Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2019

April 1, 2019

Literary Update Post for April 1, 2019

AWP 2019

I just got home Sunday afternoon from a 4-day gathering of the writing tribes, known as AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs).  This year’s event was in Portland. It was a kick to see so many Sonoma County folk there, as we passed each other going and coming from readings, workshops, panels, receptions, wandering the seemingly endless booths at the Book Fair, or waiting in line for a breakfast scone and latte at Citizen Baker.

As the conference wound to a close Saturday night, attendees began asking each other, “What was your favorite AWP moment?” The question bounced around among the writers on the light rail to the airport and on the morning flights out of Portland back to the Bay Area.

For some it was hearing Ilya Kaminski and Tess Gallagher, Jericho Brown, or Joy Harjo singing, chanting, drumming, and fluting her way through Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light; for others it was the wit and humor of the keynote speaker Carlson Whitehead, the tenderness of love poems in a time of despair; or a quiet moment away from the crowds, swapping life stories with a complete stranger. My favorite moment (among many) was watching Peter Elbow listening to writer after writer thank him for his Free-Writing technique, which taught so many of us to turn down the volume of the inner critic and fill our pages with words. When Elbow published Writing Without Teachers back in 1973, he gave many writing teachers like me a way to bridge creative and critical methods, and especially to help breathe life back into the expository academic essay. He’s not a literary superstar, but he’s the reason so many writers discovered their voice and word-joy.

Next year’s AWP will be in San Antonio, Texas. I’ll be there, with a book of translations to debut.

April is National Poetry Month!

National Poetry MonthThe Academy of American Poets inaugurated National Poetry Month in 1996 and since then, it has grown to be the largest literary celebration in the world. This year’s poster features artwork by a high school student: tenth grader Julia Wang from San Jose, California, who has won the inaugural National Poetry Month Poster Contest. It incorporates lines from the poem “An Old Story” by current U. S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith.

Here are a few things you might do to celebrate National Poetry Month:

Favorite Poem Community Reading, Saturday, May 11, 2 PM

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts will once again host a Favorite Poem Community Reading. Modeled on the readings initiated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, this event will bring together a wide range of people and poems into one memorable event.

You are invited to submit a copy of your single favorite poem, famous or otherwise, one that is not written by you, a friend or relative, but one that you have read, perhaps many times, and to which you feel a personal attachment, along with a brief statement about the poem’s significance in your life. The poem and introductory statement should take no more than 3 minutes for you to read or recite.

Please send an email to Jodi Hottel at Include the subject “Favorite Poem Reading” in the subject heading. Send your name, phone # and email address, and submit your selection in either Word or a web link. Be sure to include the name of the author of the poem. There is no entry fee, but entries should be received no later than April 14.

This is our 16th annual event. The event is free, and refreshments will be served. Whether you submit a poem to share or not, we invite you to come to what is sure to be a wonderful celebration of the community’s love of language. SCA is at 282 S High St, Sebastopol.

The Role of the Arts in Regeneration after the Fires

The Press Democrat ran a front-page article in Sunday’s paper on the healing power of the arts in times of natural disaster. Our current Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, is pictured there, along with visual artists and musicians. I know many artists and writers tragically lost their creative work to the flames, and the article spotlights some of these. But it also examines how art itself allows an expression of loss and grief that can be paralyzing until communicated. As Sonoma County poet Dana Gioia puts it, “The fires terrified everyone, and people are slightly ashamed of their deepest fears. What art does is pre-empt normal conversation and go right into our deepest psyches. It doesn’t have to ask permission. Songs, art, and stories all communicate things under the surface to this cross-section of society in ways that nothing else can.” If you missed the article, here’s the link:

 Dance Performance and Poetry Event,  April 6

Virginia Matthews, dancer and choreographer, presents dance works enriched by language in the forms of memoir, poetic prose and poetry.  She has collaborated with Sonoma County poets, Raphael Block and Kyle Matthews creating two group pieces responding to their poems, “Spring” and “Walkabout.”  The poets will be reading their works and are joined by Marin County poet, Carol Griffin and musician, David Field.  In addition to Ms. Matthews, guest artist Nancy Lyons will be performing a work as well. The dancers include Chinshu Huang, Amelie Huang-Chen Grahm, Chelley BonDurant, Liz McDonough and Kellye McKee.

The event is Saturday, April 6, 4-6 PM at Dance Palace Cultural and Community Center, 503 B Street, Point Reyes Station. $15.00 general, $10 students/seniors.

The Art of Crossing Genres: A Presentation by Iris Dunkle

Thursday, April 18, 6:30 p.m. Writers Forum presenter Iris Jamahl Dunkle will talk about research and the art of crossing genres. While researching Charmian Kittredge London, Dunkle discovered that encounters with these personal documents made her want to write poetry and so alongside her biography of Charmian, a manuscript of poems was produced. Dunkle will talk about how research can inspire both long biographical work and short lyric poems. Iris Jamahl Dunkle is the recent past Poet Laureate of Sonoma County. Free. Copperfield’s, 140 Kentucky St. Petaluma. Details:

Sonoma Valley Authors Festival May 3-5

Gather your family, select a seat or bring a picnic blanket to the historic Sonoma Plaza. Saturday, May 4, 5:00-7:30 p.m., Authors on the Plaza, will feature Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate, and Jon Meacham, noted Presidential Biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author.

Location: Sonoma Plaza, West Spain & 1st Street West, Sonoma

For information about all the Festival events and authors, use this link:

Remembering W.S. Merwin

WS MerwinLast month, the poet, translator, and twice U.S. Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin died at the age of 91. Merwin has been an influence on several generations of writers. The Poetry Foundation Website offers a great sampler of Merwin’s poems, which he altered in form and style with each book. He wrote tender lyrics, myths and dream-tales in the fabulist style, experimented with the potency of white space/silence, and what rises to hold the poem’s meaning in the absence of punctuation. According to the PF biography of Merwin,  “For the entirety of his writing career, he explored a sense of wonder and celebrated the power of language, while serving as a staunch anti-war activist and advocate for the environment. A practicing Buddhist as well as a proponent of deep ecology, Merwin lived since the late 1970s on an old pineapple plantation in Hawaii which he has painstakingly restored to its original rainforest state.” Annika Neklason’s article “The Poet of Premature endings” is another great way to explore Merwin’s work, if you’re not familiar with it.

Poem for April
Merwin first published “Foghorn” in 1955, the year I was born. I discovered it in 1992 in a composition text I was using, and it has long been one of my favorites .


Surely that moan is not the thing
That men thought they were making, when they
Put it there, for their own necessities.
That throat does not call to anything human
But to something men had forgotten,
That stirs under fog. Who wounded that beast
Incurably, or from whose pasture
Was it lost, full grown, and time closed round it
With no way back? Who tethered its tongue
So that its voice could never come
To speak out in the light of clear day,
But only when the shifting blindness
Descends and is acknowledged among us,
As though from under a floor it is heard,
Or as though from behind a wall, always
Nearer than we had remembered? If it
Was we who gave tongue to this cry
What does it bespeak in us, repeating
And repeating, insisting on something
That we never meant? We only put it there
To give warning of something we dare not
Ignore, lest we should come upon it
Too suddenly, recognize it too late,
As our cries were swallowed up and all hands lost.

— W.S. Merwin, from The Drunk in the Furnace (Macmillan, 1960), also found in the National Book Award-winning Migration: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2004).


