Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2021

April 2021

April 1, 2021

Dear Literary Folk,

field of lupineAs I write this, I’m heading to the big south, Big Sur, to catch sight of condors and walk the steep hillsides of lupine and poppies. Seven years ago, I led a Sitting Room year-long workshop on the poetry and lyrical drama of Robinson Jeffers, who built his iconic Tor House along the shoreline of what is now 17 Mile Drive, and who lived deeply in the landscape of Big Sur. For a field trip, we spent a weekend in the Monterey area, took a private tour of Tor House, wrote together in Jeffers’s library, visited Point Lobos and the Big Sur Coast. The images of his poems followed us everywhere, though perhaps it’s more accurate to say we followed his images where they led us. In one particularly memorable poem, “Vulture,” the speaker addresses a vulture/condor circling over him, and imagines after his death that these winged scavengers will free his spirit from flesh and bones, and that he will fly with the condors.

Vulture
by Robinson Jeffers
 
vultureI had walked since dawn and lay down to rest on a bare hillside
Above the ocean. I saw through half-shut eyelids a vulture wheeling high up in heaven,
And presently it passed again, but lower and nearer, its orbit narrowing, I understood then
That I was under inspection. I lay death-still and heard the flight-feathers
Whistle above me and make their circle and come nearer. I could see the naked red head between the great wings
Beak downward staring. I said, “My dear bird, we are wasting time here.
These old bones will still work; they are not for you.” But how beautiful he looked,
   gliding down
On those great sails; how beautiful he looked, veering away in the sea-light over the precipice. I tell you solemnly
That I was sorry to have disappointed him. To be eaten by that beak and become part of
   him, to share those wings and those eyes—
What a sublime end of one’s body, what an enskyment; what a life after death.
 
Jeffers’s poetry often has a brutal realism, which he celebrates alongside the beauty of the natural world. His poetry expresses a philosophy that displaces the human from the center of creation and shifts our relationship to the natural world away from the Biblical dominion over all other creatures. He called his philosophy “Inhumanism,” and much of his work was designed to alert readers to the mental and spiritual danger of human self-centeredness, to awaken them to an order of beauty and truth beyond the human realm.

Ascension Point, Ventana, Big Sur Spirit Portal
Ascension PointWhere I’m headed is a place called Ascension Point, high on the ridge above Ventana and Nepenthe. The word ventana means window in Spanish. Local Spanish speakers in Big Sur gave this area its name because the Chumash Indians used it as a place for sky-burials, and saw it as a gateway or portal for souls entering and departing and arriving the planet-sphere. The veil between spirit world and our world is supposed to be very thin at a portal, allowing a space for souls to depart and spirits to pierce through.Besides being a sacred portal, Ascension Point is also one of the places where the California Condors are released to make their way back to the wild.

A Year of Pandemic Shelter-in-Place
Over the years of monthly posts with Sonoma County Literary Update, I’ve taken a look at various spring rituals. Recently, as I was preparing a reading of spring poems, I was reminded of the etymology of March, the martial month and the opening of the season of warfare. Perhaps this connection between spring and the ritual of war has something to do with how brutal this season can sometimes feel. And after a year of mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing, sanitizing, isolation, distance learning, Zooming, and grieving those we have lost, the emergence from our long Covid winter feels like a painful rebirth. But one with hope.

One of the consequences of this isolation is how suggestible we’ve become, especially in response to social media. Perhaps you’ll find yourselves engaged in (or the merry victim of) an April Fool’s prank today. One of my favorite such pranks dates to 1976, and is known as the Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect. As reported on Wikipedia, British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners of BBC Radio 2 that unique alignment of two planets would result in an upward gravitational pull making people lighter at precisely 9:47 am that day. He invited his audience to jump in the air and experience “a strange floating sensation.” Dozens of listeners phoned in to say the experiment had worked, among them a woman who reported that she and her 11 friends were “wafted from their chairs and orbited gently around the room.”

April Readings with Rivertown Poets on April 5 and April 19
I want to take this opportunity to invite you all to tune in to Rivertown Poets this month. On April 5 at 6:15 pm. I’ll be reading with Phyllis Klein, and on April 19, Eliot Schain and Patrick Cahill will present from their 2020 publications from Sixteen Rivers Press.

Join the meeting at: https://zoom.us/j/6508887879 or just show up at aqus.com/online. Click on “Weekly Poetry Reading.” No password needed.

For those of you who attended the reading I gave last Sunday with the Village Poets of Southern California, thank you for coming! The reading I’m putting together for Rivertown Poets on April 5 will feature a different set of poems, so if you’re inclined, you can tune in again and, of course, you’ll also be able to hear the amazing Phyllis Klein. If you wish, you can share your own poems during open mic.

While I’m at it, let me put in a plug for Sixteen Rivers Press and a shout-out to Sande Anfang. Like all nonprofits and small, independent publishers, Sixteen Rivers has struggled through this pandemic year. It was hard to launch new books like Eliot’s and Patrick’s without our usual debut at AWP, the fanfare of launches, readings, and celebratory events. I’m so grateful to Sande Anfang, who made the shift from live monthly readings at Aqus Café to online Zoom readings, and who has generously offered reading spots to writers with 2020 books that might have otherwise been lost in the pandemic lock-down.

Sixteen Rivers is running an online Fundly fund-raiser this month, along with our launch of two new poetry publications. The books are Dust Bowl Venus, by Stella Beratlis, and The World Is God’s Language, by Dane Cervine. If you’d like to check out sample poems from these new collections or even order the books, you will find all you need at www.sixteenrivers.org.

And if you’d like to contribute to the Sixteen Rivers Fundraiser, here’s the link: https://fundly.com/spring-fundraiser-4

April Spotlights
Here are some of the spectacular events coming up in April. Many more are listed on the Calendar page.

Most of us have been following Poet Laureate Emerita Iris Dunkle’s launch this year of her amazing biography of Charmian London, and her new collection of poems, West : Fire : Archive. You can hear Iris talk about how her archival work has been a way to research and find inspiration for her writing on Thursday, April 8, 6:30 p.m. at Writers Forum. Details: www.TheWriteSpot.us.

Patti Trimble is leading an outdoor writing workshop at Point Reyes Seashore on Saturday, April 10, 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Details and registration: www.ptreyes.org/camps-classes-programs/field-institute/classes/day-wild-writing

Two events this month will focus on the youth poets of Sonoma County. The first of these is on Saturday, April 17, 5:00–6:00 p.m. Poetry In Action: A Youth Poetry Reading and Conversation on Equity and Compassion. Live open mic viaZoom. Hosted by: Zoya Ahmed, 2020 – 2021 Sonoma County Youth Poet Laureate. Email YouthPoetry-UIK@InterfaithSonoma.org by April 2 to sign up. The second is Sunday, April 25, 7:00 p.m. Occidental Center for the Arts Literary Series: Celebrating the Earth through Poetry with Sonoma County Poet Laureate Phyllis Meshulam and Youth Poet Laureate, Zoya Ahmed. For more information, go to occidentalcenterforthearts.org or call (707) 874-9392.

Also on Sunday, April 25, 11:00 a.m., you can catch the film première of “Meeting Light,” a poem from Raphael Block’s latest book, At This Table, with filmmaker Adam Wilder. This half-hour zoom will open with the instrumental guitar music of David Field, and a few poems by Raphael. To join this zoom, please email raphaelblock@raphaelblock.com.

I am always happy to see Ukiah’s annual celebration of haiku (Ukiah backwards). This year’s is scheduled for Sunday, April 25, 3:00-4:00 p.m., but will be a virtual event. In the tradition of past festivals, the event will be open to all ages (we encourage children & young adults to participate). Email Roberta Werdinger for the Zoom link: rwerdinger@pacific.net

Yes, three great events all on April 25. But you could actually attend all three, as the times don’t overlap, and all are online.

