A Southerner by birth, Susan Swartwout's history and writing are steeped in the gothic elements of quotidian life in the Deep South, a celebration of difference and the uncommon—odd beauties who embellish our plain lives. These poems explore the lives of freaks—celebrities of Southern fairs' sideshows—such as conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker's married lives, the Fat Lady's work schedule, Tom Thumb’s Barnum-warped ego, all parallel to the hidden desires, plots, and jealousies of the rest of us. Our exterior normality belies the internal twisted landscapes—how complicity and silence echo abuse, how depression infects entire families, how a five-year-old learns to use words as weapons, how human need dispels language's boundaries. From circus oddities to real-life boogeymen, from Louisiana to a Central American village, earth has no dearth of the gothic's strange fruit, illuminating the complexity of what it is to be human.
About the author
Susan Swartwout is professor of English at Southeast Missouri State University where she serves as the publisher of the University Press and edits two literary journals, Big Muddy: Journal of the Mississippi River Valley and The Cape Rock: Poetry. She's the author of the poetry collections Freaks and Uncommon Ground, editor of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, and co-editor of three books. She has published over 100 poems in literary journals and anthologies. Among her writing awards are the St. Louis Poetry Center's Stanley Hanks Award, New York's Rona Jaffe Foundation Award, the Davenport Award for Fiction, a Ragdale Foundation Fellowship, and Seattle's Hedgebrook Writers Fellowship.
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