Iowa Poet Laureate (2009-present)
Phone: 319-683-2613

Mary Swander, poet, playwright and non-fiction writer, draws her inspiration from the landscape and its people. From the Iowa Amish to the New Mexico mystics, she has captured the extraordinary folkways and idioms in the ordinary person's life.

Mary is not currently available for in-person events. She is pleased to offer the following presentations via Zoom. 

Discussions, Readings and Maybe a Banjo
Mary Swander will talk and discuss the state of poetry in contemporary society, illustrating her ideas with her original work, including the classic "Driving the Body Back" and her recent collection The Girls on the Roof, a Mississippi River flood saga. The author of twelve books, numerous plays and radio commentaries, Swander brings energy and humor to the page and to her audiences. And sometimes she even brings her banjo.

Responses to Map of my Kingdom and Vang
Mary Swander will provide the cultural and historical contexts surrounding her plays Map of my Kingdom, a drama about farmland transition, and Vang, a drama about recent immigrant farmers.  Swander will detail how she wrote both dramas and she why was compelled to take on these contemporary agricultural issues. Land access is a pressing problem for beginning farmers in the U.S. Over half of the current farmers are over the age of 65, but will these retiring landowners be able to transition their property to younger folks? Many immigrants come to the U.S. with agricultural knowledge and experience, but find it difficult to set themselves up in farming. How will they find a piece of the American dream? The audience will be encouraged to ask questions and share their own experiences.

Response to Farm-to-Fork-Tales
Mary Swander will discuss how agriculture is the mother of all arts, and in particular how food and farming give rise to stories of the land and the culinary arts. She will talk about how gardening, cooking, and agriculture have provided material for her own writing and how family histories about food and farming pinpoint the larger historical markers of our time—from the Irish potato famine, to the Dust Bowl, to our recent immigration raids in packing plants. Food and farming stories have also released some of the best jokes, tall tales, and humor in American folklore. Audience members will be encouraged to tell their own stories and discuss their significance.