Robert Sward Papers, 1951-1971.
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Biographical / Historical Note

Robert Sward emerged as a promising young American poet in the late 1950's. A Chicago native, Sward was educated at the University of Illinois (BA, 1956), Middlebury College, and the University of Iowa (MA, 1958). After graduating from the Iowa Writers' Program, Sward spent a year in England on a Fulbright Fellowship and upon his return joined the English Department at Cornell University.

While he was at Cornell, Sward's colleagues included the poets A.R. Ammons and William Meredith, both of whom helped promote Sward's poetry. It was Cornell University Press, in fact, that brought Sward's work to the attention of the academic community by publishing his two early collections, Kissing the Dancer and Other Poems (1964) and Thousand Year Old Fiancee and Other Poems (1965).

Sward left Cornell in the mid-1960's and spent much of the remaining decade traveling extensively in the United States and England teaching poetry workshops and giving readings. His work appeared regularly in most of the important little magazines and he developed friendships and correspondences with numerous authors of his generation, notably Carol Berge, Paul Blackburn, Robert Cohen, Larry Lieberman, Ann Quin, and Margaret Randall.

In 1969 Sward took a position as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. It was here that he launched Soft Press, a small press that he operated for nearly ten years which became the primary publishing outlet for his work in the 1970's. Sward eventually became a landed immigrant in Canada and lived in Toronto where he became an active member of that city's literary scene. In 1985, he returned to the United States and now lives in California. Sward reads and performs regularly as one of the "Three Roberts" (Sward, Robert Zent, and Robert Priest) and recently had a major collection of poetry published by Aya Press, Half a Life's History: Poems New and Selected, 1957-1983 (1983).