Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2023

June 2023

Dear Literary Folk,

Something about the Blues
Al YoungBeloved poet and jazz musician Al Young passed away April 17, 2021, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, when gathering in groups was a challenge for most of us. Consequently, Al’s memorial was postponed until we could safely gather. On Saturday, June 3, at 2:00 p.m., Al Young’s life and work will be celebrated in a tribute called “Something about the Blues” at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley. Featured readers: Ishmael Reed and current California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick. RSVP to
You can read the Literary Update’s tribute to Al Young at this link: Discover more about Al’s life and work at this link:

Time to Eat Cake!
Two important anniversaries are coming up in early June, and you are invited to be part of both celebrations! The first of these is the 10th anniversary of Rivertown Poets in Petaluma on June 5th; the second is the Sitting Room’s Rebirthday Party on June 10th.

Rivertown Poets Features Rebecca Patrascu and Gwynn O’Gara
Rebecca Patrescu and Gwynn O'GaraYou are warmly invited to join us for our next reading which takes place on Monday, June 5th, at 6:15 p.m. PDT. This reading marks the completion of ten years of continuous monthly poetry readings. We’ll be live at the Aqus Cafe, located at 189 H Street in Petaluma (corner of 2nd and H). We won’t be Zooming in for this event but our July reading will be on Zoom. Our June 5th features are Sonoma County poets Rebecca Patrascu and Gwynn O’Gara. An open mic of three-minute readings follows the features. Signup will be live on the clipboard–as in the Beforetime. Poets will have books on hand for purchase during the intermission. Plan to arrive early for a good table and an open mic slot. The Aqus Cafe serves delicious food and drinks. The kitchen closes at 7:00, so plan to order before we begin the reading. There will be cake!
—Sande Anfang, founder and host of Rivertown Poets

Sitting Room’s Rebirthday Party

Sitting Room collage
Date: Saturday, June 10
Time: 2 to 5 or so
Place: 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove, CA 94951
(No need to rsvp, but if you want more information, call 707 795-9028)
Carpool?— it is more fun, better on the environment, AND easier on the parking
Refreshments and entertainment provided — Anything on paper presents to The Sitting Room welcome but no- present people will also be welcomed and being present is the best present of all…CUthere, IF THE WEATHER IS O.K. FOR OUTDOOR COMFORT; if not in these uncertain climes, stay home and read a book, o.k.?
—JJ Wilson and Karen Petersen

Sacramento Poetry Alliance hosts an Afternoon of Translation
with Terry Ehret, John Johnson, and Susan Cohen

Sacramento Poetry AllianceIf you’re up for a drive to the Central Valley, or if you know poetry aficionados in the Sacramento area, please pass along this invitation:

Terry Ehret and John Johnson will read from their translations of Plagios/Plagiarsms, by Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon, on Saturday, June 10, 4 pm. Susan Cohen will also present her translations of Yiddish poems. The reading series is hosted by Tim Kahl and the Sacramento Poetry Alliance, and will be held in a lovely garden setting in the Land Park district, 1169 Perkins Way, Sacramento, CA.

Off the Page Readers Theater
Off the Page Readers TheaterOne of Sonoma County’s most creative and collaborative ventures is Off the Page Readers Theater. Founded in 2013 by Hilary Moore, Pat Hayes and Mike Hayes, they have grown to a troupe of six Sonoma County actor/directors. For some shows they invite guest actors to perform with them as well. 

Off the Page specializes in performing the works of local authors. By now they have performed the works of more than 50 writers. Twice a year they choose a theme and call for entries. For each show they create a “symphony” of stories, plays and poems. A percentage of their proceeds goes to local charities.

This month, on Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17, 7:00-9:00 p.m., Off the Page performs six 10-minute plays by Redwood Writers Club members David Beckman, Andrew Brier, Joan Goodreau, Crissi Langwell, Linda Loveland Reid and Maureen Studerwill. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. At the Finley Center, 2060 W College Ave, Santa Rosa. Admission $20. For details on authors, plays, actors, and ticket purchase:

If you’d like to submit your work for Off the Page, you’ll find all the relevant information at this link on their website:

Café Frida/ Ed Coletti Poetry Festival on June 25
Come enjoy the great food, delightful courtyard setting, music, and poetry on Saturday, June 25, 1:00-3:00 p.m. at Cafe Frida. The Sizzling Summer Reading will feature Terry Ehret, David Beckman, Sandra Anfang, David Madgalene, Phyllis Meshalum, Jodi Hottel, Steve Shane soloing on his magic bass, Richard Long (editor of 2 River Review), and Raphael Block. Come early for lunch and music. Cafe Frida is located in the Santa Rosa Art District at 300 S A St, Santa Rosa. Details:

Dale Dougherty’s Sebastopol City Limits Interview with Raphael Block
Dale Dougherty, editor and publisher of Make: Magazine, a DIY Tech quarterly, and Laura Hagar Rush, the former editor of the Sebastopol newspaper, Sonoma West Times & News have co-created the online journal Sebastopol Times. Dale and Laura invite you to be a part of a community of people who share your home town news. They welcome article submissions, as well as “letters to the editors.”

Dale Dougherty:
Laura Hagar Rush:
You can also reach them at 707-322-8696 or drop by their office at 524 S. Main Street in Sebastopol.
Dale also hosts a podcast called Sebastopol City Limits. Recently he featured Raphael Block, who has a new book, The Dreams We Share, You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript of the interview by clicking on this link:

Poem for June

Maggie TuteurFor the past year, I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with a remarkable team to create a collection of local writer Maggie Tuteur’s poetry. Maggie’s book, How the Earth Holds Us, is scheduled for release in September from Wordrunner Press, and we’ll have a grand book launch to celebrate with Maggie, her family, and friends.

About Maggie’s book, Barbara Baer writes: “Readers of How the Earth Holds Us will come to know Maggie Tuteur as few have known her during a daring life of adventure, yearning, tragedy, and wonder. We may sometimes be shocked by Tuteur’s raw pain and her passion, but we are guided by her craft and her search for peace; as she writes, ‘I am living in the echo / of a clear bell’s ring.’ Those venturing into this rich collection of poems will hear Maggie Tuteur’s voice long after they close the book.“

For June’s poem, I’ve selected one of Maggie’s—a prose poem that evokes those long summer evenings in childhood when we might have lain after sunset in the half-light of “firefly time.”

Shades of Childhood
by Maggie Tuteur

Still daylight when they tucked me in. I could feel the flowers beneath my window flexing their petals for the fat yellow bees, sweet-natured bumblers that brushed my palms. June bugs, those
ornery earth movers, lurching and bumbling. Upturned earthworms sensing the air with delicate snouts.

That was my place down there, not this holding pen of floppy dolls. Just before firefly time, the shadows cast by venetian blinds began their twilight crawl across the ceiling, transporting me, breath by breath, into that night garden I could never anticipate, where I was the soil and the seed.
from How the Earth Holds Us, forthcoming from Wordrunner Press, copyright © 2023 by John Tuteur Trustee, Maggie Tuteur Revocable Trust. All rights reserved.

Terry Ehret,
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2023

May 2023

Dear Literary Folk,

Here’s what’s new in my writing life and in our amazing literary community.

The Slow Down
SlowdownThe Slow Down is a literary podcast, offering a poem and a moment of reflection every weekday—“true break from the cacophony of life.” (Alice Florence Orr). I have heard from many of my literary update friends that this is worth tuning into, and for several years, this program, hosted by our US poet laureate Ada Limón, has been on my to-do list. Ironically, I felt my life was just too busy to add The Slow Down. Before I start my day, I read Poetry Daily, The Writers Almanac, Poem-A-Day from, Larry Robinson’s daily poetry e-mail, and all the poems that show up on my FaceBook feed, so I haven’t felt the need to stream more. But just today, I decided to give it a try, tuning in to the podcast’s new host, Major Jackson, whom many of you may know from his workshops, readings, and craft lectures at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.

I started with the episode from April 28, “Tea with Ann,” by Mary Brancaccio. It opens with Jackson reflecting on reconnecting with old friends on FaceBook, saying, “It is amazing to have the long view of each other’s journey on earth, to witness how time has physically changed us.” This struck home, as I’m currently collaborating with a small group of elementary school friends to arrange our 50th high school reunion this fall, though, alas, we just learned that one of our dearest friends, Ellen, passed away five years ago. How did we miss this? How could she just be gone? I had just found her on FaceBook, smiling her beautiful smile, and shared her photo with our little group. We each had an Ellen story to tell, and one of us Belmonsters (our hometown was Belmont, CA) reminisced about the day Ellen showed up barefoot and driving a Mustang convertible. Then Jackson read the poem, with its remembrance of a Catholic school acquaintance, and the poet’s remark “I can’t imagine growing old without you.” Needless to say, I’m hooked.

The podcasts run about 5 minutes each. If you want to try for yourself, here’s the link

Avotcja at Rivertown
AvotcjaOne of my favorite local artists is Avotcja Jiltonilro, an East Bay poet who frequents Sonoma County, especially the Petaluma Poetry Walk where you may have had the pleasure of hearing her read and perform her music. She is also a frequent open mic reader at Rivertown Poets.

Avotcja (pronounced Avacha) is New York born music fanatic/sound junkie and popular Bay Area radio DJ. Her parents were Puerto Rican entertainers who launched Avotcja on a lifelong mission to heal herself and the world as a musician/writer/educator/storyteller. “I talk to the Trees & listens to the Wind against the concrete,” she writes, “& when they answer it usually winds up in a Poem or Short Story.”