Remembering Adam Zagajewski
In 1984, at one of the first Napa Valley Poetry Conferences, Bob Hass recited the first lines of a poem by Polish writer Adam Zagajewski. I had never heard of him before (but then I was pretty green as a poet back then), but Hass wanted us to listen to the way the words carried the poet’s thoughts and conjured the poet’s images, while his rhythms, repetitions, and variations drove the poem on a physical and unconscious level. I shamelessly imitated Zagajewski’s syntax and repetition to create a weird little prose poem called “In the Bones of My Face,” responding to Hass’s assignment to create a self-portrait in rhythm.

Thus began my acquaintance with Zagajewski’s inspirtational poetry. His poem “Franz Schubert: A Press Conference” became a teaching tool to encourage the writers I taught to create characters through their voices, to experiment monologue, and to commune with their dead. And his wonderfully evocative “To Go to Lvov” became a portal to many imaginary journeys.

Then in September 2001, his response to the tragedies of 9/11, “Try To Praise the Mutilated World” became for many of us an anthem for the work of our lives. The poem was written on September 17 and first published in the New Yorker on September 24, 2001.

Try To Praise The Mutilated World

by Adam Zagajewski

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Adam Zagajewski was born 21 June 1945 in Lwów, Soviet Union (now Lviv, Ukraine). He lived in Paris from 1982 to 2002 when he moved to Kraków. Zagajewski’s books of poetry in English include Tremor (1985), Canvas (1991), Mysticism for Beginners (1997); and Without End: New and Selected Poems (2002).He is also the author of a memoir, Another Beauty (2000) and the prose collections, Two Cities (1995) and Solitude and Solidarity (1990).

The reviewer Joachim T. Baer noted in World Literature Today that Zagajewski’s themes “are the night, dreams, history and time, infinity and eternity, silence and death.” About his own poetry, Zagajewski said this:

“I will never be someone who writes only about bird song, although I admire birdsong highly – but not enough to withdraw from the historical world, for the historical world is fascinating. What really interests me is the interweaving of the historical and cosmic world. The cosmic world is unmoving – or rather, it moves to a completely different rhythm. I shall never know how these worlds coexist. They are in conflict yet they complement each other – and that merits our reflection.” (Adam Zagajewski)

Zagajewski died at age 75 on March 21, 2021.

If you’re not yet familiar with Zagajewski’s poety, The Poetry Foundation’s website provides a portfolio of his poems: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/adam-zagajewski.
 
Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2021

March 2021

Dear Literary Folk,

What a legion of writers we’ve lost in the past year, among them Q.R. Hand, Diane DiPrima, Michael McClure, and most recently, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. On Monday last, driving down the coast, I passed Pacifica’s Rockaway Beach, and found myself quoting from Ferlinghetti’s “A Far Rockaway of the Heart”:

           he followed her into                                 the playland of that evening
                     where the headlong meeting
                                                    of their ephemeral flesh on wheels
                               hurtled them forever together

           And I now in the back seat
                                                     of their eternity
                                                                reaching out to embrace them

The original Rockaway Beach is, of course, in Queens—a  vast, sandy beach and 5.5-mile boardwalk that draws families in summer for swimming, sunbathing. But associative logic leaps over geographic distances in a wink. The next day I learned that Ferlinghetti had died on that very Monday. By  Tuesday, FaceBook was brimming with tributes from those who had known him, loved him, been influenced by him, or simply found a second home in City Lights Bookstore. Among those FaceBook posts was one by Petaluma poet Carol Hoorn. I asked her to expand her post into a short feature, and I’m delighted to be able to share this with you here.

When I asked Carol to suggest a poem by Ferlinghetti to be included as the poem for March, she recommended “Challenges to Young Poets.” Scroll down and you’ll find it there, along with an invitation to young Sonoma County poets to share their original work on the theme of Equity and Compassion.

TRIBUTE TO LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI
by Carol Hoorn

Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights BookstoreI dropped out of San Jose State and found a job at Fireman’s Fund in 1955. Black stilleto heels, pencil skirts and white blouses were week day choices. Week-ends meant black turtlenecks, leggings, and Capezios , red lipstick, and very black mascara. It was easy to be a weekend beat (spelled lower case then).

I first met Lawrence Ferlinghetti that year. I called him Mr. Ferlinghetti till 1959. By then I had purchased all the banned books featured in City Light’s front window. Ginsburg, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, James Joyce, and others. I met the first two authors and soon many more. I am glancing now at my 1954 edition of Ulysses, published in London, so proudly displayed by the man that I was by then calling Lawrence. Never Larry, as I felt that was meant for close friends.

I attended many readings in the basement of that building. Sometimes music accompanied a poet. I did not always understand what I listened to, but found I would often laugh, cry, tremble in passionate response whether I “got it” or not. I always seem to grasp the meaning of Lawrence’s poems, his deep sonorous voice wrapping round me, sending love, humor, tenderness, righteous anger, sometimes all in the same poem.

When the readings ended, the crowd most often walked across the alley to Vesuvio’s,  where on any given night, a physical fight might occur over a chess game, a shouted argument over existential positions, or who was a true beat or a fake. I fell into this second category, but was always accepted. Even sat in Ken Casey’s bus once, going nowhere in front of City Lights.

Some years ago, I shared with Lawrence my written version of how I desired to spend the last three weeks of my life. He, perhaps half serious, promised to go to Paris with me, as long as I promised not to die on his watch.We would attend the Opera—La Bohème, of course. Dine on seven course dinners, just café in the mornings. Champagne bucket at our bedside where we would spend the afternoons till eventide reading Collette and Maupassant, under silk sheets with lovers and others, depending on our desires.On my final day, we would walk to Père-Lachaise, where I would stay near Oscar Wilde or Edith Piaf (to be decided later).

Carol HoornIn 2017, I had someone copy onto a CD an old reel to reel tape made in 1960 by my late husband of Lawrence reading his poem “Pondering the Insoluble Problem.” Visiting City Lights from my by then home in Petaluma, I found Lawrence putting some new books in the window. I blurted out the first lines of that poem, attempting to imitate him. He burst into laughter, saying he had almost forgotten that one. We tried in vain to find it in his vast collection on the second floor, but could not. I sent the CD as a gift. His thank-you note mentioned that he thought he sounded wonderful, and perhaps would include it in a documentary being made of his life.

I read his poems to my granddaughters and when poets and writers gathered physically. I will repeat them again, when it is safe.

Now that I feel closer to you, in my grief, I will say, “I love you, always and forever, Larry.”

Carol Hoorn

♦♦♦

Connie MaddenCarol wasn’t the only Petaluman writing about Ferlinghetti’s passing. Connie Madden also contributed a blog to Petaluma 360, titled “Lawrence Ferlinghetti, alive and well and living in my head. . . .” In the article, she reminisces,  “As a 20 something, I hitchhiked across the Bay maybe 10 times from Berkeley to City Lights Bookstore in North Beach, San Francisco, a comb and library card with some money in my little suede wrist bag, a stenopad for poetry, half full, in my hand.  Feeling I might never come back, I’d head out alone to meet my fate, freedom was the word.  A lot like I imagined the life of the beat poets in San Francisco and Paris.  If Berkeley was the philosphical center of the world (it was to me!), surely City Lights was its literary watering hole.”

Here’s the link to read Connie’s piece in its entirety: http://connie-madden.blogs.petaluma360.com/13689/lawrence-ferlinghetti-alive-and-well-and-living-in-my-head/.

 
POETRY IN ACTION: A YOUTH POETRY READING AND CONVERSATION
ON EQUITY AND COMPASSION

By Liz Larew

On Saturday, April 17, Sonoma County United in Kindness will present a poetry reading by Sonoma County teens, age 13-19. The online event will be hosted by Zoya Ahmed, 2020 – 2021 Sonoma County Youth Poet Laureate

United in Kindness hopes to provide a supportive forum and public platform, designed and hosted by and for Sonoma County youth, ages 13–19, to write, present, and have conversation about the topics of equity and compassion, through the art of poetry, with a focus on the practice, experience, meaning of, reflection upon, and/or power of equity and compassion  — on a human scale, in the US, and in their day-to-day lives.  To include the topics of inclusion, tolerance, unity, social justice, kindness, and equality.  To engage youth in a conversation of equity and compassion…through the power of poetry.  In celebration of April — National Poetry month.