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2019

March 1, 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

Here is your Literary Update for March 1, 2019

Fire and Rain
Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of CaliforniaNavigating the wild rains and atmospheric rivers this past month has inspired me to give another shout-out to a timely anthology of poetry Fire and Rain, Ecopoetry of California, edited by Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan. The collection includes so many fine poets, including local writers Iris Dunkle, Donna Emerson, Gail Entrekin, Catharine Lucas, Elizabeth Heron, and Barbara Quick.

About this collection, former California Poet Laureate Al Young wrote, “I went back to soulful, pristine, early James Taylor to make sure I was feeling the wet, cleansing urgency of Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan’s burning anthology. Anthology, ecology, mythology, and all the ‘ologies’ boil down to four-letter words—sacred kissing cousins—love and life.”

Here’s a link if you’d like to order:

Al YoungSide Note: As many of you already know, Al Young suffered a serious stroke last weekend. Al’s son Michael posted the news on FaceBook, and has provided recent updates. Al has some paralysis, but is improving. Here’s what Jack Foley reported after visiting Al this week: “It was a very pleasant and heartening visit. Al was tired but very responsive and alert and even able to speak a little. . . . I told him I loved him but not to take that in the wrong way. He said, ‘I won’t.’ He maintained himself with the elegance which is always a part of his character.”

Kathleen Fraser (1935-2019)
Kathleen FraserSan Francisco poet, teacher, editor, and essayist Kathleen Fraser passed away on February 5. In the early ‘80s, I had the good fortune to study with Kathleen at San Francisco State; she was my thesis advisor, and sat on my orals committee where we shared a mutual love of the Italian poet Montale. Kathleen was also one of the first advisors of Sixteen Rivers Press twenty years ago. The first semester I studied with her, I showed her a traditional sonnet sequence I was working on. She read each carefully and thoughtfully, then turned to me and said, “Well, you can certainly write sonnets. Now what are you going to do?” Kathleen introduced me to the poetry of Jorie Graham, Mei-Mei Berssengrugge, Russell Edson, and Barbara Guest; she published my first essay on Gertrude Stein in Feminist Poetics, and another on the lyric in HOW(ever); and she taught me how to hear my own hesitant voice behind what she called “the shadow forms of patriarchal poetry.” She saw her work as “making textures and structures of poetry in the tentative region of the untried,” always looking for the news beyond the boundaries and ways to give language room to say more. The Poetry Foundation offers this tribute—a good introduction to Kathleen’s life and work, if you aren’t familiar with her:


Two Poetry and Music Collaborations

Dana GioiaPoet Meets Pianist: Poet Dana Gioia, former chairman of the NEA and California Poet Laureate, will perform in collaboration with renowned jazz pianist Helen Sung. The event is on Sunday, March 10, 4:00–6:00 p.m. The artists are donating their time and talents in support of Healdsburg Jazz, and the venue is the unique Geyserville home and sculpture gardens of the Voigt Family. $250 per person, tax deductible. More information at:

Ed Coletti will read from his full-length poetry collection Apollo Blue’s Harp And The Gods Of Song on Saturday March 16, 4:30-6:30 p.m. at SoCo Coffee, 1015 4th St., Santa Rosa. His grandson Justin Coletti will provide dynamite music with Steve Shain accompanying on bass. Ed’s book is his homage to and impressions of jazz, rock, classical, and blues music. More details and ordering info: Sonoma County Books in Print


Six Winning Plays
Off the Page Readers Theater presents five performances of the winning plays from the Redwood Writers short-play contest. There will be laughter, tears, love, divorce, and maybe a death or two! Playwrights include Samantha Alban, Laura McHale Holland, Paul McCormick, Harry Reid, Jean Wong, and Natasha Yim. Check the calendar page for details. Here are the dates and locations:

Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23, 7:30 p.m. At Copperfield’s Books, Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa.

Sunday, March 24, 3:00 p.m. At Abacus, 101 South Main Street, Sebastopol.

Sunday, March 31, 3:00 p.m.  At Church of the Oaks, Page and West Sierra Avenue, Cotati.


Poem for March

Here’s a poem for all our Literary Folk in the path of the floods, especially Guerneville, Sebastopol, and the Russian River area. The poet is Sonoma County’s former poet laureate, Mike Tuggle, from his collection The Motioning In (2014). Mike lived in Cazadero, so he knew a thing or two about rain. Mike passed away in June 2017.



I am standing here in the steady rain in the goat pen,
goat shit and mud up to my ankles,
my sweet pregnant does on the dry ledge beneath the overhang
looking at me as if I’m responsible.
They’ve had enough. Eighty-five inches already
and more here and coming and it’s almost the second week in June.
The greens I planted in late April are mildewing,
the tall stalks of garlic have become flaccid and pale;
even the yellow warbler who sings his heart out every spring
has lost his enthusiasm.

The rain stops abruptly and a hopeful small gleam
of sunlight slips through the northwest,
the Pacific wind swells up and starts the taller firs
singing and swaying and for a moment the sun reaches out
and pours down.

In the flush of sudden exhilaration
I remember Diane Schuur, the blind jazz singer and pianist
literally singing the sun out several years ago
at the jazz festival.
fog and clouds had hung all morning over the celebrants
at the river, a steady drizzle.
As Diane sang those sad love songs and rousing blues
she made us forget about the weather.
and on the final line of her closing number,
“A Foggy Day in London Town,” the clouds began to part
and the sun broke through, right on its heavenly cue:
“Was a foggy foggy day the sun was shining everywhere.”

Looking up expectantly, I watch the clouds swallowing the sun,
rain whispers across my face.
Mariah, the boss goat, honks at me.
Six long, curved Nubian faces look out hopefully,
fixing me in their encouraging stare.
Come on, man, you can do it! Where’s your song?

Knowing my limitations
and lacking the grace of ritual
or prayer, I raise my arms
to the heavens
and make the ultimate
futile, human gesture:

“God damn it to hell, I’ve had enough!
My goats have had enough
and the ground won’t hold anymore!
Bring back the sun!”

The answer is rain so hard it hurts,
pouring in the abruptly stilled air straight down,
as if to pound me into the ground or drown me.

— Mike Tuggle


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2019

February 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

My thanks to Jo-Anne Rosen for stepping in to write the January Literary Update post. My husband and I were busy hosting our annual New Year’s Poetry Brunch and then off to Denver to await the arrival of our grandson (baby Connor, born January 12).

Sometimes people wonder who ends up on the invitation list for the New Year’s Brunch. The answer is anyone who asks. If you’d like to be added to the e-mail list for next year’s New Year’s Poetry Brunch, send me a request at

Among those who have joined the gathering over the years is Sonoma County poet Clare Morris, who will be reading with Judy Bebelaar on Monday, February 4 in the Rivertown Poets Series at Aqus Cafe, 189 H Street in Petaluma. The reading begins at 6:15. Details about open mic are in the February Calendar of Events.

Women's March 2019, PetalumaOn arriving back in town from Denver, we were in time for our town’s first Women’s March—a diverse line-up of speakers and an impressive turnout. Women’s Marches were held throughout the county, the state, the nation, and even in countries around the world. In honor of the ongoing struggle for a more inclusive society, I’ve chosen a poem for this month by Audre Lorde. You’ll find it at the end of this post.