You can hear Avotcja as one of the three featured readers with Rivertown Poets tonight, May 1, 6:15 p.m. Host Sande Anfang will introduce Avotcja , Ashia Ajani, and Tureeda Mikell via Zoom. The reading starts promptly at 6:15. Open mic follows. Zoom in to listen at or via

Avotcja’s poem “Daughters of the Drum” is our poem for May. Scroll down to read. You can find more about Avotcja at her website:

Bay Area Book Festival
Bay Are Book Festival 2023There are plenty of terrific live and online literary events, workshops, readings listed in the May Calendar. But before it slips right past you, I want to give a shout out to the Bay Area Book Festival, live and in person again! This is a world-class literary extravaganza taking place over two days in downtown Berkeley. The festival runs May 6 and 7 with dozens of renowned speakers, including Joan Baez, Camille Dungy, Dave Eggers, Forrest Gander, and many more. A panel titled “Life in Books” features Sonoma County author Joan Frank along with Dorothy Lazard and Jane Smiley; and a “Flash Fiction America” panel that includes Molly Giles and others. There will be indoor literary programs at multiple locations in downtown Berkeley both days and on Sunday, an outdoor literary marketplace in MLK Jr. Civic Park with over 150 exhibitors. This is one of my favorite literary festivals, with FREE admission to all events. For festival schedule, author-speaker lineup and more:

Annual Haiku Festival in Ukiah
Celebrate Ukiah’s palindrome on Sunday, May 7, 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the 21st Annual UkiaHaiku Festival at Grace Hudson Museum Wild Gardens, Ukiah. There will be a live performance from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas’ Developing Virtue Boys School, and readings of past haiku contest winners from various local luminaries. Live music by the UkeTones and shakuhachi (traditional Japanese flute) player Karl Young, as well as haiku-inspired arts and crafts booths, and refreshments. Free and open to the public. More details:

Another Chance to Celebrate The Freedom of New Beginnings!
Onye and the MessengersLast month, we had a terrific reading with the rousing dance music of Onye and the Messengers and contributors to the anthology The Freedom of New Beginnings. The combination of music and poetry raises each art to a new level. On May 20 the reading will be at the Community Market in Sebastopol from 2:00-4:00 PM. The musicians will be singer Stella Heath and guitarist Ian Scherer. Readers will include Hillary Moore, Linda Loveland Reid, Lynn Axelrod, Steve Trenam, Kay Renz, Jodi Hottel, Abby Bogomolny, Judy Cheung, Ernesto Garay, Kat Kraus, introduced by the editors Phyllis Meshulam, Gail King, Gwynn O’Gara, and Terry Ehret. Community Market is located at 6762 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472.

If you’ve been following Phyllis’s Poet Laureate project from her 2020-2022 tenure, you know that the anthology revolves around three themes: “Gratitude,” “Honoring Our Pain for the World,” and “Seeing with New Eyes.” Its title, The Freedom of New Beginnings, was inspired by a poem by Katherine Hastings, which ends with these inspirational lines: “beyond the catastrophe of ash/ throbbing in the glass/of abandoned dreams/Light follows you, cuts a path//equal to the loss of the abandoned nest/equal to the freedom new beginnings bring.”




We were born to Drum
Somos Hijas ritmicas
We were conceived in Rhythm
Whether we knew it or not or wanted it or not
It was & has always been
About upholding La Clave en el alma
The beauty & sanctity of the Rhythm that created us
The Rhythm that is us
Somos el latído de la naturaleza
The Rhythm
Of our Mother’s labor pains announced our coming
And it’s always the Rhythm of our breathing
That lets the world know we’re alive
Bellas fuerzas místicas pero picosas
Feel it!
We walk & sing, pray, dance & cry in it
Every single word that flows out of our mouths
Is a rhythmic declaration of our presence
Somos la esencia de La Bomba
And even our sacred Mother Nature
Dances rhythmically through the Seasons
Every single year
Keeping the Rhythm of our lives in balance
Our universe is an inescapable symphony
Ritmos sagrados
Held together by vibration
By the sound of the sum of us
The always right on time
Magical, rhythmical timelessness of us
Somos la fiebre apasionada de la Rumba
The heart of Bebop & Cubop
Was born in us
Is Creation’s gift to us
Somos el corazón del Tambor
Born in the womb of creativity
An undeniable Rhythm personified
Wake up world!
We are your Children
And we were born to Drum!!!

Copyright © Avotcja


Terry Ehret, Co-Editor
Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2023

April 2023

Dear Literary Folk,

Remembering Sher Christian
Sher ChristianJohn Christian wrote to say “I’m sorry to let you all know that my sweetie, Sher, passed away peacefully [last] Saturday afternoon. She had kidney disease and there were late stage complications that led to her declining health. We had 34+ years together and I’m very grateful for the life we shared.”

We all know Sher as the co-host of the long-running literary open mics and music series. She was a passionate member of our literary community. When John has any news about a celebration of Sher’s life, I’ll pass this along in an upcoming Literary Update

Thank You to All Our Literary Hosts
Losing Sher got me thinking about all the members of our literary community who have hosted open mics, reading series, podcasts, etc., and who have helped nurture us all by providing a safe and supportive venue to share our writing.

I think of Fran Claggett-Holland and her Why Poetry project, and Katharine Hastings’s WordTermple Series, which is still vibrant as an online blog, now that Katherine has moved to New York. Then there is Ed Coletti, who hosted SoCoCo and Poetry Azul literary readings, and currently runs a new series at Café Frida. Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion gave us the 100 Thousand Poets for Change. Susan Lamont hosted a series and open mic at Gaia’s Garden. Sande Anfang has been hosting the Rivertown Poets at Aqus Café and online during the pandemic. It’s now both live and in hybrid format, and available via streaming on YouTube and at KPCA.FM. Leena Prasad has been hosting “Poets Wanted” on second Sundays. Steve Trennam runs the Poetic License series through Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Dave Pokorny hosts Westside Stories at Sonoma Valley Portworks in Petaluma. Melissa Carr at the Ukiah Library has been curating the LOBA series for many years. Marlene Cullen guides many writers from their first inklings and notes all the way to publication through The Write Spot workshops and readings, as well as the Petaluma Forum events. Our current and past poets laureate all hosted many readings during their tenures, and Elizabeth Herron’s Being Brave workshops and readings are a brilliant example of this. Check out her Poet Laureate News page on the Literary Update for details.

Putting together a reading or hosting a reading series involves a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes effort, as well as poise and flexibility as the reading is under way. I, too, have hosted many readings, literary events, and a reading/workshop series at SRJC, so I know they don’t just “happen.”

Listing everyone who’s had a hand in reading series would take several pages. Fortunately, Jo-Anne Rosen keeps a special page on our website with ongoing series and open mics listed by day. There’s something happening every day of the week! She also puts together the monthly calendar of readings, workshops, and events. Please visit these two pages to get a fuller picture of the literary arts in Sonoma County.

You are all my heroes for all you do and have done to bring our community together through the written and spoken word.


Sixteen Rivers Book Launch at Book Passage in Corte Madera April 2

Songbirds of the Nine Rivers, All Tomorrow's Train RidesPlease join us for a very special reading on Sunday, April 2 at 4pm at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte, Madera, CA. This is the book launch for our newly published authors, Joe Zaccaradi and Matt Monte. They will be joined by Barbara Swift Brauer, twice published by Sixteen Rivers.

In his afterword to Songbirds of the Nine Rivers, Joseph Zaccardi recounts how, during his time as a corpsman in the Vietnam War, he found refuge in a volume of ancient Chinese and Vietnamese poetry. This study, now lifelong, has borne fruit in his present volume of poetry.

Matt Monte’s All Tomorrow’s Train Rides is an odyssey of reading and poetic memory. What begins
as a single day in a worker’s commute morphs into a Möbius loop of literary history and cultural consciousness.

Barbara Swift Brauer’s Rain Like a Thief offers observations of the natural world that serve as a description of the poems themselves. Through lyrically precise and visually evocative language, they allow us see those familiar old containers—pain and loss, love and death—in new ways.

The View from Here: A Celebration of Our Writers April 4
On Tuesday, April 4, 3:30-5:30 PM, The SRJC English Department presents a reading featuring Eric Atkinson, Abby Bogomolny, Claire Drucker, Alfonso Gaitan, and Erica Tom—all members of the faculty at Santa Rosa Junior College. This reading series has been on hiatus during the Covid years, but returns now to Doyle Library 4th Floor Quiet Reading Room, 4520. It is free and open to the public. Parking permits are required.

Newly Translated Poems by González de León at Blue Light at the Gallery on April 7
On Friday, April 7, 6:00 pm, Diane Frank of Blue Light Press and the host of Blue Light at at the Gallery will feature the poetry of Ulalume González de León and her translators: Terry Ehret and Nancy Morales from Sixteen Rivers Press

Nancy and Terry will debut poems from the upcoming third volume of Plagios/Plagiarisms. They’ll discuss their translation process and read some of their own original work.
This will be a virtual event—no need to brave the Friday evening traffic! Just zoom in from the comfort of home. (Note: John Johnson and Terry Ehret will also be reading some of González de León’s poems from volume three at the Freedom of New Beginnings reading on Saturday, April 8. See the notice below.)

RSVP to to get the Zoom link.

Ulalume González de León (1928-2009) 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 from the Center for International Studies, and the Alfonso X Prize. Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz called her “the best Mexicana poet since Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz,” recognizing the visionary quality of her work. She also translated the work of H.D., Elizabeth Bishop, Ted Hughes, Lewis Carroll, and e.e. cummings.

Come Dance with Onye and the Messengers and Celebrate the Freedom of New Beginnings!
Onye and Messengers, Freedom of New BeginningsThe Sebastopol Community Center hosts an extraordinary evening of poetry and music, featuring current and past Poets Laureate along with contributors to the anthology The Freedom of New Beginnings. Readers include Phyllis Meshulam, Gwynn O’Gara, Bill Vartnaw, Maya Khosla, Terry Ehret, Elizabeth Herron, Gail King, and more!