This event will include a live open mic, providing an opportunity to read an original poem, or one written by any poet of choice.   Limited to one poem or up to two minutes.  “Family friendly” language poems please.   Closed video will be an option; signed parent/guardian authorization required for ages 13–17.

Topic/Suggested prompts:  What do you want to say about equity and compassion?  What do equity and compassion mean to you?  How have you experienced them in your life?  How do you practice them in your life?  What power do they have in our world?  How do they relate to tolerance, diversity, unity, social justice, kindness, and equality?  Say it through the power of poetry!! 

Please sign up in advance for open mic  deadline Friday, March 26 

Email
YouthPoetry-UIK@InterfaithSonoma.org to sign up.  A practice session will be scheduled prior to the event – date to be announced. 
https://www.facebook.com/SonomaCountyUnitedinKindness/
http://interfaithsonoma.org/declaration/
YouthPoetry-UIK@InterfaithSonoma.org
 
SPOTLIGHT ON MARCH LITERARY EVENTS
Our March literary events calendar has much to offer. I’ve selected just a few for the spotlight here.Phyllis Meshulam (our Poet Laureate), Donna Emerson, and Jodi Hottel: a triple header of Sonoma County Poets at Rivertown Poets: Join the meeting Monday, March 1, 6:15-8:15 pm at
https://zoom.us/j/6508887879 or just show up at aqus.com/online. Click on “Weekly Poetry Reading.” No password needed.

Fran Claggett-Holland and Linda Loveland Reid will present poetry readings and discussions on Friday, March 5, April 2 and May 7, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Their program is called Power of Poetry, and is an online class available through Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Free or small donation appreciated: https://www.sebarts.org/lectures 

“Pandemic Perspectives” is a compilation of short plays/films by local talent about life during the pandemic. This will be presented online  by Cloverdale Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 6-Sunday, March 14. Cloverdale Performing Arts Center presents Online with $15 tickets available at: www.cloverdaleperformingarts.com/pandemic-perspectives-march

Elizabeth Herron reads from recently published Insistent Grace. Sunday, March 21, 4:00 p.m. Occidental Center for the Arts Virtual Book Launch Series: Admission free, but registration required at OCA website (occidentalcenterforthearts.org) to receive Zoom link.

 
POEM FOR MARCH
Challenges to Young Poets

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Invent a new language anyone can understand.

Climb the Statue of Liberty.

Reach for the unattainable.

Kiss the mirror and write what you see and hear.

Dance with wolves and count the stars,
including the unseen.
Be naive, innocent, non-cynical, as if you had
just landed on earth (as indeed you have, as
indeed we all have), astonished by what you
have fallen upon.

Write living newspapers. Be a reporter
from outer space, filing dispatches to some
supreme managing editor who believes in full
disclosure and has a low tolerance level for hot air.

Write an endless poem about your life on
earth or elsewhere.

Read between the lines of human discourse.

Avoid the provincial, go for the universal.

Think subjectively, write objectively.

Think long thoughts in short sentences.

Don’t attend poetry workshops, but if you do,
don’t go to learn ‘how to” but to learn
“what” (What’s important to write about).

Don’t bow down to critics who have not
themselves written great masterpieces.

Resist much, obey less.

Secretly liberate any being you see in a cage.

Write short poems in the voice of birds.
Make your lyrics truly lyrical. Birdsong is not
made by machines. Give your poems wings
to fly to the treetops.

The much-quoted dictum from William Carlos
Williams, “No ideas but in things,” is OK for
prose, but it lays a dead hand on lyricism,
since “things” are dead.

Don’t contemplate your navel in poetry and
think the rest of the world is going to think
it’s important.

Remember everything, forget nothing.
Work on a frontier, if you can find one.

Go to sea, or work near water, and paddle
your own boat.

Associate with thinking poets. They’re hard
to find.

Cultivate dissidence and critical thinking.
“First thought, best thought” may not make
for the greatest poetry. First thought may be
worst thought.

What’s on your mind? What do you have
in mind? Open your mouth and stop mumbling.

Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall
out.

Question everything and everyone. Be subversive,
constantly questioning reality and
the status quo.

Be a poet, not a huckster. Don’t cater, don’t
pander, especially not to possible audiences,
readers, editors, or publishers.

Come out of your closet. It’s dark in there.

Raise the blinds, throw open your shuttered
windows, raise the roof, unscrew the locks
from the doors, but don’t throw away the
screws.

Be committed to something outside yourself.
Be militant about it. Or ecstatic.

To be a poet at sixteen is to be sixteen, to be
a poet at 40 is to be a poet. Be both.

Wake up and pee, the world’s on fire.

Have a nice day.

          – Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Challenges to Young Poets”


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | February 2, 2021

February 2021

Dear Literary Folk,

“The Hill We Climb”
Amanda GormanAmanda Gorman’s stellar recital of “The Hill We Climb” brought poetry front and center to the inauguration ceremonies in Washington and to the political drama on the national scene. The nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate will also be making an appearance at the Super Bowl on February 7.

Like many listening, I was thrilled to hear this poet, whose use of voice, rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, and metaphor illuminated what these times call us to do. But most of all, it was moving to see a young black woman holding the nation to attention with the power of her words.

The Press Democrat featured poets laureate Phyllis Meshulam’s and Maya Khosla’s responses to Gorman’s poem, which you can find at this link: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/inaugural-poet-amanda-gorman-inspires-community-of-poets-nationwide/

The inclusion of poetry at the Presidential inauguration is relatively recent. Only four presidents—John F. Kennedy in 1961, Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997, Barack Obama in 2009 and 2013, and Joe Biden in 2021—have had poets read at their inaugurations. You might want to check out this article on Poets.org, which includes the history of inaugural poems and a video sampler: https://poets.org/inaugural-poems-history.

Amanda Gorman was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Harvard University in 2020. She is the author of the poetry collection The Hill We Climb (Viking, September 2021) and The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough (Penmanship Books, 2015). In 2017 Gorman was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States. She previously served as the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles, and she is the founder and executive director of One Pen One Page, an organization providing free creative writing programs for underserved youth. Gorman was selected by President Biden to read an original poem for his Inauguration on January 20, 2021, making her the youngest poet to have served in this role.  

Source: https://poets.org/poet/amanda-gorman.

Remembering Gina Berriault
Gina Berriault on some short stories being akin to poetryOn January 17, the Sitting Room posted a short article about Gina Berriault in a new online feature called “Sunday Surprise.” Many of you may be on the Sitting Room’s mailing list, and so have already seen this. But reading this reminded me that Barriault’s great talent was not known as widely as she deserved, and so I thought this article merited reproducing here in the Sonoma County Literary Update.

Women in Their Beds by Gina BerriaultI was introduced to Gina Berriault’s work when I was teaching at SF State through my colleague Molly Giles. I was also teaching at SRJC and serving on the Arts and Lectures Committee, and had the honor and pleasure of hosting Berriault as a guest writer at the JC following the publication of her collection Women in their Beds: New and Selected Stories (1996), which won the PEN/Faulkner Aeard, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award.

Berriault wrote across a wide range of genres: short stories, novels, and screenplays. Her short story ”The Stone Boy,” which she adapted for the screen, was made into the 1984 film starring Robert Duvall and Glenn Close. At the time of her death, she had recently completed a fable, ”The Great Petrowski.” It’s my hope that some of you will be inspired to order one or more of Berriault’s books.