Remembering Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019)
The Thursday Mary Oliver died, I brought one of her poems to my composition students at SRJC. The poem was “The Journey.” I figured they already knew “Wild Geese” and wanted to offer them a poem that might speak to the kinds of hard choices young people have to make as they set out tentatively on their life’s journey. I was surprised to discover that not a student had heard of Mary Oliver! How wonderful, I said. I get to introduce you to her poetry.

Mary OliverI have always appreciated Oliver as an inspirational poet with a gift for writing personally and intimately about nature since I first read her Pulitzer Prize winning American Primitive (1983). That same year at Centrum Writing Conference at Fort Worden, I saw her out early every morning walking alone. My friends and I invited her to join us for dinner one evening; she smiled shyly and declined. We could see how much she guarded her solitude and we respected that. That was way back in 1984. In the years after that, I read her poems that circulated in my writing groups, but it wasn’t until I found her wonderful prose poems in White Pine (1994)that Oliver’s work opened up for me. And although many of her fans wondered about the spiritual direction of her more recent work, I found the collection Thirst (2007) to be very brave. Contemporary poetry doesn’t often deal directly with religious questions or the wrestling with angels.

In a Facebook post, Marin poet Rebecca Foust recommended an essay on Mary Oliver by Catherine Pierce, who admits that she had not seriously read Oliver’s “accessible poems of praise” until a student asked her to recommend some poetry that was uplifting. Pierce reexamines her previous judgment of the value of Oliver’s work and commits “to incorporate more poems of wonder and solace into my teaching, and to work more consciously to show students that these subjects aren’t off-limits for writers.” Here’s a link to the article: On Mary Oliver and Resisting Poems of Gladness – The Millions

This past year, I’ve been teaching workshops at the Sitting Room which focus on contemporary American women poets. Some writers in the workshops have requested that we study Mary Oliver. After reading Pierce’s article (and another interesting one about what Oliver’s poetry means to a young lesbian writer), I decided to rearrange my syllabus to include Oliver’s work, along with Audre Lorde, Lucille Clifton, and Joy Harjo. I’m looking forward to the chance to discover some of her less famous poems and to reconsider the range of her work, her vision, and her voice.

Getting the Word Out About Your Work
Book Passage in Corte Madera will host a Literary Salon: How Writers Get the Word Out, with Linda Watanabe McFerrin in conversation with author Ann Steiner, Ph.D. This will be Monday, February 4, 7:00 p.m. Location: 51 Tamal Vista Dr. Corte Madera. Check the calendar page for details.

Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud, February 11
Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud contestantsTime again for the annual Poetry Out Loud Contest. Sonoma County high school students participate in a national recitation program, initiated by the National Endowment for the Arts. You’ll hear oral interpretations of great poems by students from Analy, Casa Grande, Creekside, El Molino, Elsie Allen, John Muir Charter, Maria Carrillo, Petaluma, Piner, Rancho Cotate, Roseland Collegiate Prep, Roseland University Prep, Santa Rosa, Sonoma Academy, and Windsor.

The county winner will advance to the state competition. There is no cost to the school or the students to participate. Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by NEA throughout the country, and in all of California by the California Arts Council and in Sonoma County by California Poets in the Schools, Creative Sonoma, Sonoma County Vintners Foundation, and Clover Sonoma.

This year’s event is on Monday, February 11, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm in the Forum Room, Central Library, 211 E. St., Santa Rosa. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Phyllis Meshulam, 707-486-7450.

Local Historian Michael Morey at Occidental Center for the Arts.
Michael MoreyIn honor of Black History Month: OCA Book Launch Series presents local historian Michael Morey’s Fagen: An African American Renegade in the Philippine-American War. In 1899, David Fagen, a Buffalo Soldier, gains fame as a Filipino revolutionary. The event is on Friday, February 15, 7:00 p.m. 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Bohemian Hwy at Graton Rd. See the calendar page for details.

An Afternoon with Barbara Henning and Maureen Owen
Sunday, March 3, at 3 PM, North Bay Letterpress Arts hosts nationally acclaimed poets Barbara Henning and Maureen Owen on the final leg of their cross country reading tour from NYC to the Bay Area. Come hear them read and relate their adventures at North Bay Literary Arts, 925-d Gravenstein Highway South Sebastopol, California (behind Bee Kind). The event is free but donations are gratefully encouraged.

Barbara Henning and Maureen Owen
Poem for February

Audre LordeFrom the House of Yemanjá
by Audre Lorde

My mother had two faces and a frying pot
where she cooked up her daughters
into girls
before she fixed our dinner.
My mother had two faces
and a broken pot
where she hid out a perfect daughter
who was not me
I am the sun and moon and forever hungry
for her eyes.

I bear two women upon my back
one dark and rich and hidden
in the ivory hungers of the other
pale as a witch
yet steady and familiar
brings me bread and terror
in my sleep
her breasts are huge exciting anchors
in the midnight storm.

All this has been
in my mother’s bed
time has no sense
I have no brothers
and my sisters are cruel.

Mother I need
mother I need
mother I need your blackness now
as the august earth needs rain.
I am

the sun and moon and forever hungry
the sharpened edge
where day and night shall meet
and not be

Audre Lorde, “From the House of Yemanjá” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997 by Audre Lorde. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2019

January 2019

Dear literary folk,

Terry is traveling this holiday season, and I’m covering her beat this first month of 2019. Here’s a sampling of what we can look forward to on the literary front in January:

The Last Devadasi by Barbara BaerBarbara Baer’s new book The Last Devadas will be launched Sunday, January 13, 3:00 p.m. at Occidental Center for the Arts. Passionate and forbidden love clashes with tradition and caste in a changing India. Selected readings, Indian dance troupe performance, Q&A, book sales and signing. Exotic refreshments. Admission free, all donations gratefully accepted. Wine and beer for sale, refreshments by donation. OCA is located at 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Bohemian Hwy at Graton Rd. and is wheelchair accessible. For more info: 707-874-9392 or

Off the Page Readers TheaterOur local readers theater, Off the Page, will present their new show, “What Goes Around…” on Friday and SaturdayJanuary 18 and 19 (7:00 p.m.) at Copperfield’s Books in Santa Rosa, and on Sunday, January 20 (3:00 p.m.) at Abacus in Sebastapol. (See calendar for details.) Off the Page is a Sebastopol-based readers theater group dedicated to supporting the works of local writers and actors. Musical opening by Patrick Michael McCarty and the stories, plays and poems of these writers: David Beckman, Malena Eljumaily, Jeremy Mitchell, Peter Moller, Margo Perin, Laurie Reaume, Jo-Anne Rosen, Linda Saldaña, Lisa Shulman, and Bright Winn. Copperfield’s Books, 775 Village Court, Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa. Abacus is located at 101 S. Main St., Sebastopol. Tickets at the door: $15 general, $10 students.

Sunday January 20, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Fiction and Poetry Mixer at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 High Street, Sebastopol. Ron Thomas will be featured reading from his recently published novel, I Want To Walk You Home. Devika Brandt, Donna Emerson, and Helen Heal will read poetry.

Sonoma County in Print: We were not notified of any new books being published in December, which is not unusual at end of year, but congratulations to several authors who were published in literary journals. See for details. Please do let us know when you’ve got a poem, story or book newly in print. And do check the Calls for Submission page for publishing opportunities.

