Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2015

March 1, 2015

Dear Literary Folk,

thunder stormI loved Saturday afternoon’s thunder, blue-black storm-clouds, and cold, drenching rain that poured down here and there with much drama. Somehow, west Petaluma seemed to miss the downpour, but the strange turn in the weather reminded me to ask you all to share your California drought/ climate change thoughts with us here at the Literary Update. Whether it’s a photo, a poem, a short essay, a rant, a prayer—let’s keep the drought-inspired work coming!

Remembering Phil Levine
Phil LevineMuch beloved American poet Phil Levine passed away on Valentine’s Day, February 14, at age 87. He was among the country’s most decorated poets, winning the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Ruth Lilly Poetry Award, among many others. He taught at Princeton, Columbia, and Cal. State Fresno, and in 2011, he was appointed United But perhaps his greatest legacy is the impact he has had on a generation of writers, and not just those enrolled in university creative writing programs. He took the time to write back to poets who sent him their work, to answer the phone and chat, and though it got him into trouble with his colleagues at time, to welcome the occasional student too broke to pay tuition as an auditor in his classes. There hasn’t been another American man of letters who had a greater gift for expressing “the hard work we do to make sense of our lives,” in the words of Librarian of Congress James Billington. Levine was a native of Detroit; his parents were Russian Jewish immigrants, and this working-class upbringing found its way into his work though his subjects, themes, and plain-spoken.

Everyone I know who ever met Levine has a story to tell of his kindness and decency. Ask around, and you’ll hear some of these. My own story dates from April 2001 at the AWP Conference in Palm Springs, where Levine was being honored. The morning after the formal gathering, I spotted Levine behind me in the breakfast line at the hotel. He looked a bit rumpled, with a baseball cap pulled down low over his face, more like the average furnace repairman than the poet of the accolades. No one else in line recognized him and clearly he wanted to enjoy his breakfast incognito. The hostess was taking names from the podium at the head of the line. When she called out to Levine, he looked a little sheepish and mumbled something under his breath. “What?” she shouted over the din. I realized the awkwardness of the moment, slipped quickly to the front of the line, and whispered his name in the hostess’s ear. She nodded, still clueless about who he was. As I turned to rejoin the line, Levine caught my eye and winked. In remembrance of Levine, I have included his iconic 1968 poem “They Feed They Lion” as our selection for the month of March. Its rhythms are strange and powerful; as Levine once said, ‘Rhythm is deep and it touches us in ways that we don’t understand. We know that language used rhythmically has some kind of power to delight, to upset, to exalt, and it was that kind of rhythmic language that first excited me.”

Sonoma County’s Recently Published Authors
Congratulations to this month’s recently published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at Thanks to Ed Coletti who keeps this page of the Literary Update current with your notices of work you’ve had accepted for publication in literary journals and magazines. Two local writers were published recently in Petaluma-based, Wordrunner eChapbooks’ themed anthology, Strange Encounters.

A Few Upcoming Events
Our calendar for March and April is brimming with events. Please do take a look at what’s happening in our literary community this month. There are a few I’m including in this post, but this is just a taste to whet your appetite.

Today, March 1, from 5-7pm, the Geri DiGiorno and the Redwood Cafe in Cotati will host poets Michael Rothenberg, (100,000 Poets for Change) Terri Carrion, and Patti Trimble. Join them for words on Politics and Other Things, music by bassist Steve Shain, and local beer on tap. 8240 Old Redwood Highway, Cotati.

Next Saturday, March 7, at 2:30 PM, The Sitting Room in Cotati presents “Opening to Poetry,” featuring Iris Dunkle, Rebecca Foust and Terry Ehret whose reading will lauch the Spring 2015 exhibit dedicated to the Sitting Room Poetry Collection at 2025 Curtis Drive in Penngrove, just off Petaluma Hill Road.

Changing Harm to HarmonyOn Sunday, the Ides of March (March 15 for those of you not inclined to soothsaying predictions on Roman dates), the Petaluma Arts Center presents a reading from Changing Harm to Harmony: Bullies and Bystanders Project. This is one of the most important topics any poetry anthology has embraced—one you may want to bring your family to hear. Poet, editor, and Marin County Poet Laureate Joe Zaccardi has assembled a brilliant cast of writers whose work helps us all find a way toward “restorative justice.”Readers include David Beckman, Rose Black Ed Coletti, Lucy Lang Day,Francesca Dezza Parada, Juliet Emerson-Colvin, ‘Lyn Follett, Helen Heal, Jodi Hottel, Janet Jennings, Dave Seter and Patti Trimble. Petaluma poet Donna Emerson, PAC’s Val Richman, and Joe Zaccardi co-host this evening of poetry, stories, and letters from 6-8 PM at the Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma.

Poem for March
“I would say that the best poem I ever wrote came easily, came rather quickly: “They Feed They Lion.” It’s about a reaction to the riots and the sort of urban rebellion of the ’60s in Detroit. And it tries to reach into the depths of what causes things like this.”
—Philip Levine

Click on LISTEN to hear Phil Levine read the poem and talk about how he came to write it.

They Feed They Lion
By Philip Levine

Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,
Out of black bean and wet slate bread,
Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,
Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,
They Lion grow.

Out of the gray hills
Of industrial barns, out of rain, out of bus ride,
West Virginia to Kiss My Ass, out of buried aunties,
Mothers hardening like pounded stumps, out of stumps,
Out of the bones’ need to sharpen and the muscles’ to stretch,
They Lion grow.

Earth is eating trees, fence posts,
Gutted cars, earth is calling in her little ones,
“Come home, Come home!” From pig balls,
From the ferocity of pig driven to holiness,
From the furred ear and the full jowl come
The repose of the hung belly, from the purpose
They Lion grow.

From the sweet glues of the trotters
Come the sweet kinks of the fist, from the full flower
Of the hams the thorax of caves,
From “Bow Down” come “Rise Up,”
Come they Lion from the reeds of shovels,
The grained arm that pulls the hands,
They Lion grow.

From New Selected Poems (Alfred A Knopf, 1991), © Philip Levine 1991, used by permission of Alfred A Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
See more at:

Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2015

February 1, 2015

Dear Literary Folk,

Terry Ehret isn’t writing the SoCo Lit Update post this month; she’s having a well-deserved get-away over the weekend but will be back in Petaluma on Monday, February 2 to read with Nancy Long at Rivertown Poets’ A-muse-ing Monday. Readings begin 6:40 p.m. at Aqus Café, 189 H Street, Petaluma, followed by an open mic.

Literary Valentines
Nothing literary is scheduled for Valentine’s Day when presumably everyone will be otherwise occupied. But we have Linda Watanabe McFerrin on “Writing Sexy Stuff,” February 8 at the Redwood Writers Club meeting, Flamingo Hotel, Santa Rosa. The 2015 Healdsburg Literary Guild Poetry Valentine event takes place on February 10 at the Healdsburg Regional Library. Congratulations to the 21 poets who are published in this year’s chapbook. On February 15, Third Sunday Poetry Open Mic invites attendees to share a poem or short story about love of any kind by you or someone else. Details for all of these may be found on our calendar, as well as more open mics, readings, book clubs, workshop reminders and author readings.

