Literature 4-30-2007

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Amy Swing

"What Light: This Week's Poem" is a feature sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers that brings you a poem every week by a Minnesota poet, selected by a panel of writers and publishers.

amy swing

Risking the Berries

You have to pick
the raspberries walling
the sides of the trail.

Some need coaxing
off the vine, worrying
them with fingers.

Others descend with
a breeze or bump
of sleeve or thigh.

Too many in the hand
at once, and, damn,
all are lost.

The berries keep
seducing; mosquitoes
keep attacking.

You want to stop,
yet the next set of bushes
always has more, riper…

An hour goes by, for
what? A small bag,
trampled, lesser foliage.

Risking life and limb:
yes, life. A thorn scratch
can infect the blood,

travel up the arm
in a straight blue line
on its heartward way.


My poems come mostly from what is around me, often in a physical sense. Trees, rivers, light, rocks, wind, birds come in and out of my work to reflect and define human relationships. These images change as my environment changes, which keeps me reaching for new experiences and landscapes. As a reader and a writer, I quest for poems that unite image and experience, that connect something that hasn’t been connected before.


Amy Jo Swing has lived in Alaska, Texas, Indiana, and Arizona, and currently resides near Duluth, Minnesota. She is a 1996 graduate of the Texas State University San Marcos MFA program and was the recipient of a McKnight Artists Fellowship in Poetry in 1998. She currently teaches at Lake Superior College and lives on twenty acres with her partner, daughter, dog, cat, two goats, and a hive of honey bees.