Rites of PassagePetaluma-based Wordrunner eChapbooks will be considering fiction, memoir/CNF and poetry for the spring 2019 anthology, to be published in April 2018. The theme is Upheavals—any disruption or disturbance of the natural order of things. (Disclaimer: I publish this hybrid chapbook-literary journal, along with a few writer-colleagues, three times annually.) As always, we are looking for emotional complexity and clear, uncluttered writing, and we’d be very pleased to publish local authors. Readings are blind. Submissions are open January 1 to February 28, 2019. Authors are paid. We are proud of our 35 issues to date, some of which are also available in ebook format. Take a look at for top-notch writing, all of it free online. Guidelines and submission link are at

Wishing all of you a creative and joyous new year,

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

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2018

December 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

On a River Winding Home
On a River Winding HomeFor at least 20 years, I’ve been enjoying the photography of Petaluma artist Scott Hess. Like a good poem, his photos often teach me to see what I’d otherwise overlook. Some of you may enjoy his work on Facebook, and if so, then you know that he has recently teamed up with writer John Sheehy to produce a fabulous collection of photos and stories about local landscape and history: On a River Winding Home. (

Dine with the Authors
I hope you’ll check out Scott’s Facebook page for this book and catch the opportunity to “Dine with the Authors” 6-8:30 p.m. on Monday, December 10 at Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa. Scott, John, along with Susanna Solomon, Alissa Hirshfeld-Flores, John Joseph O’Brien, and Kitty Wells, will be reading from their latest published books. You’ll need reservations, so check the calendar page for all the details.

Reverberations at Sebastopol Center for the Arts
Just a reminder that if you haven’t had the chance to view the art and poetry exhibit at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, you can catch the last two days of Reverberations: A Visual Conversation this weekend. This unique exhibit pairs over 40 works of art with original poems inspired by the art. Artists include Francis Bacon, Enrique Chagoya, Viola Frey, Robert McChesney, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso, and many of the poets are from Sonoma County, including Katherine Hastings, Maya Khosla, Gwynn O’Gara, Barbara Hirschfeld, Nancy Dougherty, and Fran Claggett. The range of styles, both of the artists and the poets, is astonishing. The exhibit closes on December 2. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday to 12 pm to 5 pm.

Make Art Not War
Women Artists Datebook/Syracuse Cultural Workers
One of my favorite publishers is a company called Syracuse Cultural Workers, a progressive publisher committed to peace, sustainability, social justice, feminism and multiculturalism. I like them for many reasons, but most of all, for the respectful way they treat their artists and writers.

Syracuse Cultural WorkersHere’s what the term “Cultural Workers” means to them: “First, that the task of creating culture in a society is not the work of an elite, highly-paid few—which has become the case in our mass-market society. . . . Second, that people who create culture are legitimate workers who deserve to be recognized and valued for their work, not ‘patronized.’ Third, that the process of creation is based in a desire to improve the lives of people not to just turn a profit. Fourth, that all of us, in some way, are capable of being cultural workers if we can only free ourselves from ‘I’m not talented’ paralysis that elitism and competition produce in our capitalist society.

I’ve been fortunate to have poems published in years past in their annual Women Artists Datebook, and so when I recently received their call for submissions for their 2020 datebook, I wanted to pass this along to the literary folk of Sonoma County.

They include in every edition up to 16 pieces of visual art and 15 pieces of poetry by ANY women (including LGBTQIAA). They pay their contributors for their work, unlike most poetry publications.

Here’s the link to find out more about Syracuse Cultural Workers and check their submission guidelines:

Fire and Rain at Iota Press
Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of CaliforniaThis Sunday, December 2, Iota Press in Sebastopol hosts a poetry reading with Iris Dunkle, Donna Emerson, Gail Entrekin, Catharine Lucas, Elizabeth Heron, and Barbara Quick, who will be reading their poems from the new anthology, Fire and Rain, Ecopoetry of California, edited by Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan. The reading is 2:30-4:30 p.m. Iota Press is located at 925 Suite D, Gravenstein Highway.

Writing and Collage with Susan Hagen
Also on Sunday from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., local writer Susan Hagen and collage artists Susanne Petermann will lead a workshop “Image and Word: Writing and Collage for Women,” a dynamic combination of collage-making and writing practice that opens a door to the inner life. All art materials are included. Check the calendar listing for details.

December Story-Telling Events
Sher Lianne Christian will host Story Time Open Mic at Hardcore Coffee in Sebastopol on Wednesday, December 5, 2:00-3:00 p.m. Bring a 5-minute story to share. Location: 81 Bloomfield Rd, on the corner of 116 and Bloomfield in Sebastopol. Details on the calendar page.

And on Wednesday, December 5, 7:30 p.m. West Side Stories Petaluma presents the GrandSlam at the Mystic Theatre, Petaluma, where you’ll hear eight months worth of winning tellers (plus three wild card tellers) join last year’s champ for an evening of amazing stories. Go to for your tickets.

The WIckham's Christmas at PemberlyDon’t Miss Marin Theater Company’s Christmas at Pemberly
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a theater aspiring to community goodwill, not to mention a dependable income stream, must be in want of a holiday show” (Celia Wren).

Two years ago, a friend took me to see Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly, an original play by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but focusing on the younger sister and wallflower Mary Bennet. It was absolutely charming!

This year, MTC has a new Austen spin by the same authors: The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley. Whether you’re an Austen fan or not, you’ll have fun.

Poem for December
Here’s one of my favorite poems by Marin poet and former US Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan. It is a meditation on the etymology and connotations of the word “crib,” and finally a commentary on the Christian Nativity. Like many of Ryan’s poems, this one takes some twists you won’t expect.


From the Greek for
woven or plaited,
which quickly translated
to basket. Whence the verb
crib, which meant “to filch”
under cover of wicker
anything–some liquor,
a cutlet.
For we want to make off
with things that are not
our own. There is a pleasure
theft brings, a vitality
to the home.
Cribbed objects or answers
keep their guilty shimmer
forever, have you noticed?
Yet religions downplay this.
Note, for instance, in our
annual rehearsals of innocence,
the substitution of manger for crib
as if we ever deserved that baby,
or thought we did.

Crib,” by Kay Ryan, from Elephant Rocks, Grove Press, 1996.

Terry Ehret, Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2018

November 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

Tree of LifeLast night, we celebrated the Eve of All Hallows with Jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treaters. Today, All Saints Day, gives way at sunset to the celebration of All Souls and El Día de los Muertos. Among the dead whose memory we hold precious are those gunned down in Pittsburgh. The irony of these deaths in a sanctuary called Tree of Life  makes the tragedy all that more poignant.

Think of them and all who have lost their lives as the shadows of hatred and violence continue to move across our nation. Our friend Penelope La Montagne, who passed away last March, once wrote, “Perhaps the only way to transfer a wee worm of hope to another human being is to go out of your way to do a kindness for another. A split second extension of heart to hand or voice.”

Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading
Communities throughout Sonoma County celebrate El Día de los Muertos, and one of my favorite gatherings is the annual Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading. Petaluma poet John Johnson organized this year’s reading, held at the Petaluma Campus of SRJC in the Multi-Cultural Center called Mi Casa/My House. Phyllis Meshulam of California Poets in the Schools brought two young poets to present their poems of remembrance, bringing the house to tears. We also heard readings from bilingual poet Beatriz Lagos, originally from Argentina; and bilingual poet and artist Katie Numi Usher, from Belize. Jodi Hottel spoke about Obon, the Buddhist tradition of honoring one’s ancestors, and demonstrated a simple folk dance from the Japanese tradition. And then it was the community’s turn to share their poems against the backdrop of candles, photos, and mementos on the altar. Thanks to all who helped create this intimate evening.