Featured Authors
Copperfields Books brings us a diverse selection of author events every month, including local authors. Of note in February, Jonah Raskin will be discussing his new book A Terrible Beauty: The Wilderness of American Literature with Arthur Dawson on Wednesday February 18 at Montgomery Village Copperfields. You might also want to catch Joyce Carol Oates (Friday, February 20, Montgomery Village) or Daniel Handler (Tuesday, February 24, Petaluma). Some of the Copperfields readings are included in our calendar. Check out the Copperfields Books event calendar for a complete list of author readings:

Dining With Authors, a monthly event hosted by Jeane Sloane, features Susan Gunter, Auriela  McCarthy, David Matson Hooper, Sharon & David Beckman, and J. B. Grant on Tuesday, February 9 at Gaia’s restaurant in Santa Rosa.

Congratulations to this month’s recently published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at Thanks to Ed Coletti who keeps this page of the Literary Update current with your notices of work you’ve had accepted for publication in literary journals and magazines.

Jo-Anne Rosen
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: literaryfolk | January 3, 2015

Post for January 2 , 2015

Dear Literary Folk,

Happy New Year to all our friends, our writers, and our readers! On behalf of co-editor Jo-Anne Rosen and myself, blessings to you and your beginnings.

Terry-2Friend Jerry Meshulam caught this photo of  this year’s ceremonial burning of the hopes/wishes for 2015 in a “magic” smokeless flame. At the annual New Year’s Poetry Brunch, we each put in our wish for something we’d like to bring into the world in the coming year, and these silent wishes are then carried out the door by all who witness. We, none of us, can bring our hopes to fruition without the help of others, nor without action. Whatever you wish to be, do, or make happen in 2015, begin today to imagine it.

Note: My husband and I have been hosting this pot-luck of food, conversation, company, and poems for 16 years: our way of saying thank you to this amazing community of writers we’re lucky to be part of. The event has grown over the years, and the guest list has always been subject to serendipity, the whims of the ether, the weather, and even the occasional New Year’s flood. Also because our house is limited in size, we can only accommodate about 35 guests. If you received an invitation in the past, but not this year, that may have been a result of my inadvertently deleting the list I’d cobbled together over the years. I created a new list from past RSVP’s, but it wasn’t as complete or current as I’d hoped. If you’re interested in being added to the invitation e-mail list for next year, send me a message with the subject heading “New Year’s Poetry Brunch,” and I’ll make sure your and your current e-mail information are included:

Remembering Mark Baldridge
Joyce-MarkA week ago, Mark Baldridge, Joyce Jenkins husband and partner, passed away too young and too soon. He was a gentle, guiding force behind Poetry Flash and Watershed Poetry Festival. The projects he championed will continue, but it you’d like to help Joyce and others keep these going, consider making a donation in Mark’s memory to Poetry Flash or to the Center for Environmental Literacy. ).

You can also send a donation directly to the Flash:
Poetry Flash /
1450 Fourth Street, #4
Berkeley, California 94710
WordTemple Readings

One of the jewels in our local literary firmament is the WordTemple Reading Series, hosted by our Sonoma County Poet Laureate Katherine Hastings. On Saturday, January 24, 7:00 p.m. WordTemple returns to the Sebastopol Center for the Arts hosting Marin County Poet Laureate Joe Zaccardi, editor of the anthology Changing Harm to Harmony — Bullies & Bystanders Project. A number of contributors, including several Sonoma County poets, will read from the anthology that night. Andre Le Mont Wilson, Gerald Fleming, CB Follett, Katherine Hastings, Jodi Hottel, David Beckman, Ed Coletti, Stephanie Mandel, Rebecca Foust, Susan Terris, Mark Meiderding, Julia Vose, Eva M. Schlensger, Barbara Welch Brooks, Alan Cohen, Linda Enders and Calvin Ahlgren. Also reading is Ellery Akers, celebrating her latest collection, Practicing the Truth, and Sonoma County poet Phyllis Meshulam who will read from her new chapbook from Finishing Line Press, Doll, Moon. Location:  282 S. High Street, Sebastapol.

Got a Literary Event or Program to Promote? Guest Contributors Welcome!
In keeping with the collaborative history and nature of the Sonoma County Literary Update, Jo-Anne and I warmly invite writers from around the county to contribute features for each month’s post. We don’t have a guest feature for December, but please contact Jo-Anne and/or me if you’re interested in a feature for January:

Sonoma County’s Recently Published Authors
Congratulations to this month’s recently published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at Thanks to Ed Coletti who keeps this page of the Literary Update current with your notices of work you’ve had accepted for publication in literary journals and magazines.

Two Poems for the New Year

The Coming of Light

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

Excerpted from The Late Hour by Mark Strand.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Strand.


On the second day of the year, I rest.
I fill the well,
pick up small, broken pieces of glass,
throw away lists,
light a fire with the stumps of last year’s candles,
indulge a few dreams of magic,
pluck out tiny shards of envy that have nestled
just under my skin,
fly solitary on the wind,
a little drunk with light.

Excerpted Night Sky Journey, by Terry Ehret.
Copyright © Kelly’s Cove Press, 2011

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2014

December 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

The Lovely, Glorious, Slender Rain!
Among my Thanksgiving appreciations this year is a thank-you for the rain. Isn’t it wonderful to walk out into the drizzle and smell the sweet scent of wet leaves and earth? And the days ahead promise more of what we enjoyed this past weekend. If the rain (or absence of rain) has inspired a poem, story, short essay, photograph, or art-work, send it along to us. We’d love to include it in our next Literary Update.

Got a Literary Event or Program to Promote? Guest Contributors Welcome!
In keeping with the collaborative history and nature of the Sonoma County Literary Update, Jo-Anne and I warmly invite writers from around the county to contribute features for each month’s post. We don’t have a guest feature for December, but please contact Jo-Anne and/or me if you’re interested in a feature for January:

Sonoma County’s Recently Published Authors
Congratulations to this month’s recently published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at Thanks to Ed Coletti who keeps this page of the Literary Update current with your notices of work you’ve had accepted for publication in literary journals and magazines.

California Poets in the Schools Celebrates 50 Years Inspiring Young Writers
Poetry Crossing: 50 lessons from 50 yearsOn December 6th, in commemoration of its 50th birthday as an organization, California Poets in the Schools will be holding a county-wide poetry reading at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, where students from many different schools will get together to share their writing.  10am-12pm, Saturday, Dec. 6th Sebastopol Center for the Arts in the “Dining Room,” 282 S. High St, Sebastopol. For details, check the Calendar page:

Along with this county-wide reading, CPITS has also just brought out Poetry Crossing, a far-reaching offering of poet-teacher lesson plans, student poems, and sample poems by student poets, poet-teachers, and some great poets from around the world. More details on our Sonoma County in Print page: Poetry Crossing is available at

Petaluma Reader’s Theater Presents a Holiday Double-Feature
xmas-treechilds-xmas-walesIn years past, I’ve attended the PRT’s presentation of Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.” This year, they are reprising this holiday classic, and adding a performance of Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” This is a delightful way to bring the arts of short story and poetry to dramatic life. I hope to see you there this year!

Two performances: Saturday, December 13 and Friday, December 19—both at 7:30 PM. at the Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville, Petaluma. For information about ticket prices and ordering in advance, use this link:

Dine With Local Authors at Gaia’s Garden
On Monday, December 8, 6:00-8:00 p.m., come hear the authors share their books: Freedom Doesn’t Just Come Along With A Tree, children’s book, Joelle B. Burnette; Cry of The Nightbird, anthology, M. Wing, A. Hutchinson, K. Farrell; Buyer’s Remorse, poetry, Roy Mash; Growing More Beautiful, personal growth, Jennifer Robin. Call or email to request dining at a specific author’s table: 544-2491 or Local Author’s Distributor: $5.00 minimum food purchase. This special event will be at Gaia’s Garden, 1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.