GINA BERRIAULT (1926-1999), lived in the Bay Area, and never got the attention her brilliant short stories deserved. Oh, she got awards but was usually relegated to that unvisited corner of being “a writer’s writer”.  The Sitting Room is glad to have two of her collections of stories but the SURPRISE here is a uncategorizable little book titled “The Great Petrowski”.
 
The Great Petrowski by Gina BerriaultHere is how the so unlikely book came about and here is how it came to  the Sitting Room. Again it is a local story. Guy Biederman, publisher of “Bust Out”, who was teaching  workshops at The Sitting Room, noticed our Berriault books.

“Oh, I must bring The Sitting Room a gift of a book of hers for which I was the first publisher at Thumbprint Press. Gina and I were neighbors and she entrusted me with bringing this unique book into the world. It happened that she was in the hospital when the galley proofs were ready for review and so I took them to her there.  Of course, she saw several changes that were needed and made them there from what turned out to be her death bed,”

Illustrated by Gina also, it is an eco-fable which manages to make plausible a parrot learning to sing opera and somehow saving the world.  If you don’t want to wait until The Sitting Room opens again, it can be ordered on line or better at local bookstores.  Get a few extras, as you will want to give it to friends.

What a gift it was for The Sitting Room long long ago — Thanks, Guy, and thanks also to Gina Berriault!

Political Writers Featured this Month
In an era when our experience of reality is so easily manipulated, and the perception of history so easily distorted, as the country transitions to a new administration and prepares for the second impeachment trial of Trump, these online events are particularly intriguing.

The first is on Tuesday, February 2 at 2 PM: Book Passage presents an eclectic lineup of contributors, Steve Kettmann, Mary C. Curtis, and Anthony Scaramucci, from the collection Now What? Now What?: The Voters Have Spoken—Essays on Life After Trump. For more details and to register for this free virtual event: www.bookpassage.com/event/steve-kettmann-mary-c-curtis-and-anthony-scaramucci-now-what-virtual-event

The second is on Tuesday, February 9 at 7 PM: Copperfields Books presents Edward Snowden in conversation with Cory Doctorow. Featured book: Permanent Record: How One Man Exposed the Truth about Government Spying and Digital Security. Details and registration: www.copperfieldsbooks.com/event/edward-snowden-conversation-cory-doctorow-online

Though not specifically political, Catherine Grace Katz will present a 90 minute online writing workshop called “Five Things I’ve Learned about Writing the History We Think We Know.” Katz will present what she has learned about uncovering the forgotten voices and experiences that make us reconsider the people and events that we assume we know inside and out. This is on Sunday, February 28, 4:00 p.m., presented by Book Passages Details and ticket ($40): https://myfivethings.com/class/writing-the-history-we-think-we-know/

Ricardo Pau-Llosa and José Luis Gutiérrez
On Sunday, February 28, at 3 PM, Sixteen Rivers presents Ricardo Pau-Llosa and José Luis Gutiérrez in an online reading.

Ricardo Pau-LlosaPau-Llosa was born into a working-class family in Havana. In 1960 he fled Cuba with his parents, older sister, and maternal grandmother — all of whom emerge in his autobiographical poems of exile and remembrance. Pau-Llosa has published the last six of his eight collections of poetry with Carnegie Mellon University Pressw. His three latest books are The Turning (2018), Man (2014) and Parable Hunter (2009).

José Luis GutiérrezJosé Luis Gutiérrez was born in Miami and grew up in Panama. His first poetry collection, A World Less Away, was published in 2016. His second collection, The Motel Entropy & Other Sorrows, came out in 2019. He’s also a screen writer and film maker.

You can use this link to join us for this free online event:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84755044899?pwd=R1BsajF6aWQ2ZjhCSHhYbTJxdm5VQT09

_________

Poem for February

Terpsichore

Assétou XangoBy Assétou Xango

some hear the song
& ask me of my children:
what’s it like to be the mother of sirens?
            they curl their lips
            & snarl around the syllables
they mean to say,
what is it like to raise sluts
who draw men off their sacred path?
what’s like to be the minor character
in every story?
it is not my job to protect weak-willed men
who long to be seduced
but curse the ones who’ve master the art
Sirens are the call of emergency
Call to darkness.
the warning in any myth.
Sirens may save your life
or end it
you will not know which
until the morning comes
they want to know what It’s like
to have birthed such dangerous creatures
did it ever occur to you
that my children
flee their home
convene in isolation,
shield themselves with bladed rocks
because you are the dangerous ones?
 
Assétou Xango is a poet and community activist. She was the poet laureate of Aurora, Colorado, from 2017-2019.
 
_________

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2021

January 2021

Dear Literary Folk,

Happy New Year! May 2021 be a brighter, more hopeful year for us all!

Since January 2000, my husband and I have hosted an annual New Year’s Poetry Brunch, which many of you have attended over the years. I miss launching the new year with this gathering, but we’re still in the dark thickets of this pandemic, and it’s important for us all to stay safe in the weeks and months ahead.

I just submitted my grades for Fall Semester, bringing my teaching time at SRJC to a close after 29 years. In various incarnations, I’ve been teaching since 1977, and I will continue to teach private workshops, once I can figure out what such a workshop will look like. Something on Zoom, perhaps, or a hybrid, once the Sitting Room Library opens again?

In some ways, being able to tap into readings remotely has extended what I could attend, and I’ve been introduced to writers who, too, have Zoomed in from other parts of the country or the world. When we get to the other side of this pandemic, what will our vibrant community readings and literary events be like? If we’re able to gather in groups again, what size group will feel comfortable to us?

We will need to reinvent many aspects of our lives, and that can be both daunting and exciting. Let’s put our hive-mind to work on this, and please let Jo-Anne and me know if there’s some way the Literary Update can best reflect these changes.

2020 in Six Words
In December’s post, I invited you to send to me or Jo-Anne your 2020 thoughts in six words and promised to include these in the January Literary Update. Some of you responded, and what a pleasure to see the pain, frustration, hope, and humor of this year summed up so concisely! Here they are.

This old world changes in days.
—Kevin Pryne

Earth hits bottom, looking up now.
A year of haiku, new friends.
The cats and I celebrate cronehood.
—Sande Anfang

Around the house;
Little chores finished.
—Dave Murphy

Love, laughter, stronger now, than ever.
—Carol Ann Hoorn

Imaginary friends more important than ever.
—Camille Kantor

Waking to the sound of rain.
—Patrice Warrender

My appendix taken out in time.
—Nancy Long

Still this side of the dirt!
—Shawna Swetech

Hummingbirds at our feeder delight me
—Melanie Maier

Losing friends—2020’s hardest blow.
—Terry Ehret

Allies avowing, asserting Black Lives Matter.
—Kim Hester Williams

How naked my arms without hugs.
—Elizabeth Bennett

Gratefully alive—I trust Divine Wisdom.
—Deborah Taylor-French

Big, blue California sky; loving you.
Gloria DeBlasio

Honor and humbling. Despair and hope.
—Phyllis Meshulam

____

Remembering Barry Lopez (1945-2020)

“To put your hands in a river is to feel the chords
that bind the earth together.”

Barry LopezA writer of deep lyricism, and a lover of the power of nature and silence, Barry Lopez passed away on Christmas Day. Robert D. McFadden of the New York Times wrote, “Mr. Lopez embraced landscapes and literature with humanitarian, environmental and spiritual sensibilities that some critics likened to those of Thoreau and John Muir.”

When asked about his motive for writing, Lopez said, “I can tell you in two words. To help. I am a traditional storyteller. This activity is not about yourself. It’s about culture, and your job is to help.”

Lopez won the National Book Award (nonfiction) for Arctic Dreams (1986), a treatise on his five years with Inuit people and solitude in a land of bitter cold and endless expanses. His other publications include About this Life, The Rediscovery of North America (1990) Resistence (2004), and most recently Horizon (2019).

