much too small.           
May Swenson, “Sleeping With Boa” from Yale Review 81, no. 2 (January 1993).  Copyright 1993 by May Swenson.  Reprinted with the permission of The Literary Estate of May Swenson. 




Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen

Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt

Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
when Body my good
bright dog is dead

How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye

With cloud for shift
how will I hide?

May Swenson, “Question” from Nature:  Poems Old and New.  Copyright 1994 by May Swenson.  Reprinted with the permission of The Literary Estate of May Swenson.