Wally Swist

Wally Swist (born 1953) is an American poet and writer. He is best known for his poems about nature and spirituality.


Swist was born April 26, 1953 in New Haven, Connecticut. It is rumoured he attended Yale University but not confirmed he was actually registered. He currently makes his home in South Amherst, Massachusetts. For over three decades, he was a bookseller and a bookstore manager, dealing in antiquarian, new, and used books. He has published three dozen of his own books and chapbooks of poetry and prose. For the last several years, he has been a freelance editor and writer.

Writing and Teaching

Swist has published over two hundred feature articles and reviews, yet his focus has been writing poetry. His poems have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies, such as Alaska Quarterly Review and Spiritus, the latter issued by Johns Hopkins University Press, as well as popular magazines such as Rolling Stone and Yankee. Readings of his work are online at National Public Radio[1] and Sahara: A Journal of New England Poetry published a special issue devoted to his work in the winter of 2003.

He has published three dozen books and chapbooks of poetry and prose, including several of which have been issued in letterpress limited editions.

In addition, he has taught in the Connecticut Poetry-in-the-Schools Program and was a mentor and teacher, for three summers (2001-2003), in the Night of Fresh Voices Program, in which he worked with gifted high school students, through the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut.

Swist has also contributed significantly to North American haiku literature both as his decade-long stint as Book Review Editor of Modern Haiku (1987–1996), and with the hundreds of haiku he published in a multitude of literary journals. Of the several significant anthologies of haiku his work is represented in, a half dozen of his haiku are included in the anthology, Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, published by W. W. Norton & Company in 2013.

He is an authority on fellow poet Robert Francis (poet),[2] a friend and literary mentor.[3]

He is also the writer and editor of Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker that was published by Talmi Entertainment in November 2012 as a children's book illustrated by Olga Lorionova.

In October 2012, he was invited to be a Visiting Writer at Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, Illinois, and he participated in the Devil's Kitchen Literary Festival. Also, in April 2013, he was invited to be a Visiting Writer at Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Fellowships, Awards, and Honors

Swist was awarded Artists Fellowships in Poetry from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts in 1978 and in 2003. The Trustees of the Estate of Robert Francis awarded him three writing residencies at Fort Juniper, the Robert Francis Homestead, in North Amherst, Massachusetts, in the autumn of 1998, and two back-to-back residencies from September 2003 through August 2005.

He was twice awarded the Museum of Haiku Literature (Tokyo) Award (Frogpond, XIII: 2, 1990 and Frogpond, XVIII: 3, 1995). His selected haiku, The Silence Between Us, was published by Brooks Books in their Goodrich Haiku Master's Series in 2005.

Yusef Komunyakaa selected Swist's full-length volume Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love as a co-winner of the 2011 Crab Orchard Series Open Poetry Competition. Southern Illinois University Press published the book in August 2012.

Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love was nominated for the National Book Award in Poetry by Southern Illinois University Press in 2012.

His poem "Velocity" was awarded 2nd Prize in the William Butler Yeats Society of New York City 2012 Poetry Contest, of which Bill Zavatsky served as judge.

From 2012 through 2018, he was awarded several grants of financial assistance. These included the Philip Whalen Memorial Grant from Poets in Need, of Berkeley, California, as well as being the recipient of multiple grants of financial assistance from The Authors League Fund; PEN America; and the Carnegie Fund for Authors, all of New York City; and The Haven Fund, of Brewer, Maine.

In April 2013, he was the recipient of The 2013 Snapshot Press Book Award for his manuscript, The Windbreak Pine: New and Uncollected Haiku, 1985-2015. Swist was awarded a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award from The Haiku Foundation for this book in April 2017.

Garrison Keillor read his poem "Radiance" on The Writers Almanac radio program in July 2014.

In November 2014, he was announced the winner of the Judd's Hill Winery Poetry Contest for his poems "Montepulciano and Caravaggio," "Ode to February," and "The Toast."

Swist's poem, "Heirloom," was selected by Anita Barrows, known for her translations of Rilke with her colleague Joanna Macy, as a finalist in the 2015 Littoral Press Broadside Competition. Lisa Rappoport, master printer of Littoral Press, published the poem as a letterpress limited edition broadside in October 2015.

Swist was the winner of the 2018 Adelaide Books Essay Contest for his essay, "On Beauty." The essay was also the eponymous title of the book Adelaide Books published later that year, On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays.

In December 2018, Gabriel Rummonds, master printer and publisher of Ex Ophidia Press, located in Bainbridge Island, Washington, announced that Swist was the winner of the 2018 Ex Ophidia Press Poetry Prize for his collection A Bird Who Seems to Know Me: Poems Regarding Birds & Nature. The collection includes 50 lyric and short narrative poems and some 60 haiku. The book was published in the spring of 2019.