To read more about Barry Lopez, his life, and his work, visit his website: www.barrylopez.com

____

Remembering Poet Jean Valentine
(1934–2020)

By Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Jean ValentineJean Valentine once told me a sonnet is a little church you build to investigate a moment. I was lucky enough to get to study with her at New York University in the late 1990s and her quiet, yet firm editing voice is a gift that has stayed with me all of these years. Poems to her were living beings (here, this is where the soul is, she once said to my friend in the workshop, pointing to the page, you should start from here). Valentine’s work is haunting: clear, refined lyrics that take you to a world that is both dream and reality. She authored over a dozen books, including a late collection called, Shirt in Heaven (2015). In 2016, I wrote about one of the poems from this striking collection called, “1943: The Vision” in my column Poet’s Corner at The Press Democrat. (Poet’s Corner: ‘1943: The Vision’ by Jean Valentine) I mourn her loss but am so grateful that we will still have her valuable work for years to come. 

Iris’s book Charmian Kittredge London Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer is now available for order.

____

Check out the Poet Laureate News Page
At the end of 2020, Phyllis Meshulam invited us to write from the prompt “Seeing with New Eyes.” You can find this, poems by Joy Harjo and Gabriela Mistral, and a gorgeous photo by Jerry Meshulam at this link: https://socolitupdate.com/poet-laureates-news/

____

Donations to the Sonoma County Literary Update always Welcome!
Most of you know that the SCLU began during my tenure as Sonoma County Poet Laureate, 2004-2006. It has continued largely through the behind-the-scenes efforts of Jo-Anne Rosen. We volunteer our time, happily so, but there are some expenses to keep the website going, most recently an update that keeps the Update free of advertisements.

For those who regularly announce their workshops, readings, or services here, a donation of $10 to $20/year is requested to keep the update and its website going. Donations from regular readers are welcome, too. For details contact the editor Jo-Anne Rosen at sonomacountyliteraryupdate@gmail.com.

____

Poems for the New Year

La Chalupa, the Boat
by Jean Valentine

I am twenty,
drifting in la chalupa,
the blue boat painted with roses,
white lilies—

No, not drifting, I am poling
my way into my life.   It seems
like another life:

There were the walls of the mind.
There were the cliffs of the mind,
There were the seven deaths,
and the seven bread-offerings—

Still, there was still
the little boat, the chalupa
you built once, slowly, in the yard, after school—

From Little Boat by Jean Valentine. Copyright © 2008 by Jean Valentine.

_____

blessing the boats
by Lucille Clifton

            (at St. Mary’s)

May the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back  may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in innocence
sail through this to that

From Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000. Copyright © 2000 by Lucille Clifton.

Terry Ehret,
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2020

December 2020

December 1, 2020
 
Dear Literary Folk,
 
We’re in the last month of 2020, a strange year in so many ways. Despite the necessary social distancing with masks, I am grateful in this pandemic year for the chance via Zoom and other technologies to continue teaching, to be in more regular contact with family, to rethink my priorities and my often unconscious assumptions, and to enjoy a low-key holiday season. Staying away from stores means less exposure both to the virus and to the holiday hype. I also have had the pleasure of extending my COVID-pod to include my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, who have temporarily moved here from Denver.
 
2020 in Six Words
The NYT recently asked readers to send in what they were grateful for in 2020 in just six words. Here are a few examples:

The crinkling eye above the mask.
Sunny mornings, a window facing east.

5329 games of solitaire, won 5286.
Postcards crossing the country — real mail.
Never been social; now I’m good.
Healthcare workers. Healthcare workers. Healthcare workers.

If any of you are game for this, send to me or Jo-Anne your 2020 thoughts in six words. We’ll include some of these in the January Literary Update. Please include “2020 in Six Words” in your subject line.

Terry Ehret: tehret99@comcast.net
Jo-Anne Rosen: sonomacountyliteraryupdate@gmail.com
 
My wish for you all: Stay home if you can. Stay safe and healthy. We can do this!

Maya Khosla’s All the Fires of Wind and Light selected for 2020 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award
All the Fires, poems, Maya KhoslaMaya KhoslaPEN Oakland, called “The Blue Collar PEN” by The New York Times, is honoring Maya Khosla’s All the Fires of Wind and Light with the Josephine Miles Literary Award.

PEN Oakland’s annual awards ceremony is scheduled to take place online via the Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch on December 5, 2020, from 2PM-5PM PST.

The award ceremony will be a public event; info on broadcast at Oakland Public Library.

Jo-Anne Rosen’s Story Nominated for Pushcart Prize
It is Pushcart season—that time of year when independent presses and journals nominate the best of their year’s publications for recognition. The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Those nominees whose work is chosen for a Pushcart Prize are published in Pushcart Press’s annual anthology. Many Sonoma County authors have been nominated this year, including Literary Update editor Jo-Anne Rosen for her story “At the Casino with Two Jacks,” published this past summer by Big City Lit. You can read more about the Pushcart Prize at this link: http://www.pushcartprize.com/

Congratulations to Jo-Anne and to all who have been nominated!
You can read Jo-Anne’s story at this link: https://nycbigcitylit.com/jo-anne-rosen/.

Support Sonoma County Authors with New Publications
Every month, I spotlight one or two new publications by Sonoma County authors. But the Sonoma County in Print page provides quite an impressive list of new books by our local writers. Please consider giving the gift of a book to your friends and relatives, and at the same time supporting writers who’ve had the challenge of bringing out new books in a pandemic year, without the usual in-person book launches, salons, and celebrations.

Here are two new publications I recommend:An Affront to Gravity

Steve Trennan—An Affront to Gravity: Poems and Salutations
“In this remarkable collection, Trenam is able to transform empty and blank spaces into places of worship that entice the reader to leave “the dark corners of our rooms” to experience not only the world that he creates through these poems, but also the ways in which art, music, dance, and poetry are rooted ‘at the heart of things.’” —Megan Merchant

Joan Frank—The Outlook for Earthlings
The Outlook for Earthlings. Joan FrankThe Outlook for Earthlings considers the limits of friendship—and of witnessing. It asks how we may finally measure a life—and who should do the measuring.

The novel has been warmly praised by significant voices: Peter Orner, Julie Buntin, Joan London, and Elizabeth Rosner among them. ForeWord Reviews summarizes: “With technicolor period details, intense reflections, and devastating acuity about women’s compromises in love, The Outlook for Earthlings is an elegant elegy.

If you are a Sonoma County writer with a book or chapbook newly published, let’s help you celebrate! Just send your announcement to editor@socolitupdate.comBook announcements are posted in the order received.

Looking for Local Alternatives to Amazon?
During the pandemic, I’ve grown more inclined to shop online, and often the course of least resistance is shopping Amazon. It’s undeniably convenient, but also undeniably unsustainable. I’ve been looking into alternatives, and found this website, which is a good start: https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/amazon-alternatives.

If you ‘re looking for a way to decrease your dependence on Amazon as a source of books, supporting local independent bookstores, such as Copperfield’s, Readers’ Books, Treehorn Books, and Many Rivers Books and Tea. Some are open limited hours during this pandemic, but all offer curbside pick-up. Consider supporting these local businesses for your own reading pleasure, as well for holiday gifts.

Copperfield’s Books: https://www.copperfieldsbooks.com/
Treehorn Books: https://www.treehorn.com/
Readers’ Books: https://www.readersbooks.com/
Many Rivers Books and Tea: https://www.manyriversbooks.com/

During this pandemic, the libraries have retooled their services to the Sonoma County community, including curbside pick-up, digital checkouts of eBooks and eAudiobooks, and online classes. They are also expanding their Spanish-language digital resources. And if streaming movies at home has kept you hooked on Amazon, the library has an alternative for streaming movies. You can learn more about the library’s services on the County News page. Sonoma County Libraries: https://sonomalibrary.org/contact-us

December Readings and Author Events
Check out this month’s calendar page for listings of these and other December events.

