Four Incarnations

Poetry by Robert Sward

July 1, 1991 • 6 x 9 • 144 pages • 978-0-918273-90-1

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

Robert Sward has been writing poetry since age fifteen when his couplets informed other members of his Chicago street gang where meetings were to be held. The poems in Four Incarnations chronicle Sward’s life and writing with poetry from each of his twelve previous volumes as well as much new material to comprise a poetic range that is considerable. Throughout his work is a warm sensitivity and a sharp sense of humor, and above all, a celebratory humanism.


“Like other good works of art, these poems have the air of having been made for people rather than for other artists.” —William Meredith

“Sward can handle not only a Lardner-Hemingway tight-lipped, back room kind of American speech, but the attitudes that betray it. He can also describe odd-ball birds not found in Audubon with the mosaic deftness of Marianne Moore. He as a voice and a range.” New York Times Book Review

“Here is Robert Sward, now in his fifties, still fresh, ingenuous, and funnier than ever. His life—and what a life—is an open book. You can read all about it here. What’s more, you will want to call your friends and read poems to them over the phone. I know, I’ve done it.” —Carolyn Kizar

“Robert Sward doesn’t need a fifth incarnation to justify his claim to an important place in American poetry. He’s a seriously funny poet. Rimbaud in a dune buggy. The muse in a free fall. The laughter that lights these poems is older than we are. And a whole lot wiser.” —Robert Dana

“Robert Sward’s language seems to have been invented only this morning, as fresh as childhood, as wise as the animals in the oldest myth. These poems want it all: to live in all beings, all houses, all landscapes, to let nothing be forgotten or uncelebrated.” —William Dickey

“Sward has heard the best pop/op minds of his generation, marrying those sounds with his sensitive responses to such earlier literary giants as Melville, Whitman, and E.E. Cummings. . . . Four Incarnations is one of the very best poetry books of the year.” —Robert Peters