Saturday, April 8
Doors 4 pm, Event begins at 4:30 pm
General Admission: $15
Students:$5 (students of all ages!) Children 10 & under free!
Click the link for more information and to purchase your tickets today!

Celebrating Fran Claggett-Holland April 15
Here’s our chance to honor one of Sonoma County’s literary treasures, Fran Claggett-Holland. The event will take place on Saturday, April 15, at 1:00 pm at the Finley Center, 2060 West College Avenue in Santa Rosa.
Celebrate Fran Claggett Holland

Napa Valley Writer’s Conference Deadline April 17
Napa Valley Writers ConferenceThere’s still time to apply to the 2023 Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, if you haven’t already!

Applications are open until April 17! The 2023 conference will take place from Sunday, July 30, to Friday, August 4, on the Napa campus of Napa Valley College.

Apply to the Conference! Applications will close on Monday, April 17. Please read our new admissions policy for returning applicants.

April 27 is National Poem in Your Pocket Day for National Poetry Month
One of the many projects the Academy of American Poets has sponsored over the years is the Poem-In-Your-Pocket Day. Poem in Your Pocket Day takes place every year on a day in National Poetry Month. Poem in Your Pocket Day 2023 will take place on April 27.

Ways to Participate
It’s easy to participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day from a safe distance. Here are some ideas of how you might get involved:
* Select a poem and share it on social media using the hashtag #PocketPoem. 
* Print a poem from the
Poem in Your Pocket Day PDF and draw an image from the poem in the white space, or use the instructions on pages 57–58 of the PDF to make an origami swan. 
* Record a video of yourself reading a poem, then share it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or another social media platform you use. 
* Email a poem to your friends, family, neighbors, or local government leaders.
* Schedule a video chat and read a poem to your loved ones.
* Add a poem to your email footer.
*Read a poem out loud from your porch, window, backyard or outdoor space. 

Discover more ways to celebrate National Poetry Month in the classroom, or at home or online!

Our current Sonoma County Poet Laureate Elizabeth Herron has some recommendations for this year. From the email stream of one of the Being Brave Poetry Workshops:

Let the walls soften & crumble
Let light in, let love in
An explosion of opera pink!

A torch to light the way 
Carrying the empty bowl
To the life spring

These and other short poems gleaned from longer poems written in my Being Brave Poetry Workshops are perfect Pocket Poems to distribute on April 27th, official Poem in Your Pocket Day, part of April’s National Poetry Month.

Wishing you well.
With gratitude,
Elizabeth Herron

Orchard Street Press Call for Submissions Deadline April 30
This March-April, The Orchard Street Press is conducting its sixth annual Poetry Contest: $500 first prize, $300 second, $200 third. Prize-winning and other submitted poems will appear in Quiet Diamonds, our annual poetry journal, and select entrants will be invited to submit chapbooks for possible publication. This year, we are publishing 10 chapbooks from entrants to the 2022 Contest. We expect to publish a similar number from the ‘23 Contest.

Entrants should submit poems and the $15 fee to: The Orchard Street Press; P.O. Box 280, Gates Mills, Ohio 44040. Entries can also be submitted via our website,

Submission details: Submit up to four original, unpublished poems (no translations and no single poem longer than two pages). Poems should be typed and should not include the poet’s name on the page. The poet should also send a cover letter (listing the poems and the poet’s contact information–including phone and email) and a SASE for results.

Deadline for submissions is April 30 (postmark).
The Orchard Street Press,
Visit for details

Poem for April
I recently watched a very fine documentary about the life and work of poet Ruth Stone. It’s called Ruth Stone’s Vast Library of the Female Mind and it aired on PBS last week. You can find out more at this link: Here is a poem by Ruth Stone for April.

Ruth StoneAlways on the Train
Ruth Stone1915-2011

Writing poems about writing poems
is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.
Nothing but the horizon to stop you.
But consider the railroad’s edge of metal trash;
bird perches, miles of telephone wires.
What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.
Trash is so cheerful; flying up
like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.
The dust devil whirls it aloft; bronze candy wrappers,
squares of clear plastic—windows on a house of air.
Below the weedy edge in last year’s mat,
red and silver beer cans.
In bits blown equally everywhere,
the gaiety of flying paper
and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.

From This Art: Poems on Poetry edited by Michael Wiegers. Copyright © 2003 by Ruth Stone.


Terry Ehret, Co-Editor
Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2023

March 2023

Dear Literary Folk,

snow on Sonoma MountainWe’ve surely had some wild weather in February with freezing weather, wind, rain, hail, and snow on our higher peaks.

Rebecca LawtonToday, in between storms, I’m headed out to Abbott’s Lagoon in Point Reyes National Seashore for a winter bird walk with writer and naturalist Becca Lawton. My husband and I tagged along in January when Becca led a poetry and birding walk at Ellis Creek in Petaluma. We saw swans, hawks, egrets, many varieties of ducks and songbirds, and Anna’s hummingbirds mating on the fly! And, of course, we saw many blackbirds. With each siting, Becca invited someone in the group to read a passage from Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and we each offered our reflections and interpretations of Stevens’s enigmatic poem. This was such fun that we decided to hire Becca for a private group expedition to Point Reyes. Walking with a naturalist-guide is a very different experience from walking on your own. As I told Becca at Ellis Creek, “You teach us how to see.”

If this kind of outing appeals to you, check out the March events calendar. On March 25, 8:00-10:00 a.m. Becca will be leading a literary bird walk in Jack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen, California. The cost is $10 to benefit the park. Details and tickets:

For more about Becca’s books and field work, visit her website:

Home Turf: A Bestiary of Sonoma State University
On this theme of nature writing, Thursday, March 2, 5:00-7:00 p.m. Sonoma State University’s Art Gallery will host a reading and discussion with local author Lakin Khan and artist/illustrator Shane Weare, as they introduce their newly published book, Home Turf: A Bestiary of Sonoma State University. For details check the calendar page. To RSVP, contact SSU Art Gallery Exhibitions Coordinator, Carla Stone at or (707) 664-2295.

Book Passage Offers Two Presentations to Help Authors Realize Their Publishing Dreams
Book PasssageBook Passage presents John J. Geoghegan on How to Get Your Book Published, a 3-hour class offered live on Zoom. This class is designed to help writers improve their chance of getting their memoir, novel, or nonfiction book considered for publication by a reputable literary agent or publisher. Saturday, March 4, 12:00-3:00 p.m. Details and registration:

Then, right after Geoghegan’s presentation, at 4:00 p.m. Book Passage presents Tzivia Gover in conversation with Brooke Warner, in person at the Corte Madera store. Featured book is Dreaming Big: A Conversation about the Private and Public Sides of Writing. Brooke Warner (She Writes Press) and Tzivia Gover (author of Dreaming on the Page) will explore questions of solitude, audience, and when and if to make our personal narratives public.

Book Passage’s Corte Madera venue is located at 51 Tama Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Details:

Jodi Hottel and Diane Lee Moomey at Rivertown Poets
Diane Mooney and Jodi HottelMonday, March 6, 6:00 p.m. Rivertown Poets features Jodi Hottel and Diane Lee Moomey. The reading starts promptly at 6:15. Open mic follows the features. Reading time for open mic is 3 minutes per poet. (The reading list for March 6 is full.) Zoom in to listen at or via Also, listen to Rivertown Poets on KPCA.FM in Petaluma and live-streaming on the web every Sunday at 4:00 p.m. Each week, a pair of poets or poetry interviews is featured.

Spring Poetry Festival at Café Frida
Cafe Frida GalleryEd Coletti hosts the Spring Poetry Festival on Sunday, March 26, 12:00-2:00 p.m. outdoors at Cafe Frida Gallery, 300 South A Street #4, Santa Rosa. This will be the fifth quarterly festival reading (but who’s counting?) In addition to Ed, featured readers include Pat Nolan, Avotcja, Gail King, Carl Macki, Iris Jahmal Dunkle, Rob DiLillo, Pamela Singer, and Hilary Moore, with Steve Shain accompanying on bass. Details are posted at:

The Sitting Room’s Annual Publication Open for Contributions
In answer to the questions we’ve been getting, YES, The Sitting Room Annual Publication will be happening this year and here is the wide-open topic, appropriate for our new year’s resolutions: haven’t we all some scene, some topic, some learning moment, some dream, some ________ that we have wanted to write about but never somehow got around to? Too tender or too tough or too elusive…. Most of us have, I suspect, and this is your chance to just DO IT (in two pages or less, in any genre, poetry, prose, or drawing even – wouldn’t it be fun to have a graphic novel in the publication? – ) In short, any form any genre so long as writing it fulfills a long deferred idea or inkling or mini-project. Get it off your chest. JUST DO IT!

And then send it to Karen Petersen on or before April 1, 2023 via email,

Contributions should be no more than two pages, 12 point, Times New Roman. Word, Pages or other plain text files are fine. Image files as .jpeg. If you do not use a computer, please send your work to: The Sitting Room, PO Box 838, Penngrove, CA 94951

Poem for March
March is Women’s History Month, and to honor this theme, here is a poem by the amazing poet and performance artist Patricia Smith, who is featured in the most recent issue of Poets & Writers.

by Patricia Smith

Patricia SmithThe storm left a wound seeping,
a boulevard yawning, some
memories fractured, a
kiss exploded, she left
no stone resting, a bone
army floating, rats sated,
she left the horizon sliced
and ornery, she left in a hurry,
in a huff, in all her glory,
she took with her a kingdom
of sax and dream books,
a hundred scattered chants,
some earth burned in her
name, and she took flight,
all pissed and raucous, like
a world-hipped woman
makin’ room.

