UCSC professor named second Poet Laureate of Santa Cruz County

photo of UC Santa Cruz emeritus professor David Swanger

UC Santa Cruz emeritus professor David Swanger (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

UCSC emeritus professor of education and creative writing David Swanger has been named the second Poet Laureate of Santa Cruz County.

He succeeds UCSC humanities lecturer Gary Young, who has served in the position for the past two years. 

The Poet Laureate is an initiative of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County--in collaboration with Poetry Santa Cruz--and is designed to advance, enliven, and promote the art of poetry throughout the county.

“This is a special place in terms of being a paradise for poets,” Swanger noted.  "There are many fine accomplished poets living here, and we have a plethora of classes, readings, workshops, and informal gatherings of poets.”

“But there is also an entire population of poets and poetry lovers who are not part of the visible, published and performing cohort,” he added.

Swanger recalled that years ago, he ran a weekly poetry feature in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. During that time, he helped publish over 200 poems from people outside the recognized arena of poetry in Santa Cruz.

“It was an enriching experience for me and I hope a powerful experience for the people I published,” said Swanger

“As poet laureate, in addition to working with established colleagues in poetry, my plan is to once again reach out to people and places where poetry is not as much a part of the conversation.”

Prior to his retirement in 2005, Swanger taught educational philosophy for the Education Department at UC Santa Cruz, and poetry classes for the Literature Department.

He was a longtime friend of renowned short story writer and poet Raymond Carver, whom he met at UCSC when they both arrived on campus to teach in 1971.

In 2002, Swanger donated a collection of letters he received from Carver to UCSC’s Special Collections.

Swanger has written four books of poetry and is also the author of The Poem as Process and Essays in Aesthetic Education.

In 2005, his poetry book, Wayne’s College of Beauty: New and Selected Poems, was selected from more than 400 entrants to receive the John Ciardi Prize in Poetry.

Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor chose a poem from that book, “Patriarch at the Lake,” to read on National Public Radio’s  Writers’ Almanac program.

“Poetry is important, as it has always been, for expressions of the human condition and our connections with each other,” said Swanger.

“You discover your own feelings that you didn’t know you had, and have a form in which you can share them. Poetry can teach us empathy, in that we can feel what others feel when the poem is right.” 

Santa Cruz’s new Poet Laureate will perform multiple readings throughout the county this April in celebration of National Poetry Month.

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