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Brian Swann

Brian Swann was born in Tyneside, England. He received a BA and an MA from Queens’ College, Cambridge, as well as a PhD from Princeton University.  

Swann is the author of several poetry collections, including St. Francis and the Flies (Autumn House Press, 2016), winner of the 2015 Autumn House Poetry Prize; Snow House (Pleiades Press, 2006), winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Series Award; and Autumn Road (Ohio State University Press, 2005), winner of the OSU/The Journal Poetry Prize.

In the judge’s citation for the Autumn House Poetry Prize, Dorianne Laux writes, “These are poems of consciousness, subsumed in images of presence and memory, a sensibility constantly searching and intimate in its attention.”

He is also the author of several works of prose, including Dogs on the Roof (MadHat Press, 2016), and has edited several essay and poetry collections celebrating Native American literature.

Swann teaches at the Cooper Union and lives in New York City.

Selected Bibliography

St. Francis and the Flies (Autumn House Press, 2016)
In Late Light (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013)
Snow House (Pleiades Press, 2006)
Autumn Road (Ohio State University Press, 2005)

Dogs on the Roof (MadHat Press, 2016)

By This Poet


Canon 501

The song was moist, filing away,
   drifting while we drifted, something
in blackface, Al Jolson of birdland,
   not quite right, prophesizing until hoarse
who knows what. The locals say he
   draws poison from you, angatkuk,
shaman, though they don’t believe it.
   Then the incongruous smell of
chrysanthemum crossed us up and
   we remembered the service-station
with someone in handcuffs. Probably
   a mistake, said the attendant, though
they do get violent. The prisoner yawned.
   Our map lumbered from point to point
as if trying to remember something itself,
   anything. We tossed it and got out.
On the long walk back the tundra looked cozier
   by moonlight, everywhere the same,
white as bleached whalebone. But
   things had not been right all day.
In the damp heat everything was wobbly,
   even the bride at the old mission who
seemed to grow clouds like companions,
   drawing them after. I glimpsed a ring
of seal-fur flash on her wrist. Mm-hmm,
   unh-hunh they went. The honeymoon
was spent beyond the rigs. It was enough
   for them it didn’t rain or snow though
the driftwood fire they made beside the boats
   was all smoke. The sea sounded obscure
as if it had no shape and was empty.
   We tried to capture it on Canon 501
and sent it south, but even that seemed staged.