Copyright © 2008 by Patricia Smith. From Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press, 2008).

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2023

February 2023

Dear Literary Folk,

Remembering Charles Simic
Charles SimicCharles Simic, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and U.S. Poet Laureate 2007-2008, died on January 9 at age 84. He published dozens of books, and is considered one of the most original poets of his generation. Serbian by heritage, Simic didn’t write in English until he was 20. The bleakness of his childhood in wartime Belgrade, back when there was a Yugoslavia, shaped his world view, and led him to observe, “The world is old, it was always old.” It also gave him a kind of “genius at witnessing to horror with wit, humanity, and a cold eye” (Chard de Niord). He emigrated to the U.S. in 1954, was drafted into the army in 1961, became an American citizen in 1971, and began publishing poetry in the mid-1970s.  His poems were usually short and pointed, with surprising shifts in mood and imagery. Simic said “Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is merely the bemused spectator.”

Simic taught literature and creative writing and was also poetry editor of the Paris Review. In 2011, he received the Frost Medal, presented annually for “lifetime achievement in poetry.”

The World Doesn't EndI discovered the poetry of Charles Simic about 20 years ago when I was teaching the long-running prose poem workshop at the Sitting Room. His wonderful collection The World Doesn’t End had won the Pulitzer Prize a decade earlier, and it caught my attention because it was, I think, the first time a collection of prose poems has ever won this prize. The poems relate Simic’s childhood in Belgrade and adolescence in New York and Illinois, but in a surreal lyric narrative that is akin to the darkly whimsical prose poems of Russell Edson.  About the prose poem form, Simic said, “They look like prose and act like poems because, despite the odds, they make themselves into fly-traps for our imagination.” I’ve included a few of Simic’s prose poems from this 1990 collection at the end of this post.

You also might enjoy this interview in the Paris Review, conducted by Chard De Niord shortly before Simic’s death. It’s called “Sometimes a Little Bullshit is Fine: A Conversation with Charles Simic:

The Green Comet?
green cometComets visible to the average stargazer don’t come along too often, which alone makes it worth looking up this week to see the “green comet” C/2022 E3 (ZTF) glide by planet Earth. Hale-Bopp in 1997 was a marvelous sight. So, too, was Neowise, which came around the first summer of Covid. This evening after nightfall, I drove out Chileno Valley Road, hoping to see the green comet in the northern sky. According to astronomers, the last time this comet visited the neighborhood of Earth was 50,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic Era. The Farmers’ Almanac recommended looking in the constellation of the giraffe (I didn’t know there was a celestial giraffe!) between the pointer stars of the Big Dipper and Polaris. I’m pretty good at locating constellations, but comets can be frustrating because they don’t look like anything in particular—just a smudge of light, usually more visible in peripheral vision than straight-on. Unfortunately, I don’t have a telescope, just high-powered binoculars. But neither of these would be helpful for this kind of “side of your eye” observation.  And, alas, the waxing gibbous moon created a little too much light-interference.

So, dear literary folk, if any of you have spotted the green comet, please let me know, along with any comet-spotting tips you might have. You can e-mail me at


Our February calendar of events is brimming with readings, open mics, and workshops. Please have a look at all of these. I’ve selected just a few to highlight.

Patricia EngelsPatricia Engel at Book Passage
On Sunday, February 5, 1:00 p.m. Book Passage presents Patricia Engel, author of Infinite Country, which  was a New York Times bestseller. Her new book is The Faraway World, an exquisite collection of ten haunting, award-winning short stories set across the Americas and linked by themes of migration, sacrifice, and moral compromise. Location: Corte Madera Store, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd.

Writing Between the Vines in Healdsburg
Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Writing Between the Vines at the Sonoma County Wine Library in Healdsburg  on Tuesday, February 7, 6:00-7:30 p.m.. The reception will feature Adam McHugh (2019 Moshin) reading from his new book Blood From a Stone: A Memoir of How Wine Brought Me Back from the Dead. We will also have select readings from two of our 2023 retreat recipients—Eva Recinos and Nedjelko Spaich. Healdsburg Wine Library, 139 Piper Street, Healdsburg. Details:

River Books & Letters
Books & Letters mugThis lovely bookstore in Guerneville is hosting several events this month. One is an open mic reading on Saturday, February 4 at 7 PM. The second is on Friday, February 17, 7:00 p.m. when Bart Schneider and Dan Coshnear will read from their new collections: The Daily Feast, with paintings by Chester Arnold, and Separation Anxiety.  And the third is on Thursday, February 23 at 7:00 p.m. when the featured readers will be Sonoma County Poet Laureate Elizabeth Herron, Jonah Raskin, Gail King, and Pat Nolan River Books & Letters is located at 14045 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville (next to the Coffee Bazaar).

Redwood Writers Host a Book Launch to Celebrate Publications by Members
On Saturday, February 18, 1:00-5:00 p.m. Redwood Writers Club hosts its 2023 Author Launch, celebrating club members who published books between January 1, 2022 and February 1, 2023. This event will be a FREE in person event, open to the public as well as members, and will be held at the Cypress Room, Finley Center, Santa Rosa.

Deadline Extended for the Women Artists Datebook!
For the past two months, I’ve been plugging the Syracuse Cultural Workers because it is rare to find a group so committed to the creative folk who move our collective vision forward, and so inclusive in their promotion of artists. Good news for the procrastinators among us! The deadline for submissions of poetry and art for their Women Artists Datebook 2024 has been extended to February 17. You can submit your art or poems at Guidelines are at:

Wordrunner eChapbooks’ Annual Themed Anthology
Sonoma County-based Wordrunner seeks submissions of fiction, nonfiction and poetry to its next anthology. The deadline is February 28. Online publication will be mid-April. 2023. The theme: Salvage or Salvaged (interpreted broadly, whatever can be rescued or saved from anything at all, be it relationships or ships at sea). More details and submittal link:


Poems for February
Here are several short poems from Simic’s collection The World Doesn’t End ©1989 Harcourt, Brace & Company. To read more of his poetry, check out the Poetry Foundations selection of his work at this link:

My mother was a braid of black smoke.
She bore me swaddled over the burning cities.
The sky was a vast and windy place for a child to play.
We met many others who were just like us. They were trying to put on their overcoats with arms made of smoke.
The high heavens were full of little shrunken deaf ears instead of stars.

*   *   *

            She’s pressing me gently with a hot steam iron, or she slips her hand inside me as if I were a sock that needed mending. The thread she uses is like the trickle of my blood, but the needle’s sharpness is all her own.

            “You will ruin your eyes, Henrietta, in such bad light,” her mother warns. And she’s right! Never since the beginning of the world has there been so little light. Our winter afternoons have been known at times to last a hundred years.

*   *   *

            It was the epoch of the masters of levitation. Some evenings we saw solitary men and women floating above the dark tree tops. Could they have been sleeping or thinking? They made no attempt to navigate. The wind nudged them ever so slightly. We were afraid to speak, to breathe. Even the night birds were quiet. Later, we’d mention the little book clasped in the hands of the young woman, and the way that old man lost his hat to the cypresses.

            In the morning there were not even clouds in the sky. We saw a few crows preen themselves at the edge of the road; the shirts raise their empty sleeves on the blind woman’s clothesline.

*   *   *

            Ghost stories written as algebraic equations. Little Emily at the blackboard is very frightened. The X’s look like a graveyard at night. The teacher wants her to poke  among them with a piece of chalk. All the children hold their breath. The white chalk squeaks once among the plus and minus signs, and then it’s quiet again.

*   *   *

            In the fourth year of the war, Hermes showed up. He was not much to look at. His mailman’s coat was in tatters; mice ran in and out of its pockets. The broad-brimmed hat he was wearing had bullet holes. He still carried the famous stick that closes the eyes of the dying, but it looked gnawed. Did he let the dying bite on it? Whatever the case, he had no letters for us. “God of thieves!” we shouted behind his back when he could no longer hear us.

*   *   *

            The stone is a mirror that works poorly. Nothing in it but dimness. Your dimness or its dimness, who’s to say? In the hush your heart sounds like a black cricket.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2023

January 2023

Dear Literary Folk,

Contrary to all the long-range weather forecasts for this winter, we’ve been blessed with several good drenchings and this current atmospheric river, filling creeks and rivers over their banks. Behind my house, Thompson Creek is singing and rising and rushing headlong toward the Petaluma River. Flooding from the rain has closed access to our cabin in the Sierra, and now snow is falling there, too. We’re staying safe at home this New Year’s Eve with a fire in the fireplace, supper and a movie with a friend.

I wish you all, my dear literary community, a safe New Year’s Day, however you celebrate it, and a creative year ahead.

Poems and Music for Social Justice/Earth Justice
whale engravingI saw many of you at the extraordinary evening of poetry and music on December 16 at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, called “In View of the Whale: Songs and Poems of Social Justice.” Special thanks to choir director John Maas for organizing this event, and for bringing us together alongside Joe Sances’ monumental 51 ft. long whale, embodying myriad historical images relating to social justice and environmental degradation. Sances’s Or the Whale will be on display at SCA until February 2. Don’t miss it!