Sixteen Rivers Presents

Sixteen Rivers presentsOn Sunday, December 6, at 3 p.m., Sixteen Rivers Press presents the second reading in their ongoing series. December’s featured poets are Faylita Hicks and James Cagney.

Faylita Hicks is a poet, essayist, and interdisciplinary artist born in Gardena, CA, and raised in Central Texas.  Their work has been featured in Adroit, American Poetry Review, The Cincinnati Review, F(r)iction, HuffPost, Kenyon Review, Longreads, Palette Poetry, Poetry Magazine, The Rumpus, Slate, Texas Observer, Texas Monthly, VIDA Review, and others.

Oakland native James Cagney is the author of Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory, winner of the PEN Oakland 2019 Josephine Miles award. His poems have appeared in Poetry Daily, The Maynard, and Civil Liberties United, among other journals. To buy his book, visit Nomadicpress.org, and to read more of his writing, go to TheDirtyRat.blog.

Tune in if you can!  The Zoom link is
https://santarosa-edu.zoom.us/j/93606420374

Rivertown Poets
Founder and Director of Rivertown Poets, Sandra Anfang will be reading on Monday, December 7, 6:15 p.m. with Casey FitzSimons and Johanna Ely. The program includes an Open Mic Reading (3 minutes per reader). Join the meeting at: https://zoom.us/j/6508887879 or just show up at aqus.com/online. Click on “Weekly Poetry Reading.” No password needed. 

SLAM 2020:
Teen Poetry Slam Saturday, December 12, 3:00-5:00 p.m. See County News for details.

Book Passage Presents Three Conversations with Authors:

  • Zeyn Joukhadar in conversation with Catherine Hernandez, Sunday, December 6, 4:00 p.m.
  • Jane Smiley in conversation with David Francis, Saturday, December 12, 4:00 p.m.
  • David Harris in conversation with Peter Coyote, Sunday, December 13, 4:00 p.m.

Phyllis MeshulamCheck out Phyllis Meshulam’s Poet Laureate Page
Consider contributing to Phyllis’s ongoing Poet Laureate Project. Phyllis is collecting poems for a county-wide anthology. You can see the current and past writing prompts/themes at this link: https://socolitupdate.com/poet-laureates-news/laureate-archive-2020-2022. And if you have some poems you would like to share with her, please send as attached files, using this email: phyllie@sonic.net

Poem for December
One of my favorite local authors with an international audience is Kay Ryan, who served as US Poet Laureate 2010-2012. In one of her early collections, Elephant Rocks, she included a poem that I’ve thought of often. It speaks to the Nativity tradition, but also to the impulse to steal and claim for one’s own the labors or accomplishments of others. In this post-election limbo, the poem has even more meaning for me.
 
Crib
Kay Ryanby Kay Ryan
 
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.

@Kay Ryan,
Elephant Rocks, Grove Press, 1996

_____

Terry Ehret,
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2020

November 2020

Voting is preciousDear Literary Folk,

It’s been a long election season, and I suspect that many of you have already voted. Thank you! If you haven’t yet, please set aside time to make your voice heard. So much depends on the leadership we’ll have moving forward, though in reality, each of us leads through the work we do, the hope that motivates us, the vision we carry, and the lives we touch, whether we know it or not.

Remembering Diane Di Prima (1934-2020)
Diane di PrimaOn October 25, our literary community lost a great poet, Diane Di Prima.  Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Di Prima became part of Greenwich Village’s beat scene in the 1950s and 60s, publishing poetry, editing a newsletter The Floating Bear, co-founding the New York Poets Theatre, and later The Poet’s Press. She moved to California in 1968, lived for a time in Marshall, and settled in San Francisco where she taught at New College of California, California College of Arts and Crafts, San Francisco Art Institute, California Institute of Integral Studies, and Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado,

Allen Ginsberg described di Prima as “a learned humorous bohemian, classically educated and twentieth-century radical, her writing, informed by Buddhist equanimity, is exemplary in imagist, political and mystical modes. … She broke barriers of race-class identity, delivered a major body of verse brilliant in its particularity” (https://poets.org/poet/diane-di-prima).

Di Prima authored more than thirty books of poetry, plays, short stories, novels, and nonfiction, including her eight-part feminist epic, Loba. She was named San Francisco’s Poet Laureate in 2009.
At the end of this post, I have included Di Prima’s poem “City Lights 1961.” Scroll down to the Poem for November to read.
 
Poetry of Remembrance/Poesía del Recuerdo
For more than 20 years, the Petaluma community has held an evening of poetry for Sonoma County and beyond to remember those we have lost. Since 2004, the Día de los Muertos Committee has included this event in its month-long celebration of the Day of the Dead. Many of you have been part of this annual event over the years, as featured readers and as part of the community reading.

Because of the current COVID pandemic and necessary restrictions on in-person gatherings, this event has had to take a virtual form. Part of this new form includes a website, created by John Johnson, with a history of the event, photos from past years, and current audio and video recordings of readings by current Sonoma County Poet Laureate Phyllis Meshulam, Jabez Churchill, Sande Anfang, and more.

On behalf of the Día de los Muertos Petaluma committee, John Johnson invites all of you to send a poem or other remembrance of a loved one, in text or audio or video, with or without photos, to the website Poetry of Remembrance/Poesía del Recuerdo. https://poetryofremembrance.com/.

Nancy Morales , John Johnson and Terry EhretPlagios / PlagarismsOn Monday, November 16, 6:15 p.m. Rivertown Poets will feature the poetry from Plagios/Plagiarisms, by Mexican author Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon. Translators Terry Ehret, John Johnson, and Nancy Morales will read a selection of poems from Volume One, as well as work they are currently translating for volume two. Their reading will be followed by an open Mic Reading (3 minutes per reader).
 
Join the meeting at: https://zoom.us/j/6508887879 or just show up at aqus.com/online. Click on “Weekly Poetry Reading.” No password needed. 
 
More November Events
Check out our calendar page for a more complete list of literary events for November. Here are just a few I want to spotlight:

On Wednesday, November 11, 6:00-8:00 p.m., Dominican University is offering a workshop called “The Nuts and Bolts of Applying to MFA programs”: A hands-on workshop about putting together an MFA application with guidance and writing prompts to help participants craft their Letter of Intent or Artist Statement.

Juan Felipe Herrera and Kim Shuck will be featured readers for Copperfield’s Books on Thursday, November 12, 7:00 p.m., reading from their books Every Day We Get More Illegal by Herrera; and Deer Trails by Shuck.
“Writing Now on Earth: with Patti Trimble is an online workshop for writing and reflection: generating new work from our places on the planet. Saturday, November 14, 10:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Occidental Center for the Arts’ Literary Series presents a Zoom book launch of Joan Frank’s new novel Outlook for Earthlings on Sunday, November 15, 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Poem for November

City Lights 1961

Going there for the first time
it was so much smaller then
that crowded downstairs full of poetry
racks of tattered little mags against the wall
those rickety white tables where folks sat reading/writing
Vesuvio’s was like an adjunct office

Arriving again a year later, two kids in tow
Lawrence gave me a huge stack of his publications
“I’ve got books” he said “like other people have mice”

And North Beach never stopped being mysterious
when I moved out here in 1968
that publishing office on Filbert & Grant was a mecca
a place to meet up with my kids if we got separated
during one of those innumerable demonstrations
(tho Lawrence worried, told me I shd keep them
out of harm’s way, at home) I thought they shd learn
whatever it was we were learning—
Office right around the corner from the bead store
where I found myself daily, picking up supplies

How many late nights did we haunt the Store
buying scads of new poems from all corners of the earth
then head to the all-night Tower Records full of drag queens
& revolutionaries, to get a few songs

And dig it, City Lights still here, like some old lighthouse
though all the rest is gone,
the poetry’s moved upstairs, the publishing office
right there now too       & crowds of people
one third my age or less still haunt the stacks
seeking out voices from all quarters
of the globe

From The Poetry Deal (City Lights Books, 2014) by Diane di Prima. Copyright © 2014 Diane di Prima.
 
Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2020

October 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

Literary Update for October 1, 2020
In preparing this month’s post of the Literary Update, I looked at September’s post, which begins, “The past few weeks have been intensely difficult here in Sonoma County. Some of you have lost your homes and many have spent long, anxious days under evacuation orders or warnings.” And here we are still in the dreadful throes of fire season in Northern California, the COVID pandemic, protests against racial injustice, and the anxious weeks leading up to our national elections.

While the sky overhead grew dark and heavy with smoke from the Glass Fire and Shady Fire, I also looked at the October post from 2019, saddened to remember the fall literary events we’ve had to postpone, especially the Petaluma Poetry Walk and the Poesía del Recuerdo/Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading.

Readings and Events Online
But I’m happy to say that many of our online literary events continue to thrive, as you can see by checking our Calendar page. Adding to those listed in our calendar and in previous posts, Poetry Flash’s reading series is now up and running online. There are usually three to four readings each month, introduced by Poetry Flash Associate Editor Richard Silberg, with Editor Joyce Jenkins. For the readings scheduled this fall, go to http://poetryflash.org/programs/?p=pfreadings.

WatershedI’m also pleased that the 25th annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival will zoom through the air over three days this November. The festival will feature poetry on climate change, environmental justice, and our place in nature. Familiar features of the much-loved gathering will be experienced virtually.  Dates and programs will be posted on Poetry Flash in October.
 
LitQuake has also moved to an online format, running from October 8-24, 2020. LitQuake’s programs include poetry, fiction, memoir, film, children’s events, and spoken word. Among the featured readers and presenters are Joy Harjo, Jericho Brown, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Tommy Orange. Check out all the events at the website: https://www.litquake.org/

A Little More Red SunCongratulations to Gillian Conoley for the NCBA in Poetry!
The 2020 Northern California Book Awards Ceremony was held on September 23, recognizing the achievements of writers whose books were published in 2019. In the poetry category, Sonoma State University professor, poet, and editor Gillian Conoley won for her book A Little More Red Sun on the Human: New & Selected Poems, published by Nightboat Books.

The “Unnatural Disaster” of Our Fire Season
Jean HeglandMany of you already know that Sonoma County’s beloved novelist and memoirist Jean Hegland and her husband Douglas Fisher lost their home in the LCU Complex/Wallbridge fires last month. The Healdsburg Tribune invited Jean to write a feature about her experience, which was published on September 23: “Unnatural Disasters.” In the article, Jean reflects on her home and the surrounding woods, writing, “Soon after we moved there (in 1989), that forest had been the inspiration for my first novel, and it had been an inspiration, a solace and a delight ever since.” In response to a friend’s comment about the fire being a natural disaster, Jean reflects, “There was nothing natural about the Walbridge Fire. Instead, it had been caused by the unfortunate conjunction of record-breaking high temperatures, a freak electrical storm that had bombarded Northern California with over 12,000 lightning strikes, and many decades of fire suppression in a forest that had evolved to burn. It was not a natural disaster but an unnatural one, not an “act of God,” but the result of human ignorance and greed, that same lethal combination of opportunism and denial that is currently causing record flooding in China and a record-breaking hurricane season in the Atlantic.”
Here’s the link, if you’d like to read the Jean’s full article: http://www.sonomawest.com/the_healdsburg_tribune/opinion/columns/commentary-unnatural-disasters/article_1480aa96-fdea-11ea-9729-3b1b24741cb5.html

New Release: Iris Jamahl  Dunkle’s Biography of Charmian Kittredge London
Charmain LondonIris DunkleIris’s just released biography is a triumph of biographical and literary research. She’ll be giving several readings/interviews in October. Here are the dates and hosts. For details, check the calendar page.

October 3, 2:30 at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen; October 7 at 7 PM at Reader’s Books in Sonoma; October 8, 7 PM with Forrest Gander at Copperfield’s Books; and October 22 at 6 PM at Bookmine in Napa.

Charmian Kittredge London captivates us as she did Jack London. In this compelling biography, Iris Jamahl Dunkle captures Charmian’s illusive qualities that made her a force to be reckoned with and an integral part of London’s career.”—Jay Williams, author of Author Under Sail: The Imagination of Jack London, 1893–1902
 
Paying Tribute to RBG
To add to the onslaught of 2020 disasters, on September 18, we lost a champion and hero, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She served on the Supreme Court from 1993 until her death, making history through majority opinions, and making waves though her eloquent and brilliant dissenting opinions. Before her Supreme Court nomination, she served as legal counsel to the ACLU, and it was during the years 1973-1980 that she prepared and argued cases that would alter the lives of American women, bringing us closer to the goal of “equal protection under the law.”

I know I owe RBG a debt of gratitude for the changes she helped to bring, ones I personally have benefitted from, including work-place protections for pregnant women, which the “pro-life” Catholic school I worked for didn’t recognize until 1990. The work she did was largely unknown and invisible to me, and though my undergraduate years at Stanford overlapped with her time as a Fellow at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, I regret I never had the chance to meet her In August, Ginsburg was selected as this year’s recipient of the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal “for her efforts to advance liberty and equality for all.”

Her dying wish, expressed to her granddaughter, was that her seat on the Supreme Court not be filled until after the election of a new US President. But that was not to be. Nonetheless, we can strive to be forces of change and justice in our own communities, and we can exercise our power to vote, one way to pay tribute to RBG’s legacy.
“May her memory be for a blessing.”

The Sitting Room Community Library Is Renovating
Taking advantage of the COVID hiatus, the Sitting Room Community Library is undergoing renovations to make it even more welcoming to reading and writing groups, literary researchers, workshops, readers and writers once it’s able to open again. Among the changes are new flooring in the living room/workshop space (do you recognize it her in the photo?), new shelving, new electrical system, a less cluttered kitchen area, the addition of a microwave (yeah!). JJ Wilson writes that “We are working on the several suggestions for better storage for the art collection and plan to have exhibit areas built in for revolving art pieces and a foam core board posted up near the television cabinet for exhibits.”

Three ways to Celebrate Sixteen Rivers Press’s 21st Anniversary!
Every fall, the nonprofit poetry publishing collective I help run, Sixteen Rivers Press, hosts a benefit reading to celebrate its founding in October 1999. Of course, we won’t be holding a gala event this year, but there are several ways you can help us celebrate.

  1. If you missed the launch of our video  America, We Call Your Name, A Poetry Reading for a Nation in Crisis, you can catch it on our website at https://sixteenrivers.org/

It’s a 50 minutes presentation of poems from the anthology, professionally recorded and edited, and featuring Rick Barot, Joshua Bennett, Mai Der Vang, Camille Dungy, Dante Di Stefano, Judy Halebsky, Forrest Hamer, Brenda Hillman, and Evie Shockley.

  1. Prageeta SharmaJoin us online for our fall fundraiser with Prageeta Sharma and Matthew Zapruder, Sunday, October 11, 2020 at 3 PM Pacific time.

You can register for this online event at https://annualsixteenrivers.eventbrite.com. This event is free, but donations of any size to help us fund new books for 2021 are welcome. Donate here.

  1. Mark your calendar for Sunday, October 25 at 3 p.m. PDT when we present Jay Deshpande (Love the Stranger and The Rest of the Body)  and Hadara Bar-Nadav (The New Nudity and The Frame Called Ruin).

Our new reading series Sixteen Rivers Presents, is hosted by Eliot Schain, whose collection The Distant Shore was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in April 2020. You can use this link to join the Zoom reading: https://santarosa-edu.zoom.us/j/94842261920. You can also find the link on the Sixteen Rivers website.
 