Every Day is Christmas Eve in London at the Dickens Fair
Dickens fairIn my family, it’s tradition to launch the holidays with a day at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair: A Victorian Holiday Party. It really is a hoot to wander the streets of Victorian London, hobnobbing with Fagin, Bill Sykes, Ebenezer Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and, of course, Charles Dickens himself, reading his story to intimate audiences in his parlor. If you’ve never been, treat yourself this year. It’s family-friendly and accommodating to those with disabilities or limited mobility. The fair runs on Saturday and Sunday, December 6/7, 13/14, and 20/21. For more information, check the website:

Mark Strand, 80, Dies; Pulitzer-Winning Poet Laureate
Mark StrandPoet Mark Strand passed away on Saturday, November 29, at the age of 80. In his honor, here is one of his most frequently anthologized poems: one well-worth yet another read. To read more about Strand’s life and poetry, check out the article by William Grimes in Saturday’s New York Times:

Keeping Things Whole
From Selected Poems by Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Copyright © 1979, 1980.

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2014

November 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

Hope Valley in Aspenglow

aspen-treeAutumn leafI know so many writer-friends who hail from the East Coast, and who profoundly miss the intense autumn colors of oak, maple, and sumac. Being a Californian , born and raised on the Pacific Coast, I had never seen this display until two weeks ago, when I headed to Hope Valley on the Carson Pass in the Sierras just south of Lake Tahoe. If you are longing for a real hit of color, consider making an October visit there. Best time to catch the aspens is mid-month, around Columbus Day. We caught them a week later, still in their glory.

Sonoma County’s Recently Published Authors
Congratulations to this month’s recently published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at Thanks to Ed Coletti who keeps this page of the Literary Update current with your notices of work you’ve had accepted for publication in literary journals and magazines.

Our Dead Who Light the Way
November first is the traditional Feast of All Saints. Tomorrow is the Feast of All Souls. In Europe’s Celtic world, Samhain (Hallowe’en) marked the beginning of the new year. And in Mexico and other parts of Central and Latin America, the sacred day is called El Dia de los Muertos, fast becoming a part of the autumnal traditions around Sonoma County. Our dead are near during these days, and we can invite them to be with us to console, to guide, to gently turn us in the direction of the light as we begin our journey into the darkest season of the year.

Dylan Thomas’s Centennial
Had he lived past his 39 short years, Dylan Thomas would be 100 years old. His birthday, October 27, brought back to me and my fellow writer-travelers in Wales, vivid memories of our time in his homeland and especially three days in the village of Laugharne. There was a fine article in the Chronicle’s Travel section on Laugharne and the “Birthday Walk.” If you missed it, here’s the link:

And if this inspires any of you literary folk to consider a writing retreat and literary tour of Wales, check out my website: The first trip was in the summer of 2013. The 2014 trip didn’t have enough travelers to launch, but if enough travelers are interested, we could aim for summer of 2015 or 2016. Let me know if you’d like to be included!

Carolyn Kizer and Galway Kinnell
Carolyn KizerWe have lost two great poets this past month: Carolyn Kizer and Galway Kinnell. Both were poets of exquisite craft and brimming imagination. Both were also influential teachers. Back in the 1980’s, when the Napa Writers’ Conference was first launched by Dave Evans, Kizer and Kinnell were both among the teaching staff, and that’s where I had the opportunity to meet them.

Galway KinnellKinnell once said, “poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.” There are many ways to bear witness, both the deeply personal and the historic.

To honor these two writers, Kizer and Kinnell, I’ve included poems of witness which you’ll find at the end of this post, right after this months contribution to the ongoing “Thoughts on the Drought.”

Mexico’s 43 Desaparecidos
At this year’s Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading, in its new location under the great oak behind the Petaluma Historical Museum, one of the team of organizers, Israel Escudero, lit 43 candles in memory of students at the Ayotzinapa Normal teacher-training school who have been missing since September 26th. Israel then told us that six students from the school were murdered by municipal police and other gunmen, and forty-three others were “disappeared” in the small city of Iguala, in the Pacific-coast state of Guerrero.

A march was held in Mexico City yesterday, coinciding with the Day of the Dead holidays, and a “mega march” is scheduled for November 5th, the day that Mexico’s universities and colleges are planning a national strike.

Let’s keep them in our thoughts. For more information, here is a link to a New Yorker article from October 30:

Tonight’s El Dia de los Muertos Procession with Mariachis and Big Puppets
El Dia de Los Muertos PetalumaIf you’d like a special way to remember your loved ones, consider joining the community of marchers participating in the Day of the Dead candlelight procession. The events kicks off at 6:00 PM in front of Water Street Bistro in Petaluma, right by the river at the end of Western.

Sonoma County Literary Update Turns 10 This Year
Last month, local writer Michelle Wing interviewed me and Jo-Anne Rosen about the evolution of the Literary Update. She then published a short feature on the Update with the Sonoma West Times and News. Thanks to Michelle for taking the time to highlight the various features and the collaborative nature of the website, and especially for acknowledging Jo-Anne’s steady, professional managing of all the information you submit to us.

If you didn’t see the article, here’s the link:

Got a Literary Event or Program to Promote? Guest Contributors Welcome!
In keeping with the collaborative history and nature of the Sonoma County Literary Update, Jo-Anne and I warmly invite writers from around the county to contribute features for each month’s post. For November, we’re happy to feature Michelle Wing and the new reading series she’s involved in up in Cloverdale.

Books on Stage — New Reading Series in Cloverdale
Cloverdale is host to a lively arts scene, with a co-op art gallery, a jazz club, an active historical society, and a sweet theater venue, the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center (CPAC), offering a full season of top-notch dramatic performances. All that was missing was something for writers, especially since the closure of the town’s only bookstore a few years ago.

Thanks to an alliance with CPAC, lovers of the literary arts now have a venue as well, a new reading series called Books on Stage. It happens every other month on a Thursday night at the 99-seat CPAC theater. The concept is simple. The evening features both a poet and a prose writer. Each has thirty minutes to read from their work, followed by an audience Q&A period, with a brief intermission between readers. Afterwards, all are invited to the theater lobby for refreshments and wine, book sales and signings, and more personal conversations with the authors.  Michelle Wing, creator of the series, serves as emcee and host. The evenings are free, a gift to the community from the CPAC board.

When selecting readers for Books on Stage, Michelle says there are two primary considerations she keeps in mind. Literary merit, of course. But equally important for this series, she seeks authors and poets who can powerfully bring their words to life from the page.

The series opened in July with Sonoma County Poet Laureate Katherine Hastings and novelist Gil Mansergh. September’s reading featured poet Michelle Wing and novelist Amanda McTigue. The November 6 reading will showcase two writers visiting from Hilo, Hawai’i — poet Ruth Thompson, author of Woman with Crows, and novelist Don Mitchell, author of A Red Woman Was Crying.