Here’s a link to a Youtube video of the talk Sances gave about this art piece at SCA:

Two Central Valley Poets Read at Rivertown on Monday, January 9
Indigo MoorWilliam O'DalyRivertown Poets will gather virtually to celebrate the poetry of William O’Daly and Indigo Moor. You won’t want to miss this reading with two fine California poets, both with recent books. The reading starts promptly at 6:15. Open mic follows the features. The first twenty poets to sign up will read for up to three minutes apiece. Please sign up quickly; the list can fill in a few days. Email Sande Anfang at Zoom in to listen at

Peter Omer at Book Passage on Sunday, January 22
Book Passage presents Peter Orner in conversation with Tom Barbash at 4 pm. Featured book: Still No Word from You, a new collection of pieces on literature and life by the author of Am I Alone Here? Covering such well-known writers as Lorraine Hansberry, Primo Levi, and Marilynne Robinson, Orner’s highly personal take on literature alternates with his own true stories of loss and love, hope and despair. In person at the Corte Madera Store, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd. Details:

Poet Laureate Elizabeth Herron at OCA, Sunday, January 29
Occidental Center for the Arts Literary Series is thrilled to open the New Year with current Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Herron, as she continues her Being Brave Poetry Project with a reading of recent poems about courage and poems from In the Cities of Sleep, her newest collection (Fernwood 2023) centered on life in a warming world. The program starts at 2 PM. Free admission, Q&A, book sales and signing. OCA: 3850 Doris Murphy Way, Occidental. OCA’s facilities are accessible to people with disabilities. For more info: or 707-874-9392.

Calls for Submission
Sixteen Rivers Press Announces Call for ManuscriptsFrom November 1 2022 to February 1, 2023, Sixteen Rivers Press is open to submissions for full-length poetry manuscripts. The press is on a three-year production cycle. A manuscript accepted in this cycle would be published in April 2025. You can read the submission guidelines on the website at:

We hope you’ll consider sending us your work!

Call for Submissions for SCW’s Women Artists DatebookOne of my favorite publishers is the Syracuse Cultural Workers in New York state. I’ve promoted their work here before because it is rare to find a group so committed to the creative folk who move our collective vision forward, and so inclusive in their promotion of artists.

The deadline for submissions to their Women Artists Datebook is January 15, 2023. You can submit these at Guidelines are at:

Wordrunner eChapbooks’ annual themed anthology
Sonoma County-based Wordrunner seeks submissions to its next anthology, from January 1 to February 28, 2023. Online publication will be mid-April. 2023. The theme: Salvage or Salvaged (interpreted broadly, whatever can be rescued or saved from anything at all, be it relationships or ships at sea). More details and submittal link:

Poem for January
In the years before Covid, my husband and I hosted a New Year’s Poetry Brunch for over 20 years. Before we began reading our poems for the new year, I would ask everyone to write down on a slip of paper something they would like to let go of or to realize in the year ahead. These were burned in a smokeless blue flame. Thus we all inhaled each other’s invocations and carried them out into our lives. The ashes went into our garden at the spring planting. I miss this ritual, and so give you instead a poem about a similar New Year’s tradition.

Burning the Old Year
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995.

Here is a short list of New Year’s poems to call on after the clock strikes midnight on December 31:

Classic Poems for the New Year

A Song for New Year’s Eve” by William Cullen Bryant
Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay…

 “The Old Year” by John Clare
The Old Year’s gone away…

 “Song for the New Year” by Eliza Cook
Old Time has turned another page…

In Tenebris” by Ford Madox Ford
All within is warm…

At the Entering of the New Year” by Thomas Hardy
Our songs went up and out the chimney…

 “The Passing of the Year” by Robert W. Service
My glass is filled, my pipe is lit…

In Memoriam [Ring out, wild bells]” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky…

The Year” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
What can be said in New Year rhymes…

Contemporary Poems for the New Year

 “A New Law” by Greg Delanty
Let there be a ban on every holiday…

 “For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet” by Joy Harjo
Put down that bag of potato chips…

I Want to Save This Whale” by Lisa Olstein
The one right in front of me…

Resolution” by Lia Purpura
There’s the thing I shouldn’t do…

 “Te Deum” by Charles Reznikoff
Not because of victories…

A House Called Tomorrow” by Alberto Ríos
You are not fifteen, or twelve, or seventeen…

Elegy in Joy” by Muriel Rukeyser
We tell beginnings…

Duet” by Lisa Russ Spaar
Two sisters side by side…

See more at:

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2022

December 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limόn at Santa Rosa Junior College
Thanks to Steve Trenam, many of us in Sonoma County had the chance to hear our 24the Poet Laureate of the United States reading her work at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Burbank Auditorium the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The reading and conversation were simulcast to the Petaluma Campus and made available via zoom.

Ada Limon at Santa Rosa JC Burbank Auditorium

Originally from Sonoma, Limόn now lives in Lexington, Kentucky, but makes regular trips to her home town. She was selected as the new U.S. Poet Laureate in July. The August post of the Literary Update offered an introduction to Limόn’s work, for those not familiar, including her poem “A New National Anthem,” which was one of the selection she read to the crowd at SRJC. You can catch Limόn’s poetry podcast, “The Slowdown”:

A fine review of the event, written by Mya Constantino, appeared in the Press Democrat last week:

And for those who missed the reading, you can watch it online at this address:

Remembering Michael Rothenberg
feature and photo by Susan Lamont

Michael Rothenberg and TerriOne of the most alive people I know — Michael Rothenberg — died on November 21st at age 71 in Tallahassee, Florida of 4th stage lung cancer. His death was a loss to the world, because he had taken his poetry and his activism around the world.

Michael had undergone radiation and chemo, but it wasn’t enough. When he was diagnosed, he said he only wanted a few people to know because he wouldn’t be able to handle responding to everyone. He had SO many friends the world over. So he swore me and some others to secrecy. Therefore, of course, this comes as a surprise to many.

Some of you knew him through his poetry and some of you knew him through his activism after the killing of Andy Lopez. I first met him after I’d heard of his and Terri Carrion’s idea to create 100 Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC) – from a Facebook post by Penelope LaMontagne (another poet we have lost). Then, a young woman came into the Peace & Justice Center and asked me if I knew anything about the project. While we were talking, Michael called. He was thrilled by the synchronicity and that I’d heard of the project and we immediately became great friends.

I organized many 100TPC readings in Sonoma County for quite a few years – usually at Gaia’s Garden – while Michael and Terri promoted global readings which numbered 700 one year. And then Andy Lopez was killed and Michael and Terri threw themselves into the fight for justice as energetically as they supported poetry. When Michael and Terri do something, they do it 100%. We organized several 100TPC events around the life of Andy and a poem Michael wrote about Andy and a superficial and hypocritical Sonoma County has been translated and published in other languages.

Michael was not a newbie to activism, as he had been an environmental activist for many years in San Mateo County. He was also the founder of a nonprofit which helped poets in financial need. And, of course, 100 TPC was an activist enterprise.

He had hoped that the cancer wouldn’t return because the treatment had screwed up so many systems in his body and he knew he’d be unable to tolerate further treatment. And then he fell down some stairs and sustained a concussion. The last time we talked, he called me up to ask if he could cry because he was having such trouble with the rest of his body – and that was before the cancer returned. Of course, I said “yes.”

He was in the middle of several projects. Books in the works. Also a CD/recording of poems and music. (After all, he once lived in Nashville and tried to write music there!) Every day, he drew and painted. He was always so busy, always creating. He created an online poetry magazine, edited many books of poetry, worked with a wide variety of musicians; they sought him out. It’s impossible to imagine that energy stilled.

Terri has been left with many loose ends to tie up — all the works in progress, continuing the work on his brother’s estate — and she recently lost her mother, who had lived with them. She is deeply involved with a non-profit for Lake Jackson to which their house backs up.

Over the last few years, Michael had lost so many people who were fundamental to his life – one death after another, one grief after another – his son, his brother, his dearest poet friends. Joanne Kyger and Michael McClure come most immediately to mind. Now he has followed them.

You can find out more about him at

RIP Michael

Novelist Jane Smiley at Book Passage in Corte Madera
Jane SmileyOn Saturday, December 10 at 1:00 p.m., Book Passage will host Jane Smiley reading from her new novel, A Dangerous Business. From the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning and best-selling author of A Thousand Acres: a rollicking murder mystery set in Gold Rush California, as two young prostitutes follow a trail of missing girls. In person at the Corte Madera Store, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd. Details:

Two Great Local Writers Pair Up at Bird and Beckett
Come hear Dan Coshnear and Bart Schneider on Tuesday, December 13, at 7:00 p.m. Dan will read from his story collection Separation Anxiety, and Bart will read his poems on food from The Daily Feast. The event will be held at Bird & Beckett bookstore, 653 Chenery Street, San Francisco.

In View of the Whale: Songs and Poems of Social Justice<
In View of the WhaleJoin Sebastopol Center for the Arts on Friday, December 16, for an evening of prominent local poets’ readings interspersed with music sung by SebArts’ new choirs led by John Maas, aligned with Joe Sances’ monumental 51 ft. long whale, embodying myriad historical images relating to social justice and environmental degradation.

Poets will include SoCo’s current Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Herron, previous SoCo Poet Laureate, Terry Ehret, and more!

For details and to reserve a seat (the event is free), use this link:

Doors open: 6:30 pm, Show: 7:00-8:30 pm
Location: Sebastopol Center for the Arts 282 South High Street Sebastopol, CA, 95472

Another Chance to Hear the Poems of “Freedom”
On Sunday, December 18 4:00-5:30 pm. Occidental Center for the Arts Literary Series is thrilled to host a selection of poets from this year’s anthology, The Freedom of New Beginnings, Poems of Witness and Vision from Sonoma County, edited by Phyllis Meshulam with Gail King, Gwynn O’Gara, and Terry Ehret. Most of the 30 poets included in the anthology call or have called Sonoma County, California home. Readers on December 18th will include Pamela Stone Singer, Lilah Tuggle, Raphael Block, Phyllis Meshulam, Terry Ehret, Gwynn O’Gara, Gail King, Kat Winter, John Johnson, Iris Dunkle, Bill Greenwood, and Donna Emerson, many of whom have honored OCA’s stage with their poetry in previous years. Free admission, all donations gratefully invited. Selected readings by above poets, a Q&A, followed by book sales & signing. Refreshments, wine/beer/coffee/tea for sale. OCA: 3850 Doris Murphy Way, Occidental, CA. OCA’s facilities are accessible to people with disabilities. For more info: or 707-874-9392.

