I am borrowing rotten swan to put at the top of my rotation list of favorite images. It’s the British poet Alice Oswald’s concoction: In her book Falling Awake, “Swan” observes her own wondrously devolving construction as she hovers above herself. In a 2016 interview in The Guardian, Oswald said, “just as a tree can be a nymph, a poet can be a rotten swan.”
Imagine 70-some rotten swans gathering and living wing to wing in the Sierra Nevada mountains for a week! Imagine a conference – Community of Writers at Olympic Valley – where poets had 24-hours to write a poem, for six days, and deliver it by 7:30am to be discussed and critiqued by fellow poet-swans!
Misery!? Communal perversity, self-flagellation, dissolution? A few went the way of the poet maudit, despairing, scorned like Baudelaire’s Albatross. Others observed their own emotions and processes hovering outside self, as Oswald’s swan observes her “own black feet lying poised in their slippers” and “china serving-dish of a breast bone” as she flies from her body. Others dealt in the magic of metaphor – this is that – rapt and suspended by the flash in the blank space between clarities. That’s where I like to be if I can, between place and place, spellbound as something is happening. And hopefully convey the discovery as this becomes that. Some laughed – the joke’s on us! – a took a long, deep, beautiful breath.