Upcoming on January 15 is a reading featuring Healdsburg poet Russ Messing, author of A Convergence of Unanticipated Consequences, and memoirist and short story writer Laura McHale Holland, author of Reversible Skirt and The Ice Cream Vendor’s Song. Future dates are March 12 and May 15, with readers still to be decided.

Shows start at 7 p.m. The theater is located at 209 North Cloverdale Boulevard, Cloverdale, CA 95425. For more information about Books on Stage and upcoming authors, see

About Our Contributor
Michelle Wing is the author of Body on the Wall ( and co-editor of Cry of the Nightbird: Writers Against Domestic Violence, a fundraiser for YWCA Somona County (

Thoughts on the Drought
Since January, I’ve been inviting the Literary Update readers to send me their poems, stories, essays, and anecdotes on the drought. This month, I’m featuring a poem by Amy Elizabeth Robinson. Please send me your thoughts on the drought or, if you prefer, on the recent rains that have been so welcome. Photos and artwork, too!


An Ordinary Day

A poem for Flood Wall Street and the People’s Climate March

September 21-22, 2014

by Amy Elizabeth Robinson

I’m staying
in my pajamas
because I can.

I’m curling
back in bed with
my computer
and checking Facebook,
not one time,
not two times,
but eighteen times
while my children are at school.

I might bake cookies.
I might go back to sleep.
I might type
and “climate”
into my Google bar and
see how things I care
about connect.
You know—
stretch my mind,
and not my body.

I might sit
on the front step.
Listen to the chainsaws
complain about fire-prone firs,
watch the naked shapes of cardboard
cookies for hard-scrabble birds
on manzanita
in the morning wind…
and then the afternoon wind….

I might wonder when the rain’s coming,
and then begin
to dance
thinking of the vibrant
hum of humans
rising from New York,
two thousand nine hundred thirteen
miles away.

I think
I’ll imagine
walking with them
today. Because I can.
My mind is built for that—
crossing mountains,
stretching the plain,
until it hums
with possibility.


Amy Elizabeth Robinson’s blog,  Still Life, Turning Planet, is about writing freely, sitting quietly, and living out loud on this Earth


“October 1973”
by Carolyn Kizer

On September 11, 1973, backed by the U.S. CIA, a military coup in Chile ousted the democratically elected Salvador Allende, who was later found dead—possibly assassinated, though the official version is suicide. Within the month, the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, a friend and supporter of Allende, who’d spent years in exile for his political stance, was also found dead.

In the month of October, 1973, Carolyn Kizer wrote the following poem for her friend Nicanor Parra Sandoval, another great Chilean poet, celebrating his 100th birthday this year. In this poem, Kizer dreams of trying to reach her friend to learn of his fate.

October 1973

Last night I dreamed I ran through the streets of New York
Looking for help for you, Nicanor.
But my few friends who are rich or influential
were temporarily absent from their penthouses or hotel suites.
They had gone to the opera, or flown for the weekend to Bermuda.
At last I found one or two of them at home,
preparing for social engagements,
absently smiling, as they tried on gown after gown
until heaps of rich, beautiful fabric were strewn
over the chairs and sofas. They posed before mirrors,
with their diamonds and trinkets and floor-length furs.
Smiling at me from the mirror, they vaguely promised help.
They became distracted—by constantly ringing phones,
by obsequious secretaries, bustling in with packages,
flowers, messages, all the paraphernalia,
all part of the uninterruptible rounds of the rich,
the nice rich, smiling soothingly, as they touched their hair
or picked up their phone extensions.
Absently patting my arm, they smiled, “It will be all right.”

Dusk fell on the city as I ran, naked, weeping, into the streets.
I ran to the home of Barbara, my friend,
Who, as a young girl, rescued four Loyalist soldiers
from a Spanish prison;
in her teenage sweater set and saddle shoes and knee socks,
she drove an old car sagging with Loyalist pamphlets
across the Pyrenees all the way to Paris without being caught.
And not long ago, she helped save a group of men
from Franco’s sentence of death.

In my dream, Barbara telephones Barcelona.
I realize this isn’t quite right,
but I just stand there paralyzed, as one does in dreams.
Then, dimly, from the other end of the line,
through the chatter of international operators,
we hear artillery fire, the faint tones of lost men,
cracked voices singing, “Los Quartros Generales” through the pulsations
of the great, twisted cable under the ocean.
Agonía, agonía, sueño, fermente & sueño.
Este es el mundo, amigo, agonía, agonía.

“No, Barbara!” I scream. “We are not back there.
That’s the old revolution. Call up the new one.”
Though I know that, every day,
your friends, Nicanor, telephone Santiago,
where the number rings and rings and rings
with never an answer. And now the rings
are turning into knells:

The church bells of Santiago
tolling the funeral of Neruda, his poems looted,
his autobiography stolen, his books desecrated
in his house on Isla Negra.
And among the smashed glass, the broken furniture,
his desk overturned, the ruined books strewn over the floor,
lie the great floral wreaths from the Swedish academy,
the wreaths from Paris, South Asia, the whole world over.
And the bells toll on…
Then I tell Barbara to hang up the phone.

She dials the number again, then turns to me, smiling,
smiling like an angel:
“He is there.” Trembling, I take the phone from her,
and hear your voice, Nicanor,
sad, humorous, infinitely disillusioned,
infinitely consoling:
“Dear Carolyn…” It is Nicanor!
And the connection is broken, because I wake up,
in this white room, in this white silence,
in this backwater of silence
on this Isla Blanca:
Nicanor, Nicanor,
are you, too, silent under the earth,
Brother, Brother?
Carolyn Kizer, “October 1973″ from Cool, Calm & Collected: Poems 1960-2000. Copyright © 2001 by Carolyn Kizer.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press, .P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA  98368-0271, Source: Cool, Calm & Collected: Poems 1960-2000 (Copper Canyon Press, 2001)



by Galway Kinnell

The following poem by Galway Kinnell appeared in his twelfth collection of poems, Imperfect Thirst, published by Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994. It honors the memory of Kinnell’s sister as she was dying.