Translated from The Original: One-inch Punch Fiction
Guy Beiderman’s new book is being released this week by Nomadic Press. Guy is a Sonoma county ex-pat, who still teaches in Sonoma County. In fact, Guy will be teaching a flash fiction workshop at Occidental Center for The Arts in the spring. This month, Guy will be making two appearances to launch Translated from the Original.

The first is on Saturday, December 3, 6-8 pm as part of the Nomadic Press book launch. Here’s the link for that:

The second event is on Monday, December 5, 6:15 pm as one of the features at Rivertown Poets, along with Robert Rubino, hosted by Sande Anfang. This will be a hybrid reading, so you can attend in person at Aqus Café or zoom in from home. The Zoom open mic list has been filled, though there may be room for one or two more live readers. Email Sande Anfang at Zoom in to listen at

Sixteen Rivers Press Announces Call for Manuscripts
From November 1 2022 to February 1, 2023, Sixteen Rivers Press is open to submissions for full-length poetry manuscripts. The press is on a three-year production cycle. A manuscript accepted in this cycle would be published in April 2025. You can read the submission guidelines on the website at:

We hope you’ll consider sending us your work!

Call for Submissions for SCW’s Women Artists Datebook
Women Artists DatebookOne of my favorite publishers is the Syracuse Cultural Workers in New York state. I’ve promoted their work here before because it is rare to find a group so committed to the creative folk who move our collective vision forward, and so inclusive in their promotion of artists.

This year’s 2023 Women Artists Datebook is available on their website at Select calendars, then datebook. You could order a copy for yourself, or to give as gifts. Or browse the website for other items that might suit your taste and needs. If you like what you see, consider submitting your art or poetry for the 2024 datebook. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2023, but early submissions are welcome. You can submit these at They are also accepting submissions of artwork for their 2024 Peace Calendar. Guidelines are at:

Poem for December
For those who celebrate the season of Yule and the Winter Solstice, here’s a quote from poet Wendell Berry that reminds us of what the darkness can teach us.

Wendell Berry quote

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | October 31, 2022

November 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

As I write this, late on October 30, there’s an autumn chill in the night air; the waxing crescent moon is setting in the west; and the owls are calling to each other across Sunnyslope hollow where I live here in Petaluma. November 1st in the Celtic tradition is Samhain, a festival marking the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or darker half of the year. The veil between the worlds is thin at this and the other cross-season days, so a good time to remember those who have left us. In the Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican traditions, November first and second are All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, also special occasions for honoring the dead. In many Latin American countries, and especially in Mexico, the two days are part of the Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Many of us have our own altars or places of remembrance, and we all have those whom we are especially missing this year.

John JohnsonSonoma County has a rich tradition of celebrating El Día de los Muertos, including an annual candlelight procession in downtown Petaluma, which this year was held on Saturday, October 29. In years past, we’ve also held a county-wide Poesía del Recuerdo/Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading. Because of Covid, the in-person reading has been on hold, though we hope very much to bring it back in 2024. Two years ago, poet John Johnson (photographed by Sande Anfang at the Petaluma procession) created a virtual Poesía del Recuerdo website, which you are invited to visit: There you will find poems, photos, videos, and some history of the Calaveras Literarias poetic tradition, as well as a personal narrative of how Petaluma’s poetry celebration came to be. Click on “videos” to see our Sonoma County poet laureate, Elizabeth Herron, introduce Poetry of Remembrance/Poesía del Recuerdo 2022 with “Samhain” and other poems. Our past poet laureate, Phyllis Meshulam, recorded her poems of remembrance in 2021, and you can listen to these as well. If you are inspired to leave a comment or add your own poem of remembrance, click on “contact.”

And in coordination with the celebrations in Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, and Petaluma, the Petaluma Arts Center invites you to view the final days of an exhibit called “Honoring Life: Love and Remembrance,” curated by Irma Vega Bijou. The exhibit uses the artmaking process to address how different cultures or community groups remember those who have passed away. This diverse set of voices, reflected in the participating groups, as well as PAC Artist Members, will honor loved ones with a celebration of life. The thread uniting these groups focuses on using artistic ritual as a healing process. The exhibit closes on Saturday, November 5. The Petaluma Art Center is open Friday and Saturday, noon to 4:00PM, and is located at 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma.

Remembering m. a. rasmussen
M.A. RasmussenIn September, the Sonoma County literary community lost a dear member: poet, musician, traveler, and photographer, Mary Ann Rasmussen, known to her friends and family as m.a. (always lower case). More often than not, m.a. was on the other side of the camera, but in this photo, you can see her inimitable smile, which she was quick and easy to share with all. In her obituary, published Sunday in the Press Democrat, her family described her as “a dynamic and creative soul . . . admired for her intelligence, boundless curiosity, and love of learning. And she could be counted on for her irreverent sense of humor.” In past years, she was a regular at poetry events throughout the county, especially the annual New Year’s Poetry Brunch my husband and I hosted at our home. She will be deeply missed. Scroll down to the end of this post to read one of her poems.

November Events:

What an amazing month ahead for readings and literary events! So many now are in-person; others still offer the zoom option, which we’ve come to appreciate. Here are just a few I’m spotlighting, but many more a listed in the November calendar.

Also, please take a moment to see the list of Sonoma County authors with new books to celebrate. You’ll find this on the Sonoma County in Print page.

If you have a new books we haven’t announced yet, or individual poems, stories, essays, and reviews, please send the details along to us at

Writing for Recovery with Susan Bono
Thursdays, November 3 and 17
, 6:00-7:30 p.m. Susan Bono shares writing tips at Writing for Recovery. Free on Zoom. Writing For Recovery
: For more information contact Norma Jaeger:

Dana Levin, Dean Rader, and Iris Dunkle
Thursday, November 3
, 6:00 p.m. A Poetry Reading with Dana Levin, Dean Rader, and Iris Jamahl Dunkle, at Reader’s Books, 130 East Napa St., Sonoma. Details:

The Art of Translation
On Sunday, November 6, Dominican University and Sixteen Rivers Press will host a reading and discussion with poets and translators Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Matthew Zapruder, Marjorie Agosín, Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman, Nancy J. Morales, and Terry Ehret. The event is free, but to make sure seating and refreshments accommodate our audience, please use this link to register with EventBrite:

Uncommon Ground—The Imaginists
On Saturday, November 12, 3-5 PM, The Imaginists will present an afternoon of readings, visual art, and live music created by leading Bay Area creatives. Featured writers include Avotcja, Lorraine Bonner, Charles Dixon, C.K. Itamura, Shizue Seigel, and Kimi Sugioka. Special guests include Sonoma County poet Ernesto Garay, Nicole Zimmerman, and Sachiko Kanebobu. The event will be held at 461 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa. Admission is free.

Isabelle Allende and Michael Krasny
Sunday, November 20,
5:00 p.m. Sebastopol Community Cultural Center presents Isabel Allende in conversation with Michael Krasny. SCCC, Main Hall, 390 Morris St, Sebastopol. Details/tickets:

Conversation with Ada Limón
The Santa Rosa JC’s Fall 2022 Arts & Lectures series will culminate with a conversation with Ada Limón, the 24th, and current U.S. Poet Laureate, on Tuesday, November 22 at 12 pm. On stage in the Studio Theatre in the Santa Rosa campus’s newly renovated Luther Burbank Auditorium, the discussion will be simulcast to the Petaluma campus and available as a webinar to those unable to attend in person. A native of Sonoma, Limón has authored six books of poetry, teaches at Queens University of Charlotte, and hosts The Slowdown, a critically acclaimed podcast devoted to poetry. Her book The Carrying won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 2018, just three years after her book Bright Dead Things was a finalist for the same prize. On July 12, the Library of Congress announced her appointment as the nation’s 2022-2023 Poet Laureate. In the announcement, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said, “Ada Limón is a poet who connects. Her accessible, engaging poems ground us in where we are and who we share our world with. They speak of intimate truths, of the beauty and heartbreak that is living, in ways that help us move forward.” Visit
Arts and Lectures website for more information, and for links to both upcoming webinars and previously recorded events in the archives.

Jamie Hendrix and John McDermott Pay Tribute to Jimi Hendrix
Tuesday, November 22
, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books welcomes Janie Hendrix and John McDermott for a virtual conversation about her beautiful new book – Jimi. JIMI is the ultimate tribute to the greatest guitar player in rock and roll history, celebrating what would have been Jimi Hendrix’s 80th birthday on November 27, 2022. The discussion will be followed by a Q&A. This is a free event. Details

Chester Arnold and Bart Schneider—The Daily Feast
Wednesday, November 30, 6:00 p.m. Sonoma Valley Museum of Art in Sonoma. Painter Chester Arnold and poet Bart Schneider read from their recently published book, The Daily Feast.

The Daily Feast is the fruit of a joyous collaboration between two old friends, painter Chester Arnold and poet Bart Schneider. In the midst of the pandemic, unable to eat at their usual lunch spot in Sonoma, they decided to make a book entirely based on food and drink. Arnold brings his wit and old master fidelity to droll paintings of TV dinners, oysters on the half shell, and pineapple upside cake. Schneider’s odes to garlic, gefilte fish, and Green Goddess Dressing are both personal and imaginative. The series of conversations across disciplines becomes a double memoir of eating.