Katherine HastingsCelebrating Katherine Hastings and Word Temple
How lucky were we to have Katherine Hastings and the WordTemple Reading Series and Radio Show she created, directed, and nurtured for 15 years! On October 20, the literary community got the chance to thank Katherine when she returned briefly from her new home in Grand Island, New York. Jerry Fleming, Greg Randall, Jodi Hottel, Gwynn O’Gara, and a very appreciative audience of friends and fans gathered to pay tribute to Katherine’s many contributions, and then to hear her read. Thankfully, WordTemple will continue Katherine’s legacy under the guidance of Greg Randall.

Reverberations at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts
Reverberations-McChesneyNow, this is really cool! The Sebastopol Center for the Arts has just opened in its fabulous art gallery an exhibit called “Reverberations.A Visual Conversation.” This unique exhibit pairs over 40 works of art with original poems inspired by the art. Artists include Francis Bacon, Enrique Chagoya, Viola Frey, Robert McChesney, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso, and many of the poets are from Sonoma County, including Katherine Hastings, Maya Khosla, Gwynn O’Gara, Barbara Hirschfeld, Nancy Dougherty, and Fran Claggett. The range of styles, both of the artists and the poets, is astonishing. Hundreds of people came to the opening reception on October 25, but if you missed that, know that the exhibit runs through December 2. SCA is located at 282 S. High Street, Sebastopol. Entry is free. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and have been extended on Saturday and Sunday to 12:00 to 5:00 p,m.

Many events have been planned for November around the Reverberations Exhibit.

November 3 at 7:00 p.m. Reverberations: A Visual Conversation—The Poets Speak
November 8 at 7:00 p.m. “Living with Art”: A Panel Discussion
November 15 at 7:00 p.m. An Evening of Short Films
November 16 at 2:00 p.m. Linda Loveland Reid, “Reverberations: The Artists Revealed”
November 17 at 7:00 p.m. Reverberations: A Visual Conversation—The Poets Speak

A Cage Event
etchings by John CageMy own contribution to Reverberations is a series of poems written to accompany three etchings from a series called Smoke Weather, Stone Weather, by John Cage.

You can get an inside look at Cage’s work and the poems I composed in response to them, using a poetic technique called Mesostic, on Friday, November 9, 4:30-6:00 p.m. The event will include a film of Cage and the creation of this particular series of etchings at Crown Point Press in San Francisco. The event is at SCA, and it is free. But it’s a good idea to register to ensure you have a seat. You can register and learn more about this and all the events in the Reverberations series at

Poetry for a Changing Landscape: Join Maya Khosla for an Autumn Walk with Writing
On Sunday, November 11, 2:00-6:00 p.m. join Sonoma County’s Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, for an afternoon exploring the land and responding to it on the page. We will hike, reflect and share short works in a supportive environment. A special focus will be given to the surrounding natural areas now in the early stages of regeneration, which began shortly after the October 2017 fires. At Fairfield Osborn Preserve. Details about registration on this month’s calendar page.

Fall Back
River's Bend cabinThis time of year, as we fall back and the nights grow long, it seems a good time to make room for the creative spark—to nurture it in a special way. I’m not talking about workshops, though these are often the inspirational life-blood of a writer. Consider, as we ramp up our energy into the holiday season, retreating into your own quiet space to heal and reconnect with what you love. Take a walk among the old grove redwoods in Armstrong Woods; take a drive to the coast and watch the waves rolling in; wander along one of our many rivers; visit the Sitting Room and sit awhile with the extraordinary collection of books, or hunker down in the quiet room for a little writing time.

If you’re looking for a place of your own to write and retreat, consider River’s Bend Retreat Center in Philo. You can rent a cozy cabin with a view of the Navarro River. You can find out more at,

I don’t need to tell you how much is at stake in Tuesday’s election. I encourage you to make your voice matter by voting on November 6. No excuses!

Poem for November
For this month, I’ve selected another poem from the anthology America, We Call Your Name, published by Sixteen Rivers Press. The poem is by Seamus Heaney, the great (and great-hearted) Irish poet (April 13, 1939 – August 30, 2013)


From the Republic of Conscience
by Seamus Heaney

When I landed in the republic of conscience
it was so noiseless when the engines stopped
I could hear a curlew high above the runway.
At immigration, the clerk was an old man
who produced a wallet from his homespun coat
and showed me a photograph of my grandfather.
The woman in customs asked me to declare
the words of our traditional cures and charms
to heal dumbness and avert the evil eye.
No porters. No interpreter. No taxi.
You carried your own burden and very soon
your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.

Fog is a dreaded omen there but lightning
spells universal good and parents
hang swaddled infants in trees during thunderstorms.
Salt is their precious mineral. And seashells
are held to the ear during births and funerals.
The base of all inks and pigments is seawater.
Their sacred symbol is a stylised boat.
The sail is an ear, the mast a sloping pen,
the hull a mouth-shape, the keel an open eye.
At their inauguration, public leaders
must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep
to atone for their presumption to hold office-
and to affirm their faith that all life sprang
from salt in tears which the sky god wept
after he dreamt his solitude was endless.

I came back from that frugal republic
with my two arms the one length, the customs woman
having insisted my allowance was myself.
The old man rose and gazed into my face
and said that was official recognition
that I was now a dual citizen.
He therefore desired me when I got home
to consider myself a representative
and to speak on their behalf in my own tongue.
Their embassies, he said, were everywhere
but operated independently
and no ambassador would ever be relieved.

“From the Republic of Conscience,” from Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996 by Seamus Heaney. Copyright © 1998 by Seamus Heaney.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2018

October 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

elizabethherronTonight, Elizabeth Herron and June Gerron at Rivertown Poets/Aqus Café

The reading begins at 6:15 p.m. Bring your best (or most outrageous) poem to share at open mic, which follows the features. The open mic signup list will be available by 5:45. 189 H Street in Petaluma.

Who is Charmian London?  

Jack London House of Happy Walls jack-london-with-charmian-kitteridge-bookrags-1-300x160

This fall the Jack London State Historic Park opens a new permanent exhibit at the House of Happy Walls featuring the life of Charmian Kittredge London. Saturday, October 6, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Iris Jamahl Dunkle and Clarice Stasz, Ph.d. will discuss Charmian London’s significance in women’s history and her writings. Iris will also read original poems inspired by Charmian’s life and speak about her forthcoming biography. The Sitting Room, 2025 Curtis Dr, Penngrove. Details:

ws-logoSaturday, October 13, 10 a.m.-4:00 p.m. 23rd Annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival!.”Stand Up for the Earth” with dynamic readings of over thirty poets and writers. Civic Center Park, 2151 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Berkeley. The Strawberry Creek Walk, part of the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival, poetry,  begins 10 a.m. sharp with talk, and easy walk along beautiful Strawberry Creek through UC Berkeley and its underground path, in a culvert, through downtown Berkeley to the Watershed Festival at Civic Center Park, led by Nevada City poet/eco-educator Chris Olander. Poets include: Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Joan Gelfand, and Maya Khosla. Details:

2018 Poesía del Recuerdo/Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading

IMG_1654On Friday, October 19, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, join Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla and members of the community for the annual El Día de los Muertos “Poesía del Recuerdo/Poetry of Remembrance” celebration.

This year’s event will take place at Our House Intercultural Center, 116 Jacobs Hall, on the SRJC Petaluma Campus, 680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway, Petaluma.