Bending over her bed, I saw the smile
I must have seen when gaping up from the crib.
Knowing death will come, sensing its onset,
may be a fair price for consciousness.
But looking at my sister, I wished
she could have died by surprise,
without ever knowing about death.
Too late. Wendy said, “I am in three parts.
Here on the left is red. That is pain.
On the right is yellow. That is exhaustion.
The rest is white. I don’t know yet what white is.”
For most people, one day everything is all right.
The next, the limbic node catches fire. The day after,
the malleus in one ear starts missing the incus.
Then the arthritic opposable thumb no longer opposes
whoever last screwed the top of the jam jar.
Then the coraco-humeral ligament frizzles apart,
the liver speckles, the kidneys dent,
two toes lose their souls. Of course,
before things get worse, a person could run for it.
I could take off right now, climb the pure forms
that surmount time and death, follow a line
down Avenue D, make a 90° turn right on 8th Street,
90° left on C, right on 7th, left on B, then cross
to Sixth Avenue, catch the A train,
to Nassau, where the A pulls up beside the Z,
get off, hop on the Z, hurtle under the river
and rise on Euclid under the stars and taste,
with my sweetheart, in perfectly circular kisses,
the actual saliva of paradise.
Then, as if Wendy suddenly understood
this flaw in me, that I could die
still wanting what is not to be had here, drink
and drink and yet have most of my thirst
intact for the water table, she opened her eyes.
“I want you to know, I’m not afraid of dying,”
she said, “I just wish it didn’t take so long.”
Seeing her appear so young and yet begin to die
all on her won, I wanted to whisk her off.
Quickly she said, “Let’s go home.” From outside
in the driveway came the gargling noise
of a starter motor, and a low steady rumbling, as if
my car had turned itself on and was warming up the engine.
She closed her eyes. She was entirely white,
as if freshly powdered with twice-bleached flour.
Color flashed only when she opened her eyes.
Snow will come down next winter, in the woods;
the fallen trees will have that flesh on their bones.
When the eye of the woods opens, a bluejay shuttles.
Outside, suddenly, all was quiet,
I realized my car had shut off its engine.
Now a spot of rosiness showed in each cheek;
blushes, perhaps, at a joy she had kept from us,
from somewhere in her life, perhaps two mouths,
her and a beloved’s, near each other, like roses
sticking out of a bottle of invisible water.
She was losing the half-given, half-learned
art of speech, and it became for her a struggle
to find words, form them, position them,
quickly say them. After much effort she said,
“Now is when the point of the story changes.”
After that, one eye at a time, the left listened,
and drifted, the right focused, gleamed
meanings at me, drifted. Stalwart
the halves of the brain, especially the right.
Now, as they ratchet the box that holds
her body into the earth, a voice calls
back across the region she passes through,
a far landscape I seem to see from above,
in prolonged, even notes that swell and diminish.
Now it sounds from beneath the farthest horizon,
and now it grows faint, and now I cannot hear it.

To hear the poet Galway Kinnell read this poem, as well as “Oatmeal” and “Saint Francis and the Sow,” click here:

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update



Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2014

October 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

Sonoma County’s Newly Published Authors
Congratulations to this month’s newly published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at Thanks to Ed Coletti who keeps this page of the Literary Update current with your notices of work you’ve had accepted for publication in literary journals and magazines.

The Walk Rocks!
In September, the Petaluma Poetry Walk once again brought together writers from around the county and beyond for our annual movable feast of words. I am so grateful to the good folk who continue to make this a premiere arts event in the San Francisco Bay Area. Hats off to Geri Digiorno, Michelle Baynes, Nancy Long, Bill and Bridget Vartnaw, David Magdalene, Carl Macki, and many others, including all who read and attended.

More Celebrations
This month, we have several more occasions to celebrate the bright lights in the firmament of Sonoma County’s literary community. TAUREAN HORN PRESS, founded by Bill Vartnaw, is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a reading on October 25 at Coffee Catz. SIXTEEN RIVERS PRESS celebrates its 15th anniversary with a garden party and benefit reading on October 5. LITQUAKE comes to San Rafael with an open mic reading at Rebound Books you’re all invited to participate in. And TINY LIGHTS celebrates 19 years of publication under the creative guidance of Susan Bono with a reading on October 17 at the Occidental Arts Center.

Sixteen Rivers Celebrates 15 Years on Sunday, October 5.
Kay RyanThis month, the Bay Area Poetry Publishing Collective Sixteen Rivers Press celebrates its 15th year with a garden party and reading in a beautiful garden in Marin County, featuring Kay Ryan, Sixteen Rivers advisor and former U.S. poet laureate. The event is this Sunday, October 5, 3-5 PM, with tickets beginning at $25. You can purchase tickets and get driving directions to the event at Brown Paper Ticket Site:

Hello, Goodbye: A Book Launch for Susan Bono and a Tribute to Tiny Lights!
Susan BonoAmong the brightest lights in our literary community is Susan Bono—friend, editor, teacher, and writer extraordinaire! Now, after 19 years as editor and publisher of Tiny Lights, Susan is retiring the personal essay journal she founded in 1995. On October 17, join her in paying tribute to the writers and artists who made Tiny Lights such a guiding beacon. There will be readings by select Tiny Lights authors Dan Coshnear and Clara Rosemarda, and souvenirs of Tiny Lights’ illustrious past. After toasting the end of an era (there will be champagne!), Susan will read from her latest publishing project: What Have We Here—a collection of her own essays about keeping house and finding home. The event is 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Occidental Center for the Arts, 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Bohemian Hwy at Graton Rd., Occidental. For more info: 707-874-9392 or

The Magic of Mexican Poet Ulalume González De León—Saturday, October 11
Ulalume González De LeónThose of you who were at the Petaluma Seed Bank for the opening reading of the Petaluma Poetry Walk were treated to the debut of a translation project I’ve been working on this past year: a collaboration with two other local poets– John Johnson and Nancy Morales. Celebrated in Mexico and Latin America, González de León’s poetry is not yet known among English-speaking audiences.

Nancy, John, and I would like to extend an invitation to the literary community to hear more about the life and work of Ulalume González de León, and to share with us your thoughts about the place of translation in a writer’s life. The event is on Saturday, October 11 my partners and I will present a bilingual reading from Plagios: The Poetry of Ulalume González de León at the Petaluma Arts Center, 3-5 PM.

Ulalume González de León (1932-2009) was born in Uruguay and became a Mexican citizen in 1948. In the 1960’s and 70’s, she was an inspirational leader of a generation of women writers experimenting with language. Her poetry earned her many awards, including the Xavier Villaurrutia Prize, the Flower of Laura Poetry Prize in 1979 (the Center for International Studies) and Alfonso X Prize. Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz called Ulalume González de León “the best Mexican poet since Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz,” recognizing the visionary quality of her work.

The event is part of a month-long celebration of Mexican culture sponsored by the El Día de los Muertos Committee in conjunction with Petaluma People Services Center, SRJC Petaluma Campus and the Petaluma Arts Center. For more information, visit or like the Facebook page El Día de los Muertos Petaluma.

The Arts Center is located at 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma, CA, 94952, in the Historic Railroad Station. Admission is free. Light refreshments will be served. Donations to the Art Center are appreciated.

El Día de los MuertosThe annual month-long multi-cultural celebration of El Día de los Muertos, sponsored by the Petaluma Arts Center, begins this Friday, October 3, with an Opening Night Reception for the Exhibition of Traditional and non-traditional altars, collectible posters from Mission Gráfica and fine art curated by Anthony Torres of the Richmond Arts Center. Mini-tienda from The FolkArt Gallery of San Rafael. 6:00-8:30pm. For the full calendar of El Dia de los Muertos events, check out

LitQuake comes to the North Bay on October 11, 2014
Ever since Mark Twain hung out in San Rafael and the Beats cruised the houseboats of Sausalito, San Francisco’s literary greats have had a strong North Bay connection. From 10 Am to 11 PM, Litquake San Rafael features Bay Area writers in this first-ever series of free events along the downtown 4th St. corridor of cafes, restaurants, and shops. There are several opportunities to join in open-mic readings, including at Rebound Bookstore. For details check out

Enough to keep you busy? If not, then check out the calendar and workshops pages to find an event that suits your schedule and your pleasure. Special thanks to Jo-Anne Rosen who keeps these and the entire Literary Update current with your events and announcements.

Thoughts on the Drought
Since January, I’ve been inviting the Literary Update readers to send me their poems, stories, essays, and anecdotes on the drought. I didn’t receive any this month, but please consider send ing me your thoughts on the drought. Photos and artwork, too!

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

A Poem for October
I’m teaching a workshop at the Sitting Room this fall on the subject of Silence in Poetry. One of the writers participating in the workshop spontaneously recited this poem during our opening discussion of the topic, and later sent me the text. I offer this to you, with thanks to Valerie Marshall.