California Poets in the Schools Seeks New Poet-Teachers
So many of the poets you read and admire have taught as poet-teachers with California Poets in the Schools (CalPoets): Sonoma County Poets Laureate Phyllis Meshulam, Mike Tuggle, Iris Dunkle, Gwynn O’Gara, Maya Khosla; local luminaries like Jane Hirshfield, Sande Anfang, Penelope La Montagne, Arthur Dawson, Maureen Hurley, Meg Hammill, Jackie Huss Hallerberg, and many more.

If you think you might like the opportunity to inspire young poets, CalPoets seeks independent contractors to work in Sonoma County. CalPoets’ Poet-Teachers are professional writers who choose to share their skills and knowledge with their communities as Poet-Teachers. They should have demonstrated experience in the literary arts and be passionate about teaching school-aged youth in public school settings. New CalPoets’ Poet-Teachers are paired with experienced mentors to prepare for classroom placement. This is a great opportunity for poets at all stages of their careers. Find out more about CalPoets on the Sonoma County News page of the Literary Update.


Poem for November

[selection of segments from “Traces”]
by m.a. rasmussen

rocks stop still

waters cease

weather is no more

no city rings

as bells are peeled

of all their sound

and clouds compound

white hen clouds

plow the sky

furrows of blue

displace grey

on each side

time moves in

concentric circles

natural rhythms



there are no wants in trees

and hardly any buts or hurts

heart wood and clear heart

nary a saw of sighs


does wood cry as

nails pierce her flesh

can she recall

her treeness when all

the world was green


autumn browns give way

after rain to soft white fungus

winter’s velvet pillow


slanted trees

yellow leaves

asphalt path frames all


does the blind cat see

the wren hop along the fence

in is mind’s ear


is the disparity among

sacred, scared and scarred

more than an orthographic act


the sanderlings return

surge in and out

flow like feathered water

a mechanical wave of black & white


when the fruit is ripe

I will pluck it from the tree

make you tasty jam


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2022

October 2022

Dear literary folk,

A Grand Return of the Petaluma Poetry Walk
Congratulations to Bill Vartnaw and his team for a great return of the Petaluma Poetry Walk. Even with all the rain!

The 25th annual Petaluma Poetry Walk
Contributed by Bill Vartnaw

Bill Vartnaw at Petaluma Poetry Walk 2022The 25th annual Petaluma Poetry Walk (minus two years off for pandemic concerns) reconvened again this year at its usual time, on the third Sunday in September. As director I have nothing but gratitude to everyone who played a part: poets, venues, audience, emcees, the weather and bassist Steve Shain. This is a community event, and it took a community to pull it off. I would like to thank especially Karen Petersen, Carl Macki, Sande Anfang and Kyla Schwaberow, who handled getting the word out through the internet and through our Richard-Benbrook-logo schedules, mostly at the last minute due to the fact that I waited until June to even schedule the Walk and then I got Covid.

This day was all about Geri Digiorno, the founder & first director of the Petaluma Poetry Walk. Geri left the terrestrial world in December 2019. We celebrated Geri through poetry, mostly by reading our favorite poems that she wrote and left us, but some poets wrote to or about Geri. It was an intimate gathering at the Phoenix Theater, one of Geri’s favorite Petaluma places. Michelle Baynes, Geri’s daughter, emceed & shared Geri’s books, hats and scarves with all those who came to remember her mother. Also, as a part of this remembrance three poets who read at the first Walk in 1996, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar and Joyce Jenkins, read their work at this 25th edition of the Walk as well. Each participated at the Phoenix too.

As has been the case, the Walk consisted of eight readings in eight different venues for nine hours. For the 10th year Sixteen Rivers Press started off the Walk. We had two new venues this year, Artaluma and Life on Earth Art, both were very helpful when adapting to the Walk’s changes. Actually, we had three new venues; The Big Easy offered their nightclub at the last minute when the unexpected forecast of rain made the Helen Putnam Plaza a dangerous prospect. Avotcja premiered With Every Step I Take 2 at Copperfields, the only venue that has spanned the complete 25-year orbit. For the eighth year in a row, we’ve ended the Walk with the Petaluma Museum and then the Aqus Café. At Aqus, we had another premiere, an anthology, The Freedom of New Beginnings, Poems of Witness and Vision from Sonoma County, California, edited by Sonoma County poet laureate emerita, Phyllis Meshulam with Gail King, Gwynn O’Gara and Terry Ehret.

Autumn in Golden
I’m composing this post as a one-fingered typist on my IPad from Golden, Colorado. The weather here has been warm and summery one moment, stormy and cold the next. All this Rocky Mountain drama has turned the aspens tawny and gold. No matter how many photos I take, none captures the quality of light filtering through the quaking leaves, nor the ecstasy of standing in an aspen grove when the wind whips through and showers you with gold.

If you hunger for autumn color, I recommend visiting the Carson Pass area on Hwy 88. Traditionally October 12 is the peak of color, but it varies from year to year.

Upcoming Readings for The Freedom of New Beginnings
In August, former Poet Laureate Phyllis Meshulam launched her Sonoma County anthology, called The Freedom of New Beginnings, with a reading by contributing poets at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. A second reading provided the closing act of the Petaluma Poetry Walk at Aqus Cafe.

This month there will be a third anthology reading on Saturday, October 22, at 7 pm, at Russian River Books and Letters in Guerneville. Location: 14045 Armstrong Woods Road.

And in December, Occidental Center of the Arts will host a fourth reading. Stay tuned for details in the next Literary Update post.

Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival Returns Saturday, October 15, 2022
watershed logoEnjoy the Strawberry Creek Walk at 10 AM, followed by an afternoon of Poetry, nature writers and speakers, music. Since 1998, this unique gathering of poets, nature writers and environmental activists has challenged people to pay attention to Strawberry Creek, which is tunneled beneath most of Berkeley. The Watershed project is the inspiration of former U. S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, who along with Poetry Flash magazine started this annual celebration. Location: Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park, Berkeley. Check the October Literary Update for details, or visit:

Sonoma County Writers Conference
on Saturday, October 8, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Redwood Writers Club will host the Sonoma County Writers Conference at Finley Community Center, Santa Rosa. Early bird registration till September 30: $95, members; $125, nonmembers. Regular registration: $110, members; $150, nonmembers. Details and registration:

Off the Page Readers Theater Showcases Local Authors
On Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15, 7:00 p.m.; Sunday, October 16, 3:00 p.m. Off the Page Readers Theater presents “Choices,” a collection of local literary gems. Stories, plays and poems by authors: Robin Beeman, Susan Bono, Sher Christian, Armando Garcia Davila, Gene Hottel, Chuck Kensler, Rita Losch, Linda Loveland Reid, Roger C. Lubeck, Hilary Susan Moore. Actors/directors: Kathleeen Haynie, RW Hessler, Beth Moise, Hilary Moore, Jeff Savage. Music: Patrick Michael McCarty. Tickets at the door: $15. Masks required.

Remembering the 2017 Fires
Sunday, October 16, 4:00-5:30 pm. Occidental Center for the Arts Literary Series presents Glen Ellen author Elisa Stancil Levine and former Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, at the five-year anniversary of the 2017 Fires. Reading from their recent works, This or Something Better, A Memoir of Resilience by Elisa Stancil Levine, and All the Fires of Wind and Light by Maya Khosla, these authors explore grief, desire, hope and strength in the wake of the firestorm. Free admission and all donations gratefully accepted. Book sales & signing to follow. Wine, beer, refreshments for sale. OCA: 3850 Doris Murphy Way, Occidental, CA. OCA’s facilities are accessible to people with disabilities. For more info: or 707-874-9392.

Sonoma County’s Joan Frank Reads from Two New Books
On Thursday, October 20, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books welcomes Joan Frank to Montgomery Village in celebration of her two upcoming books, Late Work and Juniper Street. The discussion will be followed by a Q&A and a book signing. This is a free event. Masks required for in-store events. Copperfield’s Books-Montgomery Village, 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa.

And if you can’t make it to Montgomery Village, Joan will be reading again on Thursday, October 27, 6:00 Book Passage Corte Madera, 51 Tama Vista Blvd.

Poetry at Cafe Frida
Sunday October 30, noon to 2:00 p.m. Poetry reading outdoors at Cafe Frida Gallery, 300 South A Street #4, Santa Rosa. Readers include Fran Claggett, Ed Coletti (hosting), Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Karl Frederick, Susan Lamont, Marty Lees (LeRenard), Pamela Singer, Viola Weinberg Spencer, Kathleen Winter, Steve Shain accompanying on bass.

El Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead
Day of the DeadOctober is Hispanic Heritage Month with many ways to celebrate, including the local events for El Dia de los Muertos.

On Saturday, October 29, 4:00-8:00 p.m. the town of Windsor will celebrate with Native American Pomo dance, Mexica dance, Folkloric Ballet, craft vendors, cultural product vendors, food vendors, children’s activities, and a candle light procession at 6:50 p.m.

Location: Windsor Town Green, 701 McClelland Drive, Windsor, CA.

Poem for October (and for those enduring this season of hurricanes)

No Longer Ode
Urayoán Noelby Urayoán Noel

para mi abuela en la isla

A hurricane destroyed your sense of home
and all you wanted was to pack your bags
in dead of night, still waving mental flags,
forgetting the nation is a syndrome.
All that’s left of the sea in you is foam,
the coastline’s broken voice and all its crags.
You hear the governor admit some snags
were hit, nada, mere blips in the biome,
nothing that private equity can’t fix
once speculators pour into San Juan
to harvest the bad seed of an idea.
She tells you Santa Clara in ’56
had nothing on the brutal San Ciprián,
and yes, your abuela’s named María.

