Arts & Humanities

Celebrating Pride: Research Explores how Alumna May Swenson's Poetry Paved Way for LGBTQIA+ Artists

Tegan Durfee, senior at USU majoring in English Literature, next to wall art of USU alumna May Swenson.

Tegan Durfee

Senior, English Literature

  • Area of study: Evolution of May Swenson’s poetry

Why is this work important?

“May Swenson never set out to be a pillar in the community but because of her experience as a lesbian artist, she realized it was important to expand on that representation. She realized that it was important to her community to know they could succeed regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or anything else that society was saying would hold them back.”

Summary of research:

This spring, Durfee, a senior at Utah State University majoring in English Literature, completed an undergrad research project analyzing the work of May Swenson as a pioneer LGBTQIA+ artist.

Through her research, Durfee found that Swenson used ambiguous pronouns to describe love in early poetry but became more forthright about her lesbian sexuality in later work.

Durfee specifically studied Swenson’s poetry during two of her four known relationships.

Swenson lived in Logan for many years of her childhood and attended Utah State University. Her family was active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Durfee believes that, for these reasons, Swenson’s journey toward openly expressing her sexuality could be relatable to many LGBTQIA+ individuals at USU.

Learn more about Durfee’s research on Liberalis

View the research presentation on Symposium


Emilie Wheeler
News Director
University Marketing and Communications


LGBTQIA+ 21stories

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