The Lightest Touch

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then like a hand in the dark
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.

In the silence that follows
a great line
you can feel Lazarus
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

— David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You
©2003 Many Rivers Press

Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2014

September 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

September has traditionally been the month to launch a new literary year with the twin events of the Sonoma County Book Festival and the Petaluma Poetry Walk.

This is our first year in a long time we won’t be gathering the tribes for the annual Book Festival. What a great run we had! Many thanks to all those in our literary community who worked (and played) to bring us together each September in an eclectic mix of writers, readers, publishers, book vendors, book lovers, rappers, and artists.

PetalumaPoetryWalkOur other September literary event is still going strong: the delightful moveable feast of poetry and music known as the Petaluma Poetry Walk, founded by writer, artist, and former Sonoma County Poet Laureate Geri Digiorno. This year’s Walk will begin on Sunday, September 21, 11 AM at the Seed Bank in Petaluma, then will proceed to five other venues downtown before ending up at the Aqus Café. Readers include Beverly Burch, Donna Emerson, John Johnson, Dick Bakken, Adelle Foley, Jack Foley, Michelle Baynes, Geri Digiorno, Nancy Keane, Joyce Jenkins, Jeanne Powell, Kim Shuck, Molly Fisk, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Nancy Daughterty, Nancy Long, Eileen Malone, Katherine Hastings, Ron Salisbury, Lynn Watson, Clara Bellino, Marvin Hiemstra, Kirk Lumpkin, and David Madgalene.

For a full list of readers, venues, and bios, here’s the link:

“Get Lit” Literary Reading Series
Last month, the Literary Update post included a feature on the monthly reading series at the Aqus Café (Rivertown Poets: A-Muse-ing Mondays), and a mention of a reading series Kara Vernor and Dani Burlison are hosting in Petaluma, called “Get Lit.” For this month’s post, Kara Vernor composed this short feature to introduce the literary community to her monthly series.

“Get Lit” happens the fourth Wednesday of the month, 7:00-9:00 p.m., at the Corkscrew Wine Bar in Petaluma (100 Petaluma Blvd. N.). Three featured writers read during the first hour and open mic readers follow during the second, which is sometimes kicked off by a comedian or musician. Get Lit is a free and 21+ event that aims for lively, funny, heartbreaking and real, and the Corkscrew Wine Bar’s intimate space narrows the traditional divide between readers and the audience. September’s reading—featuring Molly Giles, Peg Alfred Pursell, and Siamak Vossoughi—will be the last one that takes place at Corkscrew until January 2015. October’s reading, entitled “Misfortunes in Love and Life: A Comedy / Storytelling Event,” will be held at the Elbo Room in San Francisco as part of SF Lit Crawl, and then Get Lit will break for the holidays in November and December. More info at facebook/GetLitReadings.

Heyday Books Celebrates 40 Years
Malcolm MargolinJust today, The San Francisco Chronicle included an article about Berkeley-based Heyday Books, celebrating its 40th Anniversary. Founded by Malcolm Margolin, Heyday published stories no one else has told–from native peoples and newly arrived immigrants, stories about the delicate Calliope hummingbirds and 14,000 foot peaks, to the explorations of California’s most original thinkers, poets, and visual artists. The anniversary is marked by Kim Bancroft’s new book The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher,

Margolin is author of several books, including The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco–Monterey Bay Area, named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the hundred most important books of the twentieth century by a western writer. He has received dozens of prestigious awards, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fred Cody Award Lifetime Achievement from the San Francisco Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, and a Cultural Freedom Award from the Lannan Foundation. He helped found the Bay Nature Institute and the Alliance for California Traditional Artists.

I especially like the way Margolin characterizes the common element in Heyday’s 350 titles: “‘The kitchen voice,’ the authentic unself-conscious voice that provides a window into the real lives of people who’ve contributed to our history and culture.”

Taurean Horn Press Also Celebrates 40 Years
Bill VartnawOn Thursday, September 11, at 7:30 p.m., Taurean Horn Press will celebrate its 40th anniversary at Many Rivers Books & Tea, 130 S. Main Street, Suite 101, Sebastopol. Founder Bill Varnaw will be reading with Avotcja, whose With Every Step I Take Taurean Horn published last year. Besides publishing so many great local writers, Bill Vartnaw is a fabulous poet who served as Sonoma County Poet Laureate from 2012-2013. He currently helps coordinate the Petaluma Poetry Walk, among his many generous contributions to our Literary Community.

Sixteen Rivers Celebrates 15 Years
Still a newcomer by comparison with Taurean Horn and Heydey’s 40 years, the Bay Area Poetry Publishing Collective Sixteen Rivers Press celebrates its 15th year this October. Inspired by the same egalitarian, non-hierarchical ethos that Taurean Horn and Heyday embody, Sixteen Rivers is a non-profit, all-volunteer collective press, with the goal of bringing into print beautiful books that reflect the voices of the greater SF Bay Area.

Ryan-KayAs one of the founders of the press, I’d like to extend a personal invitation to each of you to help celebrate our anniversary with a garden party and reading in a beautiful garden in Marin County, featuring Kay Ryan, Sixteen Rivers advisor and former U.S. poet laureate.

We’ve changed our annual fundraiser to a Sunday-afternoon event, October 5, 3:00-5:00 p.m., with tickets beginning at $25. The garden party and reception will be catered with outrageously good food and drinks; there will also be a silent auction, and books by Kay and press members will be available for purchase.We hope you’ll join us for this special garden party.

You can purchase tickets and get driving directions to the event at Brown Paper Ticket Site:

Sept. 27th is the next Global Event Day!
100,000 Poets for ChangeThree years ago, Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion sent out the following invitation: “Do you want to join other poets, musicians, and artists around the world in a demonstration/celebration to promote peace and sustainability and to call for serious social, environmental and political change?” The response was international and overwhelming, launching the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Movement.

On Friday, September 26, and Saturday, September 27, musicians, photographers, artists, and writers will be gathering in their communities all over the world to be the change they want in the world. Locally, there are events in Healdsburg, Petaluma, and Santa Rosa. To find out more or sign up to participate, check out the website at or send an e-mail to You can also follow their blog at

Thoughts on the Drought
Since January, I’ve been inviting the Literary Update readers to send me their poems, stories, essays, and anecdotes on the drought. This month Sebastopol writer Patrice Warrender sent in her poem, “Autumn drop of apples, crackle of bone-dry grass.” Along with that, I am including “The Last Drought,” by Lee Perron, which Larry Robinson featured two days ago in his daily poetry e-mails.

Please send me your thoughts on the drought. Photos and artwork, too!

Congratulations to this month’s newly published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor



Autumn drop of apples, crackle of bone-dry grass

Exhausted by the last hot breath
of autumn, parched hills pale
against a blue sky, unburdened
by clouds. A solitary vulture
sweeps the sky, fingered wings
stirring still air for ripe scent of
what’s been left behind. It circles
once, twice,
drops down to wheel low
over a deserted orchard, where
a scraggy doe noses the dust
of drought. The deer bolts.

The bird gathers its wings, soars
up to circle the sky.

