Driving the Body Back

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Editorial Reviews

Louise Erdrich
A marvelous collection of folk humor, wild ways, and down-home storytelling. -- NY Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In her second volume of verse, Swander presents a moving and highly original series of nine narrative poems about several generations of an American family. Using third-person narration, dialogue and monologues by different family members, the poet draws us into the lives, loves, births and deaths of an eccentric crew. Theirs is a hard-working farming family with powerful bonds to each other and to the landthe prairies and fields of the Midwest, where nature is at once a threat and a source of sustenance. We meet Aunt Nell, rooted to home and still raising chickens at 80; Uncle George, who weighed three pounds at birth and was put in a cake tin in the oven to stay warm; Uncle Jim, who opened a butcher shop as a result of bizarre circumstances; Grandma, lying on a cot in the cellar dying of cancer and wishing for raspberries. This is an accomplished collection. (March 19)
Library Journal
Swander's fourth book of poems is witness to an earthy Midwestern family's foibles. Nine narrative poems, named for the protagonists, call to mind the fictions of Anne Tyler. But Swander fails to make her characterswhether eccentric or pitiable or bothmore than momentarily fascinating. Nor is technique what she is after. She abhors poeticisms and avoids irony. The story line is all. It begins, ``. . . as we drove my mother's body/ back to town/ where we were born,'' and continues, occasionally with fine humor, pathos, and now and then bathos, through the compressed lives of close kin. The club of poets that hails the controlled line, the simple narrative, and the indistinguishable voice will welcome Swander. J.P. Lewis, Integrative Studies Dept., Otterbein Coll., Westerville, Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877456520
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998
  • Series: Bur Oak Book Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 81
  • Product dimensions: 5.63 (w) x 8.37 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Swander
Mary Swander
A Distinguished Professor of English at Iowa State University, Mary Swander has written several poems, essays, and books, none more profoundly stirring than her personal account of healing after a car accident, The Desert Pilgrim.

Good To Know

In our interview, Swander shared some fun facts with us:

"I live in an old one-room Amish schoolhouse."

"I have a dog who can answer the phone."

"I am a licensed massage therapist and a licensed hypnotherapist."

"I play the clawhammer banjo."

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    1. Hometown:
      Ames, Iowa
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 5, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      Carroll, Iowa
    1. Education:
      B.A., Iowa State University, 1973; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1976
    2. Website:

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