The Poems of David Swanger

ae poetryEditor’s note:  This week’s Poetry Corner features David Swanger, the second Santa Cruz County Poet Laureate. Swanger has received fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. He has written a book about poetry, “The Poem as Process,” a book about aesthetic education, “Essays in Aesthetic Education,” as well as four books of poems. His most recent book of poems, “Wayne’s College of Beauty,” won the John Ciardi Prize in Poetry, and was a finalist in Fore Word’s Book of the Year Awards.
Natural Disaster
(January 1982, Santa Cruz County)
Overflow advances across strawberry
fields, insinuates streets and suddenly
everyone has a house on the water. And
such rich, redolent water, water carrying
land with it, effluents, aromas, stranded
cars, bodies in cars; water driving snakes
ahead of it, water augering through levees
and piling the fluid tonnage of itself against
bridges that break, great trees that swim
away from the bank and ride the roiling
surface until they are snagged by other
trees and slam sideways, trees logging up
into dams over which the river schusses.
The names of the creeks: Lompico, Bear,
Soquel, Zayante, Kings, Two Bar, Empire,
Aptos, Granite. And the rivers: Pajaro,
San Lorenzo. The names of the dead:
George, Leon, Sheila, Juan, Unknown and
Unknown. The names of the gods: Jaweh,
Father, Holy Spirit. The name of the lake
on whose bank grows a tree said to form
an image of the Virgin Mary in its bark:
Pinto. The name of the lucky one, not
home when his house slid over the edge:
Robert. The name of the thing that brings
the rivers up and the hills down: rain.

Personal Statement by David Swanger:
I am honored to be chosen by the Cultural Council and representatives of Poetry Santa Cruz as the second Santa Cruz County Poet Laureate. And it is a privilege to succeed Gary Young in this position. Gary brought luster to the laureateship by his talent and stature as a poet, and by giving voice to poetry throughout the community. We have an especially talented and active cohort of poets in Santa Cruz. I look forward to working with my fellow poets on a range of endeavors—Santa Cruz reading series, publications, commemorations, festivals and other celebrations. With colleagues, I plan also to engage in outreach among diverse audiences, joining teachers, librarians, journalists, and civic and religious leaders to broaden and deepen poetry’s presence in both Santa Cruz proper and South County. Most of all, I anticipate joy in being an official emissary on behalf of poetry.

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