—Patrice Warrender


The Last Drought

Winds that bring no clouds
clouds that carry no rain
falling rain that doesn’t reach the ground

I grieve bitterly for the home that has been lost

tonight outside: sounds of rain, of a thin
brief rain falling to the piteous earth—
voices tender as ghosts
that claim neither present nor future

yet the memory of a birth-right to rain
lingers— crystalline, flawed
reaching across synapses
that are already doomed by delusion

we are dispossessed
we wait
but we are owed nothing by the sky.

— Lee Perron, © 2014.

Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2014

August 1, 2014

August 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

Sunday, August 3, two wonderful literary events occur back-to-back. You could attend both, traffic allowing. From noon to 4 PM is the annual Poets’ Picnic in Benicia Park. Juanita J. Martin will host this event with readings by local poets laureate. The location is the gazebo area of the park on Military/First Street in Benicia.

The second event takes place Sunday evening: Redwood Café’s First Sunday Poetry and Music Series, hosted by Geri Digiorno. You’ll have a chance to hear Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, Al Young with vocalist and pianist Sarah Baker and bass player Jan Martinelli. The performances begin at 5 PM, 8240 Old Redwood Hwy in Cotati.

Joseph MillarGeri DiGiorno and Al YoungSarah BakerDorianne Laux





Then on Monday, August 4, Rivertown Poets at Aqus Café will offer an evening with Giovanni singleton and Roy Mash. Listeners and poets are invited to attend the free event and bring a poem or two to share during the open mic. Open mic signups will begin at 6:30. The café is open for food and beverages. It is located at 189 H Street in downtown Petaluma.

I featured this series briefly in last month’s post, but since then I’ve had the pleasure of attending. What a great series and venue! The combination of featured readers and open mic create a delightful sampler of local writers and their work. In fact, the open mic in July included several young poets who were absolutely terrific. I hope some of the younger writers in the county will consider coming down to Aqus on Monday and making the Rivertown Poets part of their regular circuit.

Sandra Alfang, the series director and emcee, prepared this featurette to aquaint Literary Update readers with the series.

Rivertown Poets
aqus-cafeRivertown Poets is a monthly poetry series held on the first Monday of each month at the Aqus Café, 189 H Street in Petaluma. Each reading showcases the work of two feature poets, and is followed by an open mic. Host Sandra Anfang started the series in June of 2013. She aims to create an ambiance where seasoned poets mingle with new or little-known writers to celebrate the spoken word. Her goals are to create a space of safety and acceptance for new and experienced poets and their work, and to introduce listeners to the many dimensions of the poetic genre. Occasionally, there is musical accompaniment to the poetry. The series is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Sandra at or (650) 888-7875.

Sandra Anfang is a teacher, poet and visual artist who recently moved to Sonoma County. She is the author of four poetry collections and several chapbooks: Crown of Thorns, Promptly, String Theory, and Dreaming of Inertia. Sandra has been published several times online in The Shine Journal, and has two poems in the current edition of Poetalk. She has featured at Bird and Beckett, Florey’s Book (Pacifica), and the Aqus Café in Petaluma.

Get Lit in Petaluma!
Join hosts Dani Burlison and Kara Vernor on the 4th Wednesday of every month for the Get Lit reading series at Corkscrew Wine Bar in Petaluma. On August 27 the featured readers are Daniel Coshnear, Stefanie Freele and Lily Mazzarella.

Tribute to Don MacQueen
Don MacQueenColleague, poet, editor, publisher Brian Boldt wrote me last month about the passing of Don MacQueen.

Don was a central part of Sonoma County’s literary scene in the ’80s and ’90s, helping with the Russian River Writers’ Guild with Marianne Ware and others. It offered a lively reading series, quarterly newsletters, and occasional poetry collections, notably A Stone’s Throw, a major anthology of local poets of the day.

Don McQueen as ShakespeareDon also helped edit Rich Benbrook’s feisty quarterly “The Tomcat,” worked as an editor with Susan Bono’s “Tiny Lights,” and helped with Brian Boldt’s “Green Fuse.” His terse, witty poetry appeared in virtually every local publication in those days.

Don MacQueen, 88, died in June in Eugene, Oregon, at his daughter’s home, on his terms, exactly the way he lived his life. His family said that his last, whispered words were to a hospice worker, who assured him that everything was taken care of and all right now. Don’s reply: “Really, what about Iraq?” We certainly shall not look upon his like again.

—Brian Boldt

I spent ten days in July in the High Sierras where the combination of tinder-dry landscape and lightning storms has already launched several fires. I’ve been featuring poems, essays, and anecdotes by Sonoma County writers on the drought. This month Arlene Mandell sent in her poem, “In the Third Summer of the Drought.” Along with that, I am including Robinson Jeffers’s “Fire on the Hills.”

Please send me your thoughts on the drought. Photos and artwork, too!


In the Third Summer of the Drought

Deep in our woods, deer, rabbits
bobcats prowl in dry creek beds
rattlesnakes slither

while we take shorter showers
grumble over shriveled plantings
cringe at the horrific world news

then wake to another tranquil
August morning.

—Arlene Mandell


Fire On The Hills

The deer were bounding like blown leaves
Under the smoke in front of the roaring wave of the brushfire;
I thought of the smaller lives that were caught.
Beauty is not always lovely; the fire was beautiful, the terror
Of the deer was beautiful; and when I returned
Down the black slopes after the fire had gone by, an eagle
Was perched on the jag of a burnt pine,
Insolent and gorged, cloaked in the folded storms of his shoulders.
He had come from far off for good hunting
With fire for his beater to drive the game; the sky was merciless
Blue and the hills merciless black,
The somber-feathered great bird sleepily merciless between them.
I thought, painfully, but the whole mind,
The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than mercy.

—Robinson Jeffers


Congratulations to this month’s newly published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at

Terry Ehret, co-Editor
Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2014

July 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

You’d think that things would be quiet in the literary community midsummer, but the calendar is surprisingly busy, and with many interesting events. Here are some highlights. You’ll find more information about each on the calendar page.

aqus-cafeThose of you who live in Petaluma are probably familiar with the Aqus Café. More than a coffee establishment, Aqus is a cultural hub, a community center, with art on display, live jazz, folk music, Irish/Celtic music, trivia games, poetry readings, movie nights, and more.

In 2006, John Crowley, originally from Dublin, opened Aqus Cafe to provide a shared space for gatherings in this spirit of people sharing, connecting, and just getting to know each other. Since then, hundreds of people gather each day at the Café, creating a culture of community that has spread beyond the Café walls. Check out Aqus’s website, where you’ll find all kinds of information, including a calendar of Aqus events, how to become an Aqus member, and a newsletter with announcements and community happenings.

In the past year, a wonderful poetry series, called Rivertown Poets A-Museing, has launched. And on Monday, July 7, at 6:40, my dear old friend Alison Luterman will be reading with Sandra Anfang. The featured readers will be followed by an open mic. If you’d like to be part of the open mic reading, come at 6:30 to sign up. For more information:;

Aqus is located at the Foundry Wharf, 189 H Street.

I’d like to keep posting your responses to our shifting climate and current drought. Has the weather drawn from you an essay? a poem? a rant? A lament? If so, please send me what you’ve written. You can send me your thoughts to Please write Thoughts on the Drought in the subject line. Try to keep contributions under 250 words.

