Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Robert Sward  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Poetry

Audience: Adult;

Born: in Chicago, Illinois


-- Website -- http://www.robertsward.com/index.htm
-- Robert Sward on WorldCat -- http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=robert+sward


Illinois Connection

Robert was born and raised on the North Side of Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Robert Sward has taught at Cornell University, the Iowa Writers workshop and at UC Santa Cruz. He served in the U.S. Navy in the combat zone during the Korean War and later worked for CBS radio.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Four Incarnations: New and Selected Poems 1957-1991
ISBN: 0918273900

Coffee House Press. 1991

From street-gang punk, to navy recruit, to rent-a-Santa, a collection of poems celebrating the possibilities of the individual.

A Much-Married Man, A Novel
ISBN: 0921215991

Ekstasis Editions. 1996

Much-Married Writer tells all in new novel. Guggenheim Award-winner Robert Sward tells the story of that rarity, a five-times married, one-woman man. Calling up the social-sexual history of the times, journalist Noah Newmark re-visits the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s and the spouses with whom he shared those decades, in an all-out effort to keep his fifth and current marriage alive.

Author of Four Incarnations, New And Selected Poems and best-seller The Toronto Islands, Canada Robert Sward's A Much-Married Man is his first full-length novel.

Set in Northern California... Good clean dirty sex... a comedy of manners.

Rosicrucian in the Basement: Poetry
ISBN: 0887533531

Black Moss Press. 2001

"I like the wide sweep of it. There are many mysteries between father and son that people don't talk about.... The father figure comes through consistently, there's a lot of buoyancy, and the son is consistent and fine too."
(Robert Bly, author of Iron John)

Rosicrucian in the Basement is a book of poems about Dr. Irving M. Sward, born about 100 years ago in Poltava, Russia, into an Orthodox Jewish family. A conservative, rather stern, five-eyelet shoe, white-shirt-and-tie, 9-to-5 pogrom-surviving immigrant, Dr. Sward became a successful Chicago podiatrist. After his wife's death he became a devout Rosicrucian, a member of a society venerating the rose and the cross as symbols of Christ's resurrection and redemption and claiming various occult powers. Robert Sward's poems, based on his father's life, capture the tension between a profession where one does something with one's hands - performing surgery on feet, cutting corns, carving arch supports - a trade in a sense, and talking with angels, seeing the two worlds: visible and invisible and how seven-eighths of everything is invisible anyway.

"This is a book of poems about a man who works on people's feet for a living, going into a basement on the Jewish North Side of Chicago, lighting incense and candles, and attempting to transform himself using salt, sulfur, lead, mercury and so on as medieval alchemists had done centuries before."

Heavenly Sex (The Palm Poets Series)
ISBN: 0887533752

Black Moss Press. 2002

Heavenly Sex is a book of poems about varieties of love, sacred and profane, particularly as experienced by a young man who has recently lost his mother. It is, at the same time, as noted by Robert Bly, a celebration of one of the more unusual father-son relationships. In one poem the son observes his distraught father as he seeks to win the affections of a beautiful new companion. Claiming to quote scripture, the father says, "A woman's breasts are the Ten Commandments, the two tablets of God's law. One for what God allows, one for what He doesn't." "The way we make love," he goes on, "is the way God will be with us." A self-taught Russian immigrant, drawing on a variety of ancient mystical doctrines, the father emerges as the book's central figure.

As critic William Minor observed, Sward presents "abstruse or complex concerns in a manner that is refreshingly straightforward, even simple" at the same time he manages to tell a story, "providing a continuous narrative thread, yet remaining totally lyrical at the same time." Heavenly Sex is, in addition, a book about family and offers vivid demonstrations of the ways in which one's parents, grandparents, and one's children, live on inside one.

Part II is made up of a selection of Sward's, until recently, out-of-print animal poems, Uncle Dog: the Poet at 9, Scarlet the Parrot and others. Report from the Front, the final section, is more political and satirical in tone, as illustrated by Fellatio Pinocchio, 1950s-1960s and the tour de force, 45 Poets Named Robert.

God Is in the Cracks: A Narrative in Voices
ISBN: 0887534228

Black Moss Pr. 2006

At the heart of God is in the Cracks is Robert Sward's Talmud-conversant father, of Russian-Jewish extraction—a Chicago-based podiatrist by profession—who came unhinged after his wife's death at age 42.



In the late 1940s he became a Rosicrucian and practiced his rites secretly in the basement of the family home. Dr. Sward evolved his own blend of kabbalistic, Christian hermetic, and prescient New Age mysticism which lent its colors to his medical practice as well as to his view of his son's eventual career choice and several marriages.



God is in the Cracks draws on Rosicrucian in the Basement and Heavenly Sex (Black Moss Press) and includes more than a dozen new poems in the father-son series. The poems, monologues and dialogues in the father's voice, are sequenced to form a narrative spanning 60 years (1945-present). At the heart of God is in the Cracks is Robert Sward's Talmud-conversant father, of Russian-Jewish extraction—a Chicago-based podiatrist by profession—who came unhinged after his wife's death at age 42.



In the late 1940s he became a Rosicrucian and practiced his rites secretly in the basement of the family home. Dr. Sward evolved his own blend of kabbalistic, Christian hermetic, and prescient New Age mysticism which lent its colors to his medical practice as well as to his view of his son's eventual career choice and several marriages.



God is in the Cracks draws on Rosicrucian in the Basement and Heavenly Sex (Black Moss Press) and includes more than a dozen new poems in the father-son series. The poems, monologues and dialogues in the father's voice, are sequenced to form a narrative spanning 60 years (1945-present).


Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

Contact Author robert@robertsward.com