Featured readers will include bilingual poet Beatriz Lagos, originally from Argentina; bilingual poet and artist Katie Numi Usher, from Belize, and sansei (third-generation Japanese American) poet Jodi Hottel, who will tell us about Obon, the Buddhist tradition of honoring one’s ancestors and demonstrate a simple folk dance.

IMG_1671Those who wish to honor the memory of someone who has departed are encouraged to bring something—a photo or an item that reminds them of their loved one—that can be placed on a community altar for the evening.

If you’d like to share a poem or brief statement to remember a loved one, contact John Johnson: (707) 338-5765.Poesía del Recuerdo/Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading is part of the month-long El Día de los Muertos celebrations held in Petaluma during the month of October, featuring community altars, bilingual storytelling, sugar skull workshops, music, dance, and a procession with giant puppets.

Admission is free. Click here for a Schedule of all the El Día de Los Muertos events.

The 2nd Inaugural Wine Country Spoken Word Festival

Hosted by West Side Stories and featuring Steve Connell,Bil Lepp, Zahra Noorbakhsh, Denice Frohman, Elizabeth Ellis and W. Kamau Bell, this event will be held the weekend of Friday, October 19-Saturday, October 22, At the Mystic Theater, Petaluma. For details:

christine-walker-readtowritebooks-com-400-x-400Read to Write Books Renewed: A Guest Feature by Christine Walker

The practice of writing fiction and memoir exercises muscles of empathy, which we need in our culture more than ever. Fulfilling creative potential comes from engagement in one’s chosen art and from helping others achieve their potential. Thus, an important part of my process as an artist and writer has been teaching.

In 2010, I created “Read to Write Books” workshops that I taught at Copperfield’s. I loved doing this and hope to teach locally again in the future. For now, because my travel as a visual facilitator makes it difficult to sustain a class schedule, I created a self-paced course in video and pdfs, “Writing Fiction – 9 Ways to Mastery,” and started a YouTube channel with short “Moments of Mastery” videos. My blog continues to support it all.

I’d love to hear if and how the content enriches your writing journey and creative process. I welcome your suggestions and questions.

Youtube channel:

Online course:



All good wishes & thanks!

Christine Walker, MFA, MA 


An Evening With Emily Dickinson

1532968065On Monday, October 29, 7:00-8:30 p.m., Holly Springfield will present an intimate portrait of poet Emily Dickinson at the Petaluma Public Library Springfield is an Emily Dickinson scholar and meditation teacher who has been studying, teaching and sharing her passion for Emily Dickinson for the past 18 years. Holly will draw upon poems, letters, biography, 19th century New England culture and stories from her long sojourn with Dickinson, in order to bring lo life an American treasure in an intimate, personal portrait.

Poem for October

Sixteen Rivers Press’ new anthology America, I Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience, includes poems by local authors like Gail Newman, David Beckman, Kay Ryan, Jane Hirshfield, Janet Jennings, Joe Zaccardi, Ellery Akers, and Ada Limon. It also reaches back through the centuries to feature poets who have challenged the status quo of their times. Here’s one by Emily Dickinson.

No. 1096

These Strangers, in a foreign World,”
Protection asked of me—
Befriend them, lest Yourself in Heaven
Be found a Refugee—

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2018

September 2018

September 1, 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

GoFundMe for the Petaluma Poetry Walk

Petaluma Poetry WalkThe Petaluma Poetry Walk is coming up on Sunday, September 16, but this one-day moveable feast of words needs our help.

In years past, the directors Geri Digiorno and Bill Vartnaw have reached into their own pockets to help cover the costs. Local patrons, businesses, and individuals volunteers and organizers have also made contributions to help the Poetry Walk qualify for Poets & Writers matching funds. Unfortunately, this year the funding from Poets & Writers is not available, which is why we’re reaching out with this GoFundMe campaign.

We’re more than halfway to our goal of $2,000. Please consider making a donation, however small. It only takes a few minutes. Here’s the link to contribute to the Walk’s GoFundMe account:

The Walk will launch this year at 11 AM at a new venue: The Petauma Hotel’s historic ballroom. Readings continue at various downtown venues, with new authors presenting every hour, finishing at Aqus Café. Discover more about the upcoming walk venues and readers at the Poetry Walk website:

Special thanks to Kevin Pryne for setting up the GoFundMe account, and to The Sitting Room, which has generously offered to be the nonprofit sponsor for this fundraising campaign.

Petaluma Author Expo Petaluma Author Expo September 8th at the Petaluma Library

On Saturday, September 8, the Petaluma Regional Library will host an afternoon with local writers. Designed as a “Meet and Greet” event, the Author Expo will feature more than 30 writers and will offer readers and new writers a chance to talk with published authors about their work.

I will be giving a short opening presentation about the writing process and publishing options to open the event.

The Author Expo is from 2:00-5:00 p.m. Refreshments will be provided, and the event is absolutely free!

Location: 100 Fairgrounds Drive, Petaluma, CA 94952. For information and details, contact Celma de Faria Luster (707)763-9801 ext. 0714.

Need a Space to Meet for your Book Group? The Sitting Room Welcomes You!
The Sitting Room community library would like Book Groups to know that they would be welcome to hold their meetings here. There is comfortable seating for up to 10 people and parking too. We are open from 9 to 5 Mondays – Saturdays, but are happy to make arrangements for other time slots also. If interested in arranging a trial meeting, please call us at 707 795-9028 or email us at The atmosphere is right (and people won’t have to straighten up their houses for the occasional occasion). We are right next to Sonoma State University at 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove, 94951. Check out our website: for directions and to get a feel for the place.

WordTemple Returns!

Brenda Hillman

Stephen Kessler

David BeckmanSaturday, September 8, 7:00 p.m. Word Temple Reading Series. Featured readers are Brenda Hillman, Stephen Kessler and David Beckman. Free admission (donation suggested). At Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 S. High St., Sebastopol. Contact: Gregory W. Randall, More information at:

T-Bone BurnettT Bone Burnett at the Luther Burbank Center
On Sunday, September 9, 7 PM, accompanied by his guitar, film clips, and decades’ worth of stories, T Bone takes audiences on a tour of his work and collaborations with musicians across all genres, including Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Elton John, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, B.B. King, Tony Bennett, k.d. lang, Elvis Costello, Jack White, Taylor Swift, Leon Russell, and many more. For tickets and information go to:

Ed ColettiCelebrate Ed Coletti’s New Chapbook
Saturday September 29, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Ed Coletti will read from his new chapbook Fire Storm at SoCo Coffee, 1015 4th St Santa Rosa. SoCo now has terrific salads, paninis, falafel, and pastries as well as coffee drinks, soft drinks, and a wide tea selection. anniversary of the fire. 707-291-7801.

“A World of Despair; A World of Hope.”
100 Poets for Change
The 8th annual 100 Thousand Poets for Change will take place on Sunday, September 30, 406 PM at Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County, 467 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa. At this international reading, poets all around the world read their poems for change. This year’s event will be dedicated to the children and young people who will be inheriting this severely damaged world from us. Free. Donations welcome. Refreshments provided.

If you are interested in reading or helping or know a young person who would like to read a poem (theirs or someone else’s), please contact Susan Lamont at

America We Call Your NamePoems of Resistance and Resilience: Sixteen Rivers Press’s New Anthology
Sixteen Rivers Press announces the release of their new anthology on September 4.

To order your copy, go to this link:

Susan Griffin and Dean Rader, two of the poets featured in this collection, will be reading at the annual Sixteen Rivers Benefit on Sunday, October 25, 2-5 PM. Join us for an afternoon of wine, hors d’oeuvres, silent auction, and a reading by these acclaimed poets.

For tickets, go to

Poem for September
Ada LimonI’ve been reading the work of Ada Limon lately, in preparation for the workshop I’ll be leading on Contemporary American Women Poets at the Sitting Room. I also had the chance to hear her read and in conversation with Matthew Zapruder at Readers’ Book in Sonoma. She told the audience that she lived as a teenager in an apartment across the street from the bookstore, where she worked from the age of 15. Sonoma remains her home, and she spends part of every year here; her other home is in Kentucky.

The poem for September is from her new collection, The Carrying, © 2018, Milkweed Editions.

Late Summer after a Panic Attack

By Ada Limón

I can’t undress from the pressure of leaves,
the lobed edges leaning toward the window
like an unwanted male gaze on the backside,
(they wish to bless and bless and hush).
What if I want to go devil instead? Bow
down to the madness that makes me. Drone
of the neighbor’s mowing, a red mailbox flag
erected, a dog bark from three houses over,
and this is what a day is. Beetle on the wainscoting,
dead branch breaking, but not breaking, stones
from the sea next to stones from the river,
unanswered messages like ghosts in the throat,
a siren whining high toward town repeating
that the emergency is not here, repeating
that this loud silence is only where you live.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2018

August 2018

August 1, 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

The Napa Writers’ Conference is already underway this week, running until Friday, and I imagine many of you are attending. If you’re not signed up for the intensive workshops, you should know about the craft lectures and readings, which are open to the public. Some are free; some have an entry fee, usually $25 each. You’ll find full descriptions with times and locations on the calendar page. This is what’s coming up.

Wednesday, August 1 – Brenda Hillman and Lan Samantha Chang
Thursday, August 2 – Student Participant Reading

Craft Lectures
Wednesday, August 1—Camille Dungy, Howard Norman
Thursday, August 2—Carl Phillips, Lauren Groff

Marin Poetry Center Summer Traveling Show

Every summer, the Marin Poetry Center organizes a series of readings throughout the North and East Bay. On Sunday, August 12, at 2:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma will host Traveling Show featured poets Donna Emerson, Gail Entrekin, Dave Seter, Julia Vose and others. For a list of participating poets and venues throughout the Bay Area, visit:

This event is free. The location is Copperfield’s, 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma.

GoFundMe for the Petaluma Poetry Walk

Petaluma Poetry WalkThe Petaluma Poetry Walk needs our help. The Walk is an annual event, taking place this year on September 16, 2018.  This one-day moveable feast of words features poetry readings held at several venues in downtown Petaluma, including a bakery, a gallery, a restaurant, a bookstore and others, all within easy walking distance of one another. Various groups of poets will read their work at each of these venues. This event has been held for the last 22 years and is the premier poetry event in this area.

In years past, the directors Geri Digiorno and Bill Vartnaw have reached into their own pockets to help cover the costs. Local patrons, businesses, and individuals volunteers and organizers have also made contributions to help the Poetry Walk qualify for Poets & Writers matching funds. Unfortunately, this year the funding from Poets & Writers is not available, which is why we’re reaching out with this GoFundMe campaign.

Our goal is $2,000, which will cover this year’s printing costs and can hopefully provide an honorarium for the poets who are reading their work. If we exceed this goal, the Poetry Walk will have a small budget to work with going into next year and beyond.

Please consider making a donation, however small. It only takes a few minutes. Here’s the link to contribute to the Walk’s GoFundMe account:

You can also mail a check or money order to: PO Box 13, Petaluma, CA 94953. You can make the check out to the Petaluma Poetry Walk. However, if you need a tax deduction for your donation, please make the check out to The Sitting Room, and in the memo space, indicate that the donation is for the Petaluma Poetry Walk.

Discover more about the upcoming walk venues and readers at the Poetry Walk website:

Special thanks to Kevin Pryne for setting up the GoFundMe account, and to The Sitting Room, which has generously offered to be the nonprofit sponsor for this fundraising campaigne.

Do You Love a Good Mystery?

Then you’ll want to mark your calendar for Wednesday, August 22, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books’ Midweek Mystery series, featuring Rhys Bowen’s Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding. From the New York Times best-selling author of On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service, Rhys Bowen, comes the next installment of the Royal Spyness Mystery series. This event is at Copperfield’s, Montgomery Village Store, 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa. Details:

America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience

America We Call Your NameSixteen Rivers Press is pleased to announce the publication of our new anthology, America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience.

This anthology, born in response to the 2016 Presidential election, combines the voices of poets from across America—from red states and blue states, high schools and nursing homes, big cities and small towns—with the voices of poets from other countries and other times. From Virgil and Dante to Claudia Rankine and Mai Der Vang, from Milton to Merwin, from Po-Chü-i to Robin Coste Lewis, these voices—now raucous, now muted, now lyric, now plain—join together here in dissent and in praise, in grief and alarm, in vision and hope. The 126 poems in this book call out to America in resistance to threats to our democracy and in the resilient belief that this fragile, imperfect form of government can and must be preserved.

Among the work in this collection is Sonoma County poet David Beckman’s “my soon-to-be written protest poem.” Other local authors are Tom Centolella, Janet Jennings, Kay Ryan, Lucille Lang Day, Jane Hirshfield, Susan Terris, Brenda Hillman, Judy Halebsky, and Robert Hass.

“These poets have an urgent message to share with you,” writes Camille T. Dungy in the foreword. “This message is brand new, and it is also eternal. Read carefully. What you learn here might just save your life.”

We expect books from the printer by September 4. In the meantime, the book is available for pre-order on Amazon. You can use this link:

Scroll down to read a sample poem from America, We Call Your Name.

From the Republic of Conscience


Seamus HeaneyWhen I landed in the republic of conscience
it was so noiseless when the engines stopped
I could hear a curlew high above the runway.

At immigration, the clerk was an old man
who produced a wallet from his homespun coat
and showed me a photograph of my grandfather.

The woman in customs asked me to declare
the words of our traditional cures and charms
to heal dumbness and avert the evil eye.

No porters. No interpreter. No taxi.
You carried your own burden and very soon
your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.


Fog is a dreaded omen there but lightning
spells universal good and parents
hang swaddled infants in trees during thunderstorms.

Salt is their precious mineral. And seashells
are held to the ear during births and funerals.
The base of all inks and pigments is seawater.

Their sacred symbol is a stylised boat.
The sail is an ear, the mast a sloping pen,
the hull a mouth-shape, the keel an open eye.

At their inauguration, public leaders
must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep
to atone for their presumption to hold office-

and to affirm their faith that all life sprang
from salt in tears which the sky god wept
after he dreamt his solitude was endless.


I came back from that frugal republic
with my two arms the one length, the customs woman
having insisted my allowance was myself.

The old man rose and gazed into my face
and said that was official recognition
that I was now a dual citizen.

He therefore desired me when I got home
to consider myself a representative
and to speak on their behalf in my own tongue.

Their embassies, he said, were everywhere
but operated independently
and no ambassador would ever be relieved.

“From the Republic of Conscience,” from 
Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996 by Seamus Heaney. Copyright © 1998 by Seamus Heaney.