This month, Redwood Writers and Copperfield’s Books in Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, have teamed up for three evenings called Hot Summer Nights. The first of these is Tuesday, July 8, 7:00-8:00 p.m. when the theme is “Love and Poetry” with featured readers Michelle Wing, Patricia Nelson, Juanita Martin, Pamela Taeuffer and Kay Mehl Miller. Then on Tuesday, July 15, 7:00-8:00 p.m., the theme will be “Short Stories,” with featured readers Jean Wong, Jo Lauer, Kate Farrell and Sunny Lockwood. The July series finishes up on Tuesday, July 29, 7:00-8:00 p.m. when the topic is “Fiction” and the featured readers are Jeane Slone, Julie Winrich, Thonie Hevron and Lenore Hirsch.

The Sebastopol Senior Center launches its first Open Mic on Thursday, July 10, 1-3 PM. Call 829-2440 to sign up. Location: 167 High Street, Sebastopol.
Later that same day, 7:00-9:00 p.m., Cloverdale Performing Arts Center presents Books on Stage with Sonoma County Poet Laureate Katherine Hastings and novelist Gil Mansergh. Location: 209 North Cloverdale Boulevard, Cloverdale.

On Friday, July 11, 7:00-9:00 p.m., you can enjoy a double book launch featuring Donna Emerson & Phyllis Meshulam at Occidental Center for the Arts, 3850 Doris Murphy Ct.,Occidental.
Bibliophoria Artwalk gets under way on Saturday, July 12, 9:00 a.m. This is a book and print lover’s 2.5 mile round-trip walk exploring the many book resources of Sebastopol.

And here’s something new: “Critters and Creators,” a free reading, RiskPress Gallery, 7345 Healdsburg Ave., Sebastopol on Friday, July 18, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Featured readers are Iris Dunkle, Jodi Hottel, John Johnson, Carol Wade Lundberg and Phyllis Meshulam. They will read in the midst of the critters created by Jann Aanestad and Nancy Winn.

Wellspring-LabyrinthFor many years, Wellspring Renewal Center in Anderson Valley hosted a writing retreat on the banks of the Navarro River. When I was teaching there, I used to lead the writers in building a seven-circuit labyrinth. The stones would stay in place until the river rose in the winter, carrying them downstream towards the sea. Thus, the building of the labyrinth became an annual event.

riversbendWellspring closed a few years ago, but the retreat facility is still there, now reopened as River’s Bend Retreat Center. If you can’t get away to the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference or the Napa Writers’ Conference, but would like some creative writing time, consider booking a personal retreat. Here’s the website for more information:


July’s Poem: For this month, I’m featuring two poems that express a love of home-country in different ways.

Emma Lazarus 1849–1887

Emma LazarusEmma Lazarus was born in New York City to a wealthy family and educated by private tutors. She began writing poetry as a teenager and took up the cause — through both poetry and prose — against the persecution of Jews in Russia during the 1880s. Lines from her sonnet “The New Colossus” were engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in 1903.


The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Source: Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems and Other Writings (2002)

Lawrence FerlinghettiLawrence Ferlinghetti is a poet, playwright, editor, and painter, perhaps best known as the founder of City Lights Pocket Bookshop (now City Lights Books), San Francisco, and editor of City Lights Books, 1955—present.


I Am Waiting
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “I Am Waiting” from A Coney Island of the Mind. Copyright © 1958 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation,

Congratulations to this month’s newly published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at

Terry Ehret, co-Editor
Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2014

June 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

A few days ago, we lost Maya Angelou, a woman of great mind, heart, and soul. She joins many other bright poet-lights on the other side of the veil. Perhaps in that sense, her work has only just begun. I love this picture of her taken by Chester Higgins in1969, illustrating what Catherine Taylor describes an “enlightened grace.” Here is a bit of that grace in words:

Maya Angelou“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Last month’s post sent some of you thinking about summer writing, travel, and workshops. But for me, the days of reading and writing at my own leisure don’t begin until June. The June calendar of events, workshops, and conferences is full of opportunities. Here are some highlights, along with a few updates from the May post.

Two Local Conferences
We are very lucky to have two excellent conferences just over the Sonoma county borders. Registration is open for both the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, July 30-August 2; and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, July 27-August 1, 2014. Here are the links to their websites: MCWC:; NVWC:

Three Summer Retreats
Writing Retreat with Pam Houston in Santa Cruz Mountains: June 13-15, 2014:
Point Reyes Writing Retreat with Patti Trimble and Susan Bono, Friday, June 13, 6:00 p.m. to Monday, June 16, 2:00 p.m.
Tracing the Path: Exploring Your Spiritual Journey through Memoir & Craft, a one day women’s retreat in Sebastopol with Noelle Oxenhandler and Susie Stonefield Miller. Sunday, June 22, 2014, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Happy Birthday, Sitting Room!
The Sitting Room opens its doors on Sunday, June 8 2-5 PM for its annual birthday party and reading from the 2014 publication: I Knew I Was a Feminist When . . . . For a list of upcoming Sitting Room events and workshops, visit the website:

Free Sitting Room Workshop
dulac_medea and the fire dragonsLa LhoronaTo thank the Sitting Room for being such an important, supportive, creative space for writers, poet Terry Ehret, storyteller Cathryn Fairlee, and poet-musician Jabez Churchill present a one-day free workshop on the myth of Medea and the legend of La Llarona, on Sunday, June 22, 9 AM to 4 PM. Film, performance, music, pot-luck lunch, discussion, and writing prompts. Contact to reserve a spot.

Bibiophoria III
Thursday, June 12, 6:00-7:30 p.m. is the official kick off of Bibliophoria III with the opening of three book arts exhibits, at Sebastapol Center for the Arts: At 282 S. High Street, Sebastapol. More details:

The Art of the Fantastic
Thursday, June 12, 7:00 p.m. Why There Are Words Literary Reading Series welcomes readers from The Fabulist (, a journal for fables, yarns, tales and fantastical art. Studio 333, 333 Caledonia Street, Sausalito. For complete details including the authors’ full bios, see:

Thoughts on the Drought
Though we enjoyed the late spring rains, our hills are turning their summer gold, and our driest year in California history continues. I haven’t received any “thoughts on the drought” poems or essays this month, but here’s one from former U.S. Poet-Laureate Billy Collins, sent last month by Larry Robinson.

Water Table

It is on dry sunny days like this one that I find myself
thinking about the enormous body of water
that lies under this house,
cool, unseen reservoir,
silent except for the sounds of dripping
and the incalculable shifting
of all the heavy darkness that it holds.
This is the water that our well was dug to sip
and lift to where we live,
water drawn up and falling on our bare shoulders,
water filling the inlets of our mouths,
water in a pot on the stove.
The house is nothing now but a blueprint of pipes,
a network of faucets, nozzles, and spigots,
and even outdoors where light pierces the air
and clouds fly over the canopies of trees,
my thoughts flow underground
trying to imagine the cavernous scene.
Surely it is no pool with a colored ball
floating on the blue surface.
No grotto where a king would have
his guests rowed around in swan-shaped boats.
Between the dark lakes where the dark rivers flow
there is no ferry waiting on the shore of rock
and no man holding a long oar,
ready to take your last coin.
This is the real earth and the real water it contains.
But some nights, I must tell you,
I go down there after everyone has fallen asleep.
I swim back and forth in the echoing blackness.
I sing a love song as well as I can,
lost for a while in the home of the rain.
 — Billy Collins

Congratulations to this month’s newly published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at

Terry Ehret
co-Editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers