Susan Stewart is a poet, critic, and translator. Her five books of poetry include The Forest (1995), which received the Literary Award of the Philadelphia Atheneum; Columbarium (2003), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award; and, most recently Red Rover (2008), also published in Italian translation by Jaca Book in Milan. Her collection Cinder: New and Selected Poems will appear with Graywolf Press in early 2017.
Stewart’s poetry was performed in the summer of 2015 at the Contemporary Music Festival at Tanglewood in “Dark the Star,” a baritone song cycle by James Primosch. Stewart and Primosch collaborated earlier on a song cycle, “Songs for Adam,” commissioned by the Chicago Symphony; the world premiere was held in October 2009 with baritone Brian Mulligan and the CSO.
Stewart’s collected essays on art, The Open Studio: Essays in Art and Aesthetics, were published by the University of Chicago Press in 2004. Her collaborations with visual artists include most recently work with Ann Hamilton and Sandro Chia.
Stewart’s other books of criticism include The Poet’s Freedom: A Notebook on Making (2011); Poetry and the Fate of the Senses (2002), which received both the 2002 Christian Gauss Award for Literary Criticism from Phi Beta Kappa and the 2004 Truman Capote Award in Literary Criticism; Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation (1991); On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (1984), and Nonsense (1979).
In 2013 Stewart published two co-translations: Laudomia Bonanni’s novel The Reprisal with her Princeton colleague Sara Teardo and, with Patrizio Ceccagnoli, Milo De Angelis’s Theme of Farewell and After-Poems—the latter was short-listed for the 2014 ALTA Prize for the year’s best literary translation. Stewart’s translation, Love Lessons: Selected Poems of Alda Merini, appeared with Princeton University Press in 2009. She also translated Euripides’ Andromache with Wesley Smith, and the poetry and selected prose of the Scuola Romana painter Scipione with Brunella Antomarini.
A 1997 MacArthur Fellow, Stewart has received fellowships as well from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, the Pew Foundation, and the Lila Wallace Foundation. In 2010 she received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Stewart is a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets; she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005 and was a Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin in 2014-2015.
In 2013 she delivered the Finzi-Contini Lecture at Yale University and read her poetry at the Beinecke Library on the occasion of the Beinecke’s acquisition of the archive of her papers and manuscripts. In 2016 she will deliver the Alexander Lectures at the University of Toronto.
This Autumn Stewart will teach English 205, Reading Poetry, as a seminar and in the Spring she will teach a graduate seminar on the history and practice of literary criticism.
Stewart’s dissertation advising includes projects in 20th century African-American, Irish, British, Latin American, French, and American poetry, the figure of the poet/critic, the history of emotions in 18th century and Romantic poetry in Britain, issues of memory in Victorian lyric, the poetry of World War II, cosmology in 17th century British poetry, and the relations between poetry and the visual arts.
Here is Stewart’s Phi Beta Kappa poem for Princeton’s 2015 PBK induction at Commencement:
berry, hop, and hip plucked
pulsing blare of hip-
hop, briar gone to barb
a black squirrel squirreling
away its acorns in the corner,
scurry in the radiator’s
hiss, open the book
now open the book
the hung-over dancers
are drifting back to bed
to the clock-work dip
of the oars. Frost
on the gargoyle, frost
the book, now open
the book, the last
sere leaf soon
Field in Winter
The world, a museum of itself.
The cold colonnade of dying elms.
You cannot will a dream, though you, too,
can fall, and fall asleep, and wake
in wonder. There is nowhere
the whiteness has not
a look and
see. The corners, the edge, of each
you walked into a new transparency.
Field in Spring
Your eye moving
left to right across
the plowed lines
looking to touch down
on the first
shoots coming up
like a frieze
from the dark where
and wood-lice gorge
Red haze atop
the far trees.
A two dot, then
a ten dot
the wind, a per-
Hold a mirror, horizontal,
to the rain. Now
the blurred repetition
of ruled lines, the faint
the doubled tears.
The wind is not for seeing,
neither is the first
song, soon half-
and the figures,
the figures are not waiting.
To see what is
in motion you must move.
Study is the absence of summer, though,
too, a kind of summer
when summer’s not. And now it’s summer
when study’s not, though
it is moving, though it is seeing—
a gold-finch swaying
on a blue-stem stalk.
Don’t close the gate behind
you as you go.
–Susan Stewart, Phi Beta Kappa Poem, Princeton University, 2015
Some Recent Poems by Susan Stewart:
The Paris Review: “After the Mowing” and “What Piranesi Knew”
The Paris Review and The Pushcart Anthology: Best American Poetry: “Pine”
Boston Review: “The dead inscribed, alphabetical, within”
Poetry: “A Language”
The Kenyon Review: “Two Poems on the Name of Vermeer”
Chicago Review, reprinted in Poetry Daily: “The Sand-Castle”
The New Yorker: “First Idyll”
Her Recent Essay on Poetry Include:
Review essays in The Nation on Pier Paolo Pasolini, Women and Elegy, Jorge Luis Borges, Umberto Saba, and Robert Creeley. Accessible via: http://www.thenation.com/authors/susan-stewart/
“Italian Poetry in an Age of Spectacle” in Parnassus: http://parnassusreview.com/archives/227
On Emily Dickinson in New Literary History
On A.R. Ammons in Chicago Review
Readings of poems and translations on PENN SOUND:
Recent interviews and criticism about Stewart’s work in poetry:
Photo reprinted with permission from The Academy of American Poets.