About Mary Swander

Mary Swander

Mary Swander is an award-winning writer of drama, poetry and nonfiction with a national and international reputation. She has published books with major New York publishing houses as well as university presses. She has won grants and awards from such places as The National Endowment for the Arts, the Whiting Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her latest book is The Maverick M.D., a biography of Dr. NIcholas Gonzalez.

The Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame recognized Mary Swander recently by naming her as one of the four honorees for 2022. Read more here.

Mary is a member of the Iowa Writers Collaborative. Read Mary Swander’s Buggy Land and Swander’s Emerging Voices. She founded Blazing Star Literary Journal.  Her podcast is Mary Swander’s Buggy Land.

Mary Swander is the Artistic Director of Swander Woman Productions, a theatre troupe that performs dramas about food, farming, and the wider rural environment. She is also the Executive Director of AgArts, a nonprofit designed to imagine and promote healthy food systems through the arts.

Swander’s productions include Map of My Kingdom, Vang, Farm-to-Fork Tales and Squatters on Red Earth.

Swander’s recent play, Squatters on Red Earth, about the white settler land grab from the Native Americans, premiered in June and will go on the road in October, 2023.  Her latest book is The Maverick M.D.: Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez and His Fight for a New Treatment for Cancer (New Spring Press).

The former Poet Laureate of Iowa, Swander has published scores of books of poetry and nonfiction as well as essays, magazine articles, individual poems and radio commentaries in such places as National Public Radio, The Nation, The New York Times Magazine, and Poetry Magazine. She is best known for her poetry book Driving the Body Back and for her memoirs Out of this World and The Desert Pilgrim.

An emerita Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Swander taught creative writing for thirty years at Iowa State University and was a visiting writer-in-residence at Interlochen Arts Academy, the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, the University of New Mexico, and the University of Alabama.  She now gives workshops on poetry, nonfiction and playwriting, as well as farmland transition, for other colleges and universities and nonprofit organizations. She received her own M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.

Swander continues to tour her dramas from coast-to-coast in venues that include farmers’ barns to New York University, The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, The Mayo Clinic, and the Idaho Wine Commission. In addition to Squatters on Red Earth, her touring productions are: The Girls on the Roof, an adaptation of her poetry book with the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre; Vang, a play about recent immigrant farmers; Map of my Kingdom, a play about farmland transition; and Farm-to-Fork Tales, a storytelling performance. 

Mary Swander also gives solo performances of her own work, playing the banjo, the harmonica and the spoons. She has dual U.S./Irish citizenship and teaches in Ireland in the summers. The rest of the year, she lives in an old Amish one-room schoolhouse, raises goats and has a large organic garden where she grows most of her own food.