Thoughts of Katrina and the Superdome,
el Caribe mapped with blood and sandbags,
displaced, diasporic, Spanglish hashtags,
a phantom tab you keep on Google Chrome,
days of hunger and dreams of honeycomb.
Are souls reborn or worn thin like old rags?
The locust tree still stands although it sags,
austere sharks sequence the island’s genome
and parrots squawk survival politics
whose only power grid is the damp dawn.
There is no other way, no panacea.
Throw stuff at empire’s walls and see what sticks
or tear down the walls you were standing on?
Why don’t you run that question by María?

Beyond the indigenous chromosome,
your gut genealogy’s in chains and gags,
paraded through the colonies’ main drags
and left to die. So when you write your tome
please note: each word must be a catacomb,
must be a sepulcher and must be a
cradle in some sort of aporía
where bodies draw on song as guns are drawn,
resilient, silent h in huracán.
Your ache-song booms ashore. Ashé, María.

Copyright © 2018 by Urayoán Noel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2022

September 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

The Freedom of New Beginnnings Takes Flight
The Freedom of New BeginningsOn Friday, August 26, the Sebastopol Center for the Arts hosted a book launch for Phyllis Meshulam’s poet laureate project, The Freedom of New Beginnings: Poems of Witness and Vision for Sonoma County, California. The Red Hen Room at the Center was sparking with energy as poets and guests picked up their contributors’ copies, bought books, enjoyed the lovely summer evening with refreshments and conversation, then took their seats to hear Phyllis eloquently describe her vision for this anthology and to share her poem “Oh, Gulf,” followed by readings by fourteen of the book’s contributors.

If you missed this event, or just haven’t gotten enough of these poems, Aqus Café will be hosting a reading from the anthology as part of the Petaluma Poetry Walk on Sunday, September 18, 6-8 PM.

The readers at Aqus are listed here:
Jon Jackson
Sherrie Lovler
J.D. Langdon
Alexandra Ellen Appel
Maureen Hurley
Ella Wen
Steve Trenam
Rebecca Patrascu
Sandra Anfang
Bill Vartnaw
Jodi Hottel
Donna Emerson
Michael Scheffield
Phyllis Meshulam
Abby Bogolmony

If you’d like to order the book, you can send a check for $26.00 (covers the book, tax, shipping and handling) to Gail King at 20217 Alder Road, Monte Rio, CA 95462. Please make the check payable to Phyllis Meshulam.

The books will be available soon at the following locations:
Sebastopol Center for the Arts gift shop
, 282 High St, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Copperfield’s Books in Sebastopol, 138 N Main St, Sebastopol, CA 95472 ·
Readers’ Books in Sonoma, 130 East Napa St.,Sonoma, CA, 95476
Russian River Books and Letters,
14045 Armstrong Woods Rd, Guerneville, CA 95446
Please support our local independent book stores!

41st Annual Northern California Book Awards on September 11
Erin RodoniNorthern California’s vibrant literary scene will be celebrated on Sunday, September 11, 2022, 2:00 pm, when the 41st annual Northern California Book Awards recognize the best published works of 2021 by Northern California authors and California translators state-wide, presented by the Northern California Book Reviewers, PoetryFlash, and San Francisco Public Library, with our community partners Mechanics’ Institute Library, Women’s National Book Association-San Francisco Chapter, and PEN West. Medicine for Nightmares Bookstore & Gallery will be the in-person bookseller. Book sales and signing will take place in the lobby of Koret following the ceremony. The event is free and open to the public. Location: Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Main Public Library, 100 Larkin Street, Civic Center, San Francisco.

Amanda MooreAmong the nominees are these Northern California authors: Amanda Moore for Requeening and Erin Rodoni for And If the Woods Carry You, both in poetry; Michael Pollan for This Is Your Mind on Plants, and Rebeca Solnit for Orwell’s Roses, both in nonfiction. Isabelle Allende will receive the Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Achievement and Service.

For a list of all the nominees and more details, visit

The Petaluma Poetry Walk Returns!
poetry walkOn Sunday, September 18, the Petaluma Poetry Walk returns after a two year hiatus due to Covid. This will be a very special Walk, honoring many of the poets who have been part of the event since its beginnings, including Poetry Walk founder Geri Digiorno whom we lost since the last time the Walk happened. There will be a celebration of her life and work with readings of Geri’s poems and a few poems about Geri from many of her friends and associates. This tribute to Geri will be at the Phoenix Theater at 4 PM.

Geri DigiornoHere’s a short list of some of the poets reading this year: Elizabeth Herron, Phyllis Meshulam, Dorianne Laux, Joe Millar, Bill Vartnaw, Avotcja, Joyce Jenkins, and many of the contributors to the anthology The Freedom of New Beginnings.

The complete roster of readers is available on the Poetry Walk website:

Sande Anfang Special Guest with Poetic License Sonoma
On Tuesday, September 27, 7:00-8:00 p.m. Poetic License Sonoma presents “Equinox” with special guest poet Sandra Anfang, via Zoom. Presenting poets: Kusum Irene Jain, Joseph Cutler, Susanne Arrhenius, Leo McCloskey, Steve Trenam, Judith Vaughn, Jaime Zukowski. Acting MC: Kusum Jain. Guest Student poet: Douglas Anderson. More details and registration:

The Satisfaction of Longing
Satisfaction of LongingIn addition to maintaining our Sonoma County Literary Update website and sending out the Update via e-mail each month (both Herculean tasks, if not downright Sisyphean!) Co-editor Jo-Anne Rosen is founder and editor of Wordrunner eChapbooks. Their 46th issue and 24th fiction collection is The Satisfaction of Longing by Victoria Melekian.

These emotionally rich and ethically complicated stories are suffused in longing and loss. The collection opens with the chance encounter of a woman and man who had once endured unbearable tragedy. A fatherless woman with an imprisoned husband has a mysterious benefactor. Two sisters conflict over what to do with their father’s ashes. In the final, thrilling story, a woman and her son flee her estranged husband, who never wanted children.

This collection may be read free online. But do consider purchasing an ebook edition (only $2.99) for your library or as a gift. Authors receive 50% of all royalties. It’s also a way to support our press. These are available on
Amazon or on Smashwords.

Mark Your Calendars for the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival, Saturday, October 15, 2022
Enjoy the Strawberry Creek Walk at 10 AM, followed by an afternoon of Poetry, nature writers and speakers, music. Since 1998, this unique gathering of poets, nature writers and environmental activists has challenged people to pay attention to Strawberry Creek, which is tunneled beneath most of Berkeley. The Watershed project is the inspiration of former U. S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, who along with Poetry Flash magazine started this annual celebration. Location: Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park, Berkeley. Check the October Literary Update for details, or visit:

Remembering Poet Dean Young
Dean YoungIn August, we lost a wonderful poet and teacher, the amazing Dean Young.

About Young, the Poetry Foundation says, “Young’s poetry is full of wild leaps of illogic, extravagant imagery, and mercurial shifts in tone. Using surrealist techniques like collage, Young’s poems often blur the boundaries between reality and imagination, creating a poetry that is enormously, almost disruptively, inclusive. . . . [S]peaking to the centrality of misunderstanding in his poetry, [Dean wrote],‘I think to tie meaning too closely to understanding misses the point.’”

Many knew Dean as an extraordinary generous and inspiring teacher. He taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the low-residency MFA program at Warren Wilson College, and the University of Texas-Austin where he held the William Livingston Chair of Poetry.

I knew him as a friend of Sixteen Rivers Press. He served on our advisory board read at our annual benefit in 2015, the year he published his New and Selected Poems, titled Bender. To read more about Dean’s life and work, check this link to the Poetry Foundation:

I’ve selected two poem by Dean Young because I couldn’t decide which of these two best capture’s his unique voice and style. I hope you’ll love these as much as I do.

Delphiniums in a Window Box

Every sunrise, even strangers’ eyes.
Not necessarily swans, even crows,
even the evening fusillade of bats.
That place where the creek goes underground,
how many weeks before I see you again?
Stacks of books, every page, characters’
rages and poets’ strange contraptions
of syntax and song, every song
even when there isn’t one.
Every thistle, splinter, butterfly
over the drainage ditches. Every stray.
Did you see the meteor shower?
Did it feel like something swallowed?
Every question, conversation
even with almost nothing, cricket, cloud,
because of you I’m talking to crickets, clouds,
confiding in a cat. Everyone says,
Come to your senses, and I do, of you.
Every touch electric, every taste you,
every smell, even burning sugar, every
cry and laugh. Toothpicked samples
at the farmers’ market, every melon,
plum, I come undone, undone.

Published in the print edition of the May 18, 2009, issue of The New Yorker.
Copyright © 2011 Dean Young, Copper Canyon Press.

No Forgiveness Ode

The husband wants to be taken back
into the family after behaving terribly,
but nothing can be taken back,
not the leaves by the trees, the rain
by the clouds. You want to take back
the ugly thing you said, but some shrapnel
remains in the wound, some mud.
Night after night Tybalt’s stabbed
so the lovers are ground in mechanical
aftermath. Think of the gunk that never
comes off the roasting pan, the goofs
of a diamond cutter. But wasn’t it
electricity’s blunder into inert clay
that started this whole mess, the I-
echo in the head, a marriage begun
with a fender bender, a sneeze,
a mutation, a raid, an irrevocable
fuckup. So in the meantime: epoxy,
the dog barking at who knows what,
signals mixed up like a dumped-out tray
of printer’s type. Some piece of you
stays in me and I’ll never give it back.
The heart hoards its thorns
just as the rose profligates.
Just because you’ve had enough
doesn’t mean you wanted too much.

Published in the 2013 edition of The Best of the Best American Poetry.
from Bender: New and Selected Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2015

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

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