Swans 10th Anniversary
by Various (but Unique) Swans Contributors
Martin Murie, Edward S. Herman, Michael Doliner,
Michael DeLang, and Richard Wrubel
(Swans - May 8, 2006) From Martin Murie:
Gilles asked: "Why is it so important to keep the flame alive?"
Swans is like a stubborn eddy in the flow of writings that are afraid to venture beyond the margins. I could call it a harbor for dialogue, but I think that needs a stronger word -- Argument. Passionate, but with a firm sense of responsibility. I'm a newcomer to the flock, but I've read quite a bit of what's gone on before, enough to realize there is an extremely valuable commitment here. Rough waters ahead, and we are few, just as Trumpeter Swans were down to a few hundred and with hardly any place to go. But you know what? They came back. They're tougher than anybody believed possible.
From Edward H. Herman:
In this age of still increasing media concentration, and even a growing threat to Internet neutrality, we need more than ever dissident voices of decency and rationality that call things by their right names and that point to decent and rational alternatives. Swans has been such a voice for a decade, and we may hope that it will continue and grow in strength. We need a thousand Swans for a sure impact, but we have one and must continue to cultivate it and make sure that it survives and grows. So this evening I will drink a toast to Swans, congratulate its principals and authors on their achievement, and wish it a bright future!
From Michael Doliner:
Why do I like writing for Swans? That's easy. I like the company. In Swans you can actually write something that says something without all the obligatory backing and filling required elsewhere. I almost always find something I didn't know written by someone who has a strong opinion about it. Then again there are a number of people, like myself, who are not merely saying they are going insane, but are actually doing it. Since I find severe mental anguish in times like these appropriate, it's comforting to have fellowship.
I find I don't have to guess at what Swans' limits are. When I try to write for some other journal, I usually get an e-mail of rejection with some mushy excuse that I know means they don't want to associate with someone with my ideas. Gilles expects you to do your homework, but that's what I want myself. If you've got a good argument he's ready to go with it. And he's sensitive to good writing. Actually, I don't really know of any other journal quite like it.
From Michael DeLang:
My commitment to the Swans project is easily explained. The two factors which originally drew my attention to Swans are the same ones that fundamentally account for my continuing loyalty and support. First, is the conspicuous absence of any kind of advertising. To me, this absence signals a rare integrity of purpose. (Tragically, if Swans readers continue to take without giving something in return, it seems fated that a day will come when, survival on the line, the editor will be forced to relent on this issue.) Second, is the editor's admonition to readers, which appears prominently in each and every issue, to form their own opinions. Swans seems to recognize that meaningful positive change will not take root until enough people can be persuaded to begin to think for themselves.
One additional attribute must be mentioned. Consider this. In their steadfast refusal to accept either advertising or paid subscriptions, the editors of Swans Commentary are under no obligation to publish. Yet, the uncompensated conductor and his linemen manage to bring this train into the station on time every issue! Every other Sunday evening, without fail, there is a new issue. Unfortunately, this unfailing constancy of Swans, which should be truly inspiring, is just another one of those good things in life, which are, too often, taken for granted.
From Bob Wrubel:
Swans is a work in progress, a cultural café that reflects the clientèle (writers) of the moment and the tastes of its editor. Though the writers come from all over the U.S. (and beyond) and the subject matter is high-toned political and cultural commentary, there is a kind of small-town down-to-earthness and centeredness about each issue, probably because of the personal anecdotes and humorous self-reflections of the editor.
Yet Swans has a high mission, which, I guess, is to flesh out a vision of the just society, after the collapse of the American empire. It seems to be a given among Swans' writers, and especially its editor, that the empire is collapsing, and there doesn't seem to be much interest in preventing it. That, in my view, is Swans' main weakness, that it doesn't see any way out of the current (dis)order. The f-word isn't often used in Swans, but the sense is that the f-word has already arrived, in the lumpen mass of rapturists, the addle-brained middle class, and the criminal clique controlling them at the top. This air of gloomy certainty leads to a kind of intellectual nostalgia on the one hand, and violent jeremiads on the other.
At its best, I see Swans as a kind of arc, unmoored from the ugliness of American life, sailing off in search of a better one. There is a little bit of everything in this arc -- Shakespeare, poetry, old leftists, nature observation, sharp political commentary -- and no one is quite certain where the whole thing is going. The company is good, there's always entertainment, and now and then the captain appears on deck to lash the crew into ever more work and devotion.
Sail on, brave arc. Lead us to that better place!
Starting its eleventh year of free publication, Swans is rich in friends, but poor in cash. If you've enjoyed being a Swans reader, please help us out with aThank you.