Documentary and Audiobook

A short biographical documentary film regarding his work as a poet and a writer, In Praise of the Earth: The Poetry of Wally Swist (Hadley, MA: WildArts), was released in April 2008 by award-winning filmmaker Elizabeth Wilda.[4][5][6]

An audiobook of sixty-five of his poems, Open Meadow: Odes to Nature (Monterey, MA: Berkshire Media Artists) was released in April 2012. Several of the tracks of the poems are accompanied by the compositions of Claude Debussy, Gabriel Faure, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, which were played by pianist Sarah Edelstein, and recorded live at the studios of Berkshire Media Artists (BMA).


Books of Poetry

  • Evanescence: Selected Poems, Brunswick, Maine: Shanti Arts LLC, 2020.
  • The Bees of the Invisible, Brunswick, Maine: Shanti Arts LLC, 2019.
  • A Bird Who Seems to Know Me: Poems Regarding Birds & Nature, Bainbridge Island, Washington, Ex Ophidia Press, 2019.
  • The Map of Eternity, Brunswick, Maine: Shanti Arts LLC, 2018.
  • Candling the Eggs, Brunswick, Maine: Shanti Arts LLC, 2017.
  • The View of the River, Hemet, California: Kelsay Books/White Violet Press, 2017.
  • Invocation, Beaumont, Texas: Lamar University Literary Press, 2015.
  • Velocity, Chicago, IL: Virtual Artists Collective, 2013.
  • Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love, Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2012.
  • Winding Paths Worn through Grass, Chicago, IL: Virtual Artists Collective, 2012.
  • Luminous Dream, Cave Spring, GA: FutureCycle Press, 2010.
  • Veils of the Divine, Newtown, CT: Hanover Press, 2003.
  • The New Life, Hartford, CT: Plinth Books, 1998; Second Edition, 2003.
  • For the Dance, Easthampton, MA: Adastra Press, 1991.
  • New Haven Poems, Hamden, CT: Connecticut Fireside Press, 1977.

Poetry Chapbooks

  • Things I Know I Love: Odes to Food, Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2015.
  • Blessing and Homage, Cambridge, MA and Chicago, IL: Timberline Press, 2012.
  • Mount Toby Poems, Fulton, MO: Timberline Press, 2009.
  • Snow Geese: A Mountain Poem, Hartford, CT: Andrew Mountain Press (Poem-in-a-Pamphlet Series), 1996.
  • Waking Up the Ducks, Easthampton, MA: Adastra Press, 1987.
  • Of What We’re Given, Guilford, CT: Dunk Rock Books, 1980.

Books of Poetry in Translation

  • The Daodejing: A New Interpretation by David Breeden, Steven Schroeder, and Wally Swist, Beaumont, TX: Lamar University Press, 2015.

Books of Haiku

  • The Windbreak Pine: New and Uncollected Haiku, 1985-2015, Ormskirk, U.K.: Snapshot Press, 2016.
  • The Silence Between Us: The Selected Haiku of Wally Swist, Decatur, IL: Brooks Books, 2005.
  • The Mown Meadow: First Selected Haiku and Sequences, 1977-1994, San Diego, CA: Los Hombres Press, 1996.

Haiku Chapbooks

  • The White Rose, Fulton, MO: Timberline Press, 2000.
  • Train Whistle, Aylmer, Quebec, Canada: Proof Press, 1996.
  • Blowing Reeds, Fulton, MO: Timberline Press, 1995.
  • The Gristmill’s Trough, Richland Center, WI: Hummingbird Press, 1991.
  • Sugaring Buckets, Battle Ground, IN: High/Coo Press, 1989.
  • Unmarked Stones, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada: Burnt Lake Press, 1988.
  • Chimney Smoke, La Crosse, WI: Juniper Press, 1988.


  • Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir, Brooklyn, NY: The Operating System, 2018.

Belles Lettres

  • On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays, New York & Lisbon: Adelaide Books, 2018.

Scholarly Monograph

  • The Friendship of Two New England Poets: Robert Frost and Robert Francis, A Lecture Presented at the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, New Hampshire, Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2009.

Children's Book

  • Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker, Pittsfield, MA: Talmi Entertainment, 2012.


  1. https://www.npr.org/programs/wesat/features/2003/sunkengarden/swist.html Ode To the Omelette poem at NPR
  2. A lecture he delivered in the Robert Frost Homestead 2002 Literary Series, entitled High-pressure Weather and Country Air: The Friendship of Robert Frost and Robert Francis, was published in the Summer 2003 issue of Puckerbrush Review and as a scholarly monograph in 2009 from The Edwin Mellen Press of Lewiston, New York.
  3. http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/126845/
  4. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1401177/
  5. http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/126845/
  6. http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/31807/
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