Seamus Heaney
April 13, 1939 – August 30, 2013


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2018

July 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

Farewell to Donald Hall

hall2This month, we pay tribute to former U.S. Poet Laureate, Donald Hall, who died on Saturday, June 23, at the age of 89.

Hall was a New England poet, born September 20, 1928, and grew up in Hamden, Connecticut. From the mid 1970’s, he lived with his wife, poet Jane Kenyon, in their rural farmhouse at Eagle Pond Farm in New Hampshire, until her death from leukemia in 1995. Ironically, Hall had not expected to survive his own cancer diagnosis in 1989, but beat the odds to live another 29 years. In his poetry, Hall expressed both his profound gratitude for these years and his grief at losing Kenyon.

Of Hall’s work, Billy Collins writes, “Hall has long been placed in the Frostian tradition of the plainspoken rural poet. His reliance on simple, concrete diction and the no-nonsense sequence of the declarative sentence gives his poems steadiness and imbues them with a tone of sincere authority. It is a kind of simplicity that succeeds in engaging the reader in the first few lines.”

Hall mentored and encouraged many writers, including some from Sonoma County and the Bay Area, among them Al Young, Carolyn Miller, and Lynne Knight, who wrote this response to Hall’s death, published in Rattle’s Poets Respond on June 26:


white apples and the taste of stone
—Donald Hall, “White Apples”

The old master is dead,
his gravestone already marked
with lines from a poem
by his wife, whose peonies
blossomed and toppled outside
while he lay in hospice.
Soon his granddaughter will live
in the ancestral house looking out
at blue Mount Kearsarge.
The curved ribs of old horses
buried in the field will again yield
their crop of goldenrod.
Dark clouds over Eagle Pond
turn white as the taste of stone,
white as white apples.

biolynneknightKnight’s response also includes this personal memory:

“I spent much of Sunday mourning the death of Donald Hall, who taught me much of what I know about poetry when I was his student at the University of Michigan. Much later, we had a correspondence over twenty years that sometimes included the exchange of poems. I’ve been re-reading some of his letters, and I came upon this: ‘I want the poem to be as hard as a piece of sculpture, and as immovable, and as resolute, and as whole. I want every word in it to be absolutely inevitable … but another part of the requirement, by and large, is that it should not seem so.’ Then he quoted Yeats: ‘A line will take us hours maybe; / Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought …’ His letter begins: ‘I love talking about this stuff.’ Donald Hall gave so much to the world of letters that I wanted to mark his death with a small poem that evokes his life and work, borrowing his image in the last two lines (“white apples and the taste of stone”). I don’t know if this poem does evoke him, but among many, many other things, he taught me to be persistent.”

I have selected one of my favorite of Hall’s poems, “The Names of Horses,” featured at the end of this post.

To read more about Hall’s life and work, I recommend checking out this NPR link:

I also recommend the New York Times article, which you can find at this link:


The Cove’s Call for Submissions: “The Art of Resistance”

We’re living in dark times, politically, but as a literary community, we’re also inspired and challenged to raise our voices to address the widening attacks on our civil liberties and our humanity.

Following up on last month’s introduction to Bart Schneider’s new online journal, The Cove, I’m including this reminder of the call for submission for The Cove’s second issue, “The Art of Resistance.”

Bart invites you to submit poems, short shorts, and brief essays that respond to the political and cultural climate of our time. Work need not reference particular individuals. Preference will be given to writing that wrestles with the problems of topical engagement. Please send work by July 15 to editor Bart Schneider at


Here are some events I’d like to highlight for July. For a complete list of all the literary events of the month ahead, check the Calendar Page.

bill-vBill Vartnaw and Julie Rogers at Revertown Poets

On Monday, July 2nd, 6:15 p.m. Rivertown Poets will be holding a reading and open mic at the Aqus Cafe, 189 H Street in Petaluma. Featured poets will be Petaluma poet (and Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emeritus) Bill Vartnaw and East Bay poet Julie Rogers. The reading begins at 6:15 p.m. The open mic signup list will be available by 5:45. Open mic will follow the features. Please time your reading to be three minutes or under.


Rumi’s Caravan: A Poetic Conversation

03rumiRumi’s Caravan returns to Oakland on Saturday, July 14, 7:00 p.m.. For fifteen years Rumi’s Caravan has inspired audiences, weaving together poems by Rumi, Hafez, Machado, Rilke, Yeats, Mary Oliver, Joy Harjo, Naomi Shihab Nye, David Whyte and other poets across the world. Recitation of World Poetry by Doug Von Koss, Barry and Maya Spector, Larry Robinson, Kay Crista, Carol Fitzgerald and Carol Bower Foote. With musicians Christine Tulis, Suellen Primost and Sufi dancer Chelsea Rose.


Unitarian Church, 685 14th Street (doors open at 6:00). $15.00/Advance, $30.00 at the door, Performances benefit local non-profit organizations. More details at:



Poetry in the Redwoods with Dana Gioia and Maya Khosla

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California State Parks is partnering with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and the poetry community in Sonoma County to bring Poetry in the Redwoods to the historic Redwood Forest Theater at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.

This is a FREE, all-ages event open to poetry lovers, nature lovers, community families and friends. The event will be bookended by live music, a silent auction, and include readings by a diverse group of poets, along with youth participants from this year’s Poetry Out Loud competitions. Participating poets include California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla, plus Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Sandra Anfang, Arthur Dawson, K.M. English, Jackie Hallerberg, Richard Loranger, Brian Martens, Phyllis Meshulam, Margo Perin, Pamela Stone Singer and  Amos White.

This event is in conjunction with the Gourmet Walk in the Redwoods on July 21, 12:00-4:30 p.m.The only cost is that of park admission, $8 per vehicle.


Poem for July

The Names of Horses
by Donald Hall

All winter your brute shoulders strained against collars, padding
and steerhide over the ash hames, to haul
sledges of cordwood for drying through spring and summer,
for the Glenwood stove next winter, and for the simmering range.

In April you pulled cartloads of manure to spread on the fields,
dark manure of Holsteins, and knobs of your own clustered with oats.
All summer you mowed the grass in meadow and hayfield, the mowing machine
clacketing beside you, while the sun walked high in the morning;

and after noon’s heat, you pulled a clawed rake through the same acres,
gathering stacks, and dragged the wagon from stack to stack,
and the built hayrack back, uphill to the chaffy barn,
three loads of hay a day from standing grass in the morning.

Sundays you trotted the two miles to church with the light load
a leather quartertop buggy, and grazed in the sound of hymns.
Generation on generation, your neck rubbed the windowsill
of the stall, smoothing the wood as the sea smooths glass.

When you were old and lame, when your shoulders hurt bending to graze,
one October the man, who fed you and kept you, and harnessed you every morning,
led you through corn stubble to sandy ground above Eagle Pond,
and dug a hole beside you where you stood shuddering in your skin,

and lay the shotgun’s muzzle in the boneless hollow behind your ear,
and fired the slug into your brain, and felled you into your grave,
shoveling sand to cover you, setting goldenrod upright above you,
where by next summer a dent in the ground made your monument.

For a hundred and fifty years, in the Pasture of dead horses,
roots of pine trees pushed through the pale curves of your ribs,
yellow blossoms flourished above you in autumn, and in winter
frost heaved your bones in the ground – old toilers, soil makers:

O Roger, Mackerel, Riley, Ned, Nellie, Chester, Lady Ghost.

From The Selected Poems of Donald Hall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

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