Biography


"The hardest thing in the world for me to understand is boredom. My universe has always been too stimulating . . . too many sights and sounds and smells, too much to touch and taste and feel, too much to remember, and at times, alas, too much to forget."

-Alice Mackenzie Swaim

Alice Mackenzie Swaim, internationally renowned poet, was born on June 5, 1911, at Craigdam, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, of distinguished parents, the Reverend Dr. Donald Campbell Mackenzie, and Alice Annand Murray Mackenzie, both honor  graduates of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, holding Master of Arts degrees. Alice had three siblings, Elizabeth, Donald, and Janet.

Alice’s husband William (retired Presbyterian minister, administrator of the Presbyterian Homes, Inc., in Pennsylvania, an historian, prolific writer and nationally recognized expert in gerontology) wrote in his autobiography, Double--Quick for a Lifetime, “Seldom did a poetically inclined child ever set forth on life’s voyage on a calmer sea than Alice did, nor with more intellectual and cultural sails set higher and in the right direction.  Alice is the product of intellectual parents and of a cultural environment extraordinaire.  The many poems that she creates today can have classical allusions because in childhood and youth she read practically all of the classics . . . “ noting further, “During summer vacations the Mackenzie family saw and studied the cities, cathedrals, and museums of Europe.”

 

Alice remembered her early years in Scotland as idyllic and wrote often of the beauty of those days and of her childhood by the sea. In 1928, when she was just seventeen years of age, the family emigrated to America and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where her father, a professor of Biblical Theology, taught – first at the Western Theological Seminary and later at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Alice’s early education took place at Tain Royal Academy in Scotland.  In America, she by-passed high school and studied at Chatham College, formerly the Pennsylvania College for Women, for two years (1928-30) and then transferred to Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where she received her B.A. degree, in 1932. In 1939, Alice became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.

Alice in her wedding gown.  Source:  Historical Society of Dauphin County Collections

Alice in her wedding gown. 

Source:  Historical Society of Dauphin County Collections

On December 27, 1932, at her family’s home in Pittsburgh, Alice married William Thomas Swaim, Jr., a minister’s son who was a theological student at Western Theological Seminary.  Ideally, the marriage was solemnized by her father.  On the 6th of December in 1933, their first child, Elizabeth Anne Swaim, was born, and on January 23,  1936, Kathleen Mackenzie Swaim was born.  Elizabeth retired as Rare Books Librarian and Archivist at the Wesleyan University Library Middletown, Connecticut.  She died on May 15, 2000. Kathleen earned a Ph.D in 1966, and retired in 1999 from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst as Professor of English, where her specialty was Milton. 

Much of Alice’s biographical information is included in more than 35 different Who’s Who’s, half of them in England. Among them are Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in the East, International Who’s Who in Poetry, Poet’s Encyclopedia, World’s Who’s Who of Women, in the Dictionary of International Biography and others. Her works are on record at the International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England; The Arts Council of Great Britain; Authors and Writers of America; University of Kentucky library; International Poets’ Shrine; Chatham College; Wilson College; Cumberland County Historical Society; National Federation of State Poetry Societies; and the Pennsylvania Poetry Society.

Alice receives the American Heritage Award, John F. Kennedy Library for Minorities, 1974 Source: Historical Society of Dauphin County Collections

Alice receives the American Heritage Award, John F. Kennedy Library for Minorities, 1974

Source: Historical Society of Dauphin County Collections

Alice was a member of many organizations, including the Poetry Society of America; National Federation of State Poetry Societies; American Poetry League; Society of North American Poets; Academy of American Poets; National Writers Club; Amateur Press Association; United Poets Laureate; International Centro Studi e Scambi; Pennsylvania Poetry Society; United Poets Laureate International; and the Poetry Societies of New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, California and Texas; National Writers Club Heritage Society of Authors and Writers of America, the New York Writers’ Guild, and others.

 In addition, she was a poet critic for the National Writers Club; columnist for the Evening Sentinel, Carlisle, Pennsylvania; book reviewer for the American Poetry League; public relations director, 2d World Congress of Poets; marketing editor for the Poetry Society of New Hampshire; publicity director for the Second World Congress of Poets; judge of numerous poetry contests; consultant to the Association for Poetry Therapy; Pennsylvania representative to the World Poetry Society; entered and won numerous poetry contests, even into her last years, and held other important offices within some of the above-named societies. Her work has been published in well over 100 periodicals, including The New York Times, The New York Herald Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, the Christian Herald, The Rotarian, Ideals, American Poet, The American Bard, Modern Images, and more.

Alice earned more than 800 awards and citations, some of which were these:  Woman of the Year Award, American Biographical Institute, l994; Presidents Award for Literary Excellence, Illiad Press, l994; Anna Hempstead Branch Lyric Award, l959; Borestone Mountain Poetry Award, l960; best book published by Pageant Press, l960; Henry Seidel Canby Award, l962; American Poetry League Award; named Poet-Laureate of the Sonnet, United Poets-Laureate International, l963 and others.

Alice died on February l5, l996, at age 84, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  William died on July 30, 1999, at age 92. They are interred alongside each other in the Big Spring Cemetery,
Newville, Pennsylvania."