Featuring David Swanger, August 2012

Christine Richardson, co-host of the Willow Glen Poetry Project’s monthly readings, introduced the featured poet for August, David Swanger with these words:

Tonight we are pleased to present the second poet laureate of Santa Cruz County, David Swanger. He is a professor emeritus from the University of California, Santa Cruz where he taught in both the Education and Literature Departments.

As a student himself he spent a year studying in England. The weather and other conditions were rather bleak, yet he says that bleak period created for him its own momentum. At first he wrote short stories but then poetry began to arrive out of his emotional upheaval. (Though he soon learned that what looked good late at night didn’t look so good in the morning – an experience that many of us can share.) David then moved from being an occasional poet relying on crisis and exhilaration for inspiration and motivation to making a deeper commitment to writing poetry on a regular schedule in order to give himself time, as he says, “to deal with my imagination and stay until I am done.”

A great example of using imagination to write about something one has not experienced is the title poem from his award-winning collection, Wayne’s College of Beauty, which was selected from over 400 entrants for the John Ciardi Prize in Poetry. David had the chance to learn first hand about the beauty school, as he biked by it often and saw the students standing outside on their breaks. But he chose instead to think more creatively.

What started out to be satire became a beautiful love poem.  Ah surprise for the poet, surprise for the reader.

But all the subjects in his 4 books of poetry aren’t solely out of his imagination. Many explore things he has interests or experiences in, like owning horses, living near rattlesnakes, or his fondness for the internal combustion engine as in his poem, “Carburetors.”

As Poet Laureate, David sees his mission as twofold: to continue to work with the large cadre of established Santa Cruz poets and to assist in giving voice to people and places where poetry is not typically part of the conversation. He believes that poetry is important for expressions of the human condition and our connections with each other. It gives each of us a voice to our unique experience and who among us doesn’t have something to teach us all?

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