Dear Literary Folk,
With the first of April come all the fools—such wonderful company! Appropriately enough, the earliest recorded association between April 1 and foolishness can be found in Chaucer‘s Canterbury Tales (1392), though the origins go back much deeper. In the Tarot deck, the Fool is the spirit in search of experience. He represents the mystical cleverness bereft of reason within us, the childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world. The sun shining behind him represents the divine nature of the Fool’s wisdom and exuberance, holy madness or crazy wisdom.
April is National Poetry Month, too, with literary events of all kinds for the foolish, the wise, the mystically clever, and the exuberant.
But before highlighting some of the local events, I’d like to look back to February and March to recognize the winners of the Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud Competition. The evening at the Glaser Center in downtown Santa Rosa brought together the top competitors from high schools across the county. Their recitations were riveting. A huge thank you goes out to all the students who participated, to their mentor teachers, and to Phyllis Meshulam as our county coordinator.
The winner and runner up, Kennedy Petersen and Nelly Guidino, went on to the statewide competition in Sacramento where Kennedy represented us admirably, advancing to the final round. The California State Champion this year was Arwa Awan from Monterey County, who will compete this month in Washington, D.C.
Our local champion, Kennedy, will be the opening reader at this month’s WordTemple reading (more below).
Our 2013 winner: Kennedy Petersen is a student at Montgomery High School. She has been active member of the Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma for the last three years, as well as participating in numerous productions as part of Montgomery’s theater department – her most recent role being Mrs. Roeder in D.W. Gregory’s Radium Girls. She is thrilled to participate in POL and thankful for the opportunity to represent her school and county. Kennedy recited “Monet Refuses the Operation” by Liesel Mueller and “Autumn Sunset” by Edith Wharton.
Our 2013 runner-up: Nelly Gudiño is a senior at Roseland University Prep. She came from Mexico as a little girl with her mother in the hopes of living the “American Dream.” She is an A student who enjoys listening and dancing to modern music to relieve stress from everyday life. Nelly recited “Ego” by Denise Duhamel and “Bent to the Earth” by Blas Manuel de Luna.
100 Thousand Poets for Change invites you all to a Spring Forward Festival Friday, April 5 through Sunday, April 7. Admission Free. The global movement 100 Thousand Poets for Change enters its 3rd year with a special three-day spring event at the Arlene Frances Center for Spirit, Art and Politics, 99 6th Street, Santa Rosa. Over 60 poets from all over California will participate in three poetry readings. More details available soon at: www.100tpc.org. Contact for info: firstname.lastname@example.org
WordTemple Poetry Series presents a reading with Kjell Espmark and Dana Gioia on Saturday, April 13, 7:00 p.m. Kjell Espmark and Dana Gioia. Kjell Espmark, making a rare appearance from Sweden, is a poet, novelist, and literary historian. He has published thirteen volumes of poetry. Dana Gioia, an internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet, is the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and the author of four collections of poetry. Opening Poet: Kennedy Petersen is 16 years old, and currently a sophomore at Montgomery High School. More details at www.wordtemple.com.
The Healdsburg Literary Guild’s Third Sunday Salon presents John Koetzner and young writers in a program honoring National Poetry Month on Sunday, April 21, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. John Koetzner, current and seventh Healdsburg Literary Laureate 2012/2013, will highlight a program of readings, assisted by young area writers who have attended his writing workshops. At Bean Affair, 1270 Healdsburg Avenue. FREE. Open to the public. Open mic; sign-ups begin at 1:00. Raffle and book sales.
Three Poet Laureates at the Petaluma Library: I’ll be joining Sonoma County poet laureate Bill Vartnaw and former laureate Geri Digiorno for a poetry reading on Wednesday, April 17, 6-7:30 p.m. at the Petaluma Public Library, 100 Fairgrounds Drive, Petaluma. I’d be happy to see a familiar face or two, if you’re interested in attending (and that would be lovely).
Here’s a poem for April Fools—one I first heard recited at the Poetry Out Loud Competition in February. It’s stayed with me—haunting, funny, whimsical. Enjoy!
Terry Ehret, Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor
It Isn’t Me
By James Lasdun
It isn’t me, he’d say,
stepping out of a landscape
that offered, he’d thought, the backdrop
to a plausible existence
until he entered it; it’s just not me,
he’d murmur, walking away.
It’s not quite me, he’d explain,
apologetic but firm,
leaving some job they’d found him.
They found him others: he’d go,
smiling his smile, putting
his best foot forward, till again
he’d find himself reluctantly concluding
that this, too, wasn’t him.
He wanted to get married, make a home,
unfold a life among his neighbors’ lives,
branching and blossoming like a tree,
but when it came to it, it isn’t me
was all he seemed to learn
from all his diligent forays outward.
And why it should be so hard
for someone not so different from themselves,
to find what they’d found, barely even seeking;
what gift he’d not been given, what forlorn
charm of his they’d had the luck to lack,
puzzled them—though not unduly:
they lived inside their lives so fully
they couldn’t, in the end, believe in him,
except as some half-legendary figure
destined, or doomed, to carry on his back
the weight of their own all-but-weightless, stray
doubts and discomforts. Only sometimes,
alone in offices or living rooms,
they’d hear that phrase again: it isn’t me,
and wonder, briefly, what they were, and where,
and feel the strangeness of being there.
Source: Poetry (December 2009).