By Andrea DeHaan, CHaSS Communications Editor
Following several years of coordination and support from donors, faculty, and staff, Utah State University’s Swenson Park, a space honoring the legacy of American poet and USU alumna May Swenson, will open during an official celebration event hosted by the Department of English on April 26.
Located at 669 E 500 N in Logan, Swenson Park is being erected on the site of the original Swenson family home, which was demolished decades ago. May Swenson, born in Logan in 1913, would attend Utah State Agricultural College, now USU, before becoming one of America’s more important poets of the 20th century.
“Swenson Park is a lasting testimony to the poetry and life of May Swenson, the legacy of the Swenson family, and Utah State University’s continuing commitment to the humanities,” said Paul Crumbley, professor emeritus of English.
Crumbley is among the many USU faculty, administrators, and alumni who have championed the park project, which has seen several iterations since the idea of honoring the Swenson family was first introduced.
Chris Eyre, an alumnus acting on behalf of the Swenson family, stepped forward in 2015 to propose using the property that USU had purchased in the 1970s to further establish the Swenson family legacy. Swenson’s father, Dan Arthur Swenson, taught mechanical arts at USU for 40 years, and the nine children who survived into adulthood all attended the university, which was essentially located in their backyard.
Crumbley, Eyre, and others initially formed the Swenson House Committee and had hoped to construct a building referencing the original family home that could serve as a gathering place for university events and house visiting artists. Unfortunately, a rise in construction costs led the committee to revisit their plans in 2020 and pivot to the Swenson Park project.
Using funds raised for the initial concept, Swenson Park now includes a “front porch” structure and fireplace reminiscent of the original house and benches that form a circle around an improvised stage. There is currently a sign featuring a Swenson poem excerpt beside a photo of Swenson sitting on the steps of her family home. New signage will include additional plaques highlighting Swenson’s poetry, more information about the family legacy in Logan, and a listing of the many donors who have supported these efforts. USU will oversee the maintenance of the park, but the university and community alike will be able to reserve Swenson Park for future events or enjoy a space to contemplate the work and life of one of USU’s most distinguished alumni and one of Logan’s most famous residents.
Despite additional delays following a formidable winter in Cache Valley, event organizers are excited to host next week’s public celebration, which will include remarks from USU President Noelle Cockett alongside other faculty and donors; a reading by Katherine Coles, an award-winning, Utah-based poet; and several current students reading Swenson’s work during the outdoor ceremony.
“The local literary community is thrilled to see one of our own honored with a beautiful park that we hope will be a focal point for the arts in Logan,” said Ben Gunsberg, associate professor of English and current Swenson Park Committee chair.
Shortly after graduating, Swenson moved to New York City in 1936 and then to Long Island. She authored several poetry collections, taught at multiple institutions, and received numerous awards for her work before her death in 1989.
The Swenson Park opening celebration will be held at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, with a reception immediately following. Those wishing to attend are encouraged to RSVP at the following link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf2SJmXfnL_8eJRzggZM6PM3oBOWuqYkZpO84M2a7s7Nb5VBQ/viewform