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David Swanger

SANTA CRUZ — One of the most prolific poets in the county, David Swanger, wants to tap the writer in people, even if they've never before penned a thought.

Swanger, a retired UC Santa Cruz literature and philosophy professor, was selected as poet laureate of Santa Cruz County, essentially acting as an ambassador of the written art.

The two-year position is a collaboration started in 2010 between the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County and Poetry Santa Cruz to promote poetry throughout the county.

In his new role, Swanger hopes to reach out to people and places where poetry is not a part of the conversation, particularly in Watsonville.

Swanger will be visiting schools and hosting seminars to encourage more writing.

“In one sense, this is a poetry mecca,” Swanger, 71, said. “But I want to reach out to those people who are not part of the accomplished and published cohort.

“There is a kind of curtain between people who have recognition already and people who are less sure of their writing. Poetry is a significant way to discover yourself and stay in touch with yourself.”

A highlight of Swanger's poetry career was when National Public Radio host Garrison Keillor read one of his poems — “Patriarch at the Lake” — on the radio program Writers' Almanac.

In the early 1990s, Swanger ran a weekly poetry feature in the Sentinel that included publishing 200 poems from people who would never otherwise receive recognition for their work.

First on his schedule as poet laureate are multiple readings throughout the county in April to celebrate National Poetry Month. He plans to do readings to the county Board of Supervisors and Santa Cruz City Council.

Swanger succeeds UCSC humanities lecturer Gary Young, who served as poet laureate for the past two years.

Thirty-three cities and counties in California have appointed poet laureates to serve their communities, including San Francisco, Cupertino and Los Gatos.

 

Follow Sentinel reporter Shanna McCord on Twitter @scnewsmom

 

David Swanger

SANTA CRUZ POET LAUREATE

AGE: 71

FAMILY: Married to Lynn Swanger, three grown children

CAREER: Taught educational philosophy and poetry at UC Santa Cruz for 35 years, retired in 2005

DETAILS: Wrote four books of poetry, including ‘Wayne's College of Beauty: New and Selected Poems', ‘The Poem as Process and Essays in Aesthetic Education', winner of the John Ciardi Prize in poetry.

CONTACT: dswanger@ucsc.edu

 

Patriarch at the Lake

The aunts, splendid, pale

and ample in their bathing suits,

unfurled tablecloths, challa, melons,

seltzer water in blue bottles, and

honey cakes and other cakes.

 

After the required hour everyone

but Grandpa waded, stirring silt

around our ankles, enjoying mud.

Then, as if called by voices beyond

us, the old man rose, his belly taut,

trunks reaching his knees, his shins

white as fish, and walked without

watching the ground toward water.

 

We parted to let him pass, we receded

onto the beach; he prowed outward

and swam. He remembered, he stroked

and roiled and spumed his way away

then back to us, his shorebound spawn.

 

— David Swanger