Poem for September 

Matthew ZapruderSun Bear
by Matthew Zapruder

yesterday at the Oakland zoo
I was walking alone for a moment
past the enclosure holding the sun bear
also known as beruang madu
it looked at me without interest
it has powerful jaws and truly loves honey
it sleeps in a high hammock
its claws look made out of wood
and if it dreams at all it is of Malaysia
home of its enemy the clouded leopard
a gorgeous arboreal
hunting and eating machine
whose coat resembles a python
now it is night and the zoo is closed
some animals are sleeping
the nocturnals moving in their cages
getting ready to hunt nothing
I don’t know why but I feel sure
something has woken the sun bear
it is awake in the dark
maybe it is my spirit animal
I am reading about the early snow
that has fallen on the Northeast
all the power shutting down
the weather going insane
the animals cannot help us
they go on moving without love
though we look into their eyes and feel
sure we see it there and maybe
we are right nothing
can replace animal love
not even complicated human love
we sometimes choose to allow
ourselves to be chosen by
despite what everyone knows
the problem is
in order to love anything
but an animal you cannot allow
yourself to believe in those things
that are if we don’t stop them
going to destroy us
 
(from America, We Call Your Name:
Poems of Resistance and Resilience,
Sixteen Rivers Press, 2018)

_____
 
Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2020

September 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

The past few weeks have been intensely difficult here in Sonoma County. Some of you have lost your homes and many have spent long, anxious days under evacuation orders or warnings. Our country continues to blaze and smolder in the cauldron of racial injustice. The pandemic keeps us distanced and isolated, and we’ve lost too many. Too many.
 
At such a time, these monthly posts seem like mouse-farts in the dark (borrowing a metaphor from John Steinbeck). But I am also reminded of Bertolt Brecht’s lines in another time of darkness—1939: “In the dark times/Will there also be singing?/Yes, there will also be singing/About the dark times.”

So we go on singing in these dark times, hoping the smoke clears, and the work we do will continue to sustain us until as a literary community, we can come together again.

At last check, our beloved Petaluma Poetry Walk has been cancelled. Supporting the Poetry Walk through their GoFundMe Campaign is still a great way to make sure the events in the future are possible. GoFundMe site: PetalumaPoetryWalk.

The Sitting Room Community Library is on hiatus, too, at least as a place for events, book groups, workshops, and nourishing browsing through their fabulous collections. Nicole Zimmerman and Sheila Bare have continued offering their workshops via Zoom. JJ Wilson writes that the she is using this time to do some renovations. I hope to be able to offer my own workshops under SR’s banner in the spring, though very likely these, too, will be in an online format.

Rivertown Poets, Occidental Center for the Arts, and Writers Forum continue to host readings and presentations in Zoom format, and the calendar for September is brimming with virtual events. Here are a few I’d like to spotlight.
 
Book Launch for Blood Memory
Blood Memory, Poems by Gail NewmanGail Newman and Cecilia Woloch
Poetry Flash Reading
September 6, 2020, 3 pm
Please contact Gail for Zoom link: gailnewmanpoet.com

Gail Newman’s new book, BLOOD MEMORY, was honored with a Marsh Hawk Press First Place Award, chosen by Marge Piercy.There isn’t a weak poem in the book. Writing about the Holocaust can be difficult now, not that it was ever easy. …Those who deny what happened multiply. To make fresh powerful poems rooted in Shoah is amazing. She does it by specifics. There are no faceless men in dirty ragged striped uniforms. The people are individualized. —Marge Piercy

Beside the WellBook Launch for Beside the Well
September 13, 2020, 4:00-5:00 PM
Occidental Center for the Arts Literary Series presents its first virtual book launch for Beside The Well, by poet Donna Emerson, with musical interludes by Jared Emerson-Johnson. Selected readings with Q&A to follow. This is a free event, but you’ll need to register at occidentalcenterforthearts.org to receive the Zoom link.
 
America Poetry Video Launch
September 20, 
7:00 p.m. EDT, 4 p.m. PDT

America We Call Your NameIn this reading, launched less than a month and a half before the 2020 presidential election, some of our country’s finest poets address the social and political rifts that currently divide our country. Please join us for the launch of this timely and important video featuring contributors to our anthology, America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience, reading their poems and others from the book:
Camille DungyRick Barot, Joshua Bennett, Mai Der Vang, Camille Dungy (pictured here), Dante Di Stefano, Judy Halebsky, Forrest Hamer, Brenda Hillman, and Evie Shockley.
 
Visit the Sixteen Rivers website for the Zoom link. www.sixteenrivers.org.
Following the launch, the video will be available on YouTube.
 
Invitation from Cole Swenson to Join WAP
Cole SwensonAlthough I recognize not everyone feels comfortable engaging in political gestures, such as this open letter recommends, I pass this along at the request of Cole Swenson. Cole and I graduated from SF State’s Creative Writing Program in 1984an auspicious date! She is a poet, translator, editor, copywriter, and professor. Originally from Kentfield, California, she now divides her time between Paris and Providence, RI, where she is on the permanent faculty of Brown University’s Literary Arts Program.
“I’m extending the invitation to you to join Writers Against Trump, a group launched by writers such as Paul Auster, Sophie Auster, Peter Balakian, James Carroll, Todd Gitlin, Siri Hustvedt, Julia Lattimer, Askold Melnyczuk, Shuchi Saraswat, Natasha Trethewey, and Carolyn Forché, to defeat the nightmare of racism, anti-environmentalism, sexism, and fascism currently ruling our country.

“As one writer to another, I encourage you to join with us. Attached is the steering committee’s letter of invitation, and there is also a simple, easy Google doc for signing up and telling us how public you’d like to be about your involvement: 
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdHJBt9YEbUgA_drGkuehGxZU4VfhzSzmqJVEsor8HeeYNY8w/viewform
“With hope and belief in the power of the people.”
Cole Swenson

100 Thousand Poets for Change Day
September 26, 2020
 

A message from Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion:

100 Thousand Poets for Change“2020 marks 10 years since the 100 Thousand Poets for Change movement began. It has been a breathtaking experience to work and create together in community building with you, and to witness a global community working for positive change.
 
“We hope you will all participate and organize again this year to signify that peace, justice and sustainability are things you and your community of poets, musicians, and artists care deeply about. We stand with you in reaffirming your commitment to this vision.
 
“What we are suggesting for the 10th anniversary of 100tpc is that local organizers work to prepare Zoom sessions all around the world. We are asking that you reconnect with your community through social media events and invite poets from your local community and from around the world to participate. The need for positive change is greater than ever and we must not let our spirits diminish in the task of speaking up for change.
 
“If you decide to organize a virtual event please let me know and I will add your event to promotions and archives just as we have done for the past ten years. Zoom sessions can be recorded easily and added to the Stanford University effort to document this historic movement.
 
 “Important! You do not need to organize your event on September 26, you can organize any time that is convenient for you during the fall and winter months.
 
Most important, know that you have friends around the world who care about you and share your creative vision. We are not alone. We will get through this.”
 
Michael and Terri
 
Poem for September
As we recover from the lightning fires of August, and brace for the fall fire season here in Sonoma County, I offer this poem by Poet Laureate Emerita Maya Kholsa.
________

Diablo Winds

Fire is a very powerful force of nature that’s been here for millions of years. Will be here for millions more. —Tim Ingalsbee
 
We woke to shrill voices and smoke.
Winds letting go; messages flying far.
A pine-and-cedar incense of imminence
wrapping the stars. Santa Ana, Diablo, Fohn.
Pages flapping. Nothing to hold the books,
the photos, the shared cups of tea, to the moment.
Rooms loosened from meaning. Walls
turning into paper in the hands of chance.
Anything, anything, grabbed without thought.
The mind a leaf spinning. The prayers caught
in our throats for months. One for shelter,
one for first responders knocking on doors,
one for the lost, one for fighters who drove
past flames. One for the hills rimmed with a rolling
brightness, for history to make us wise about lands
that have always returned after fire. For time, for time.
For the surprises tiptoeing in, unannounced, just weeks
after the flames. One for rain and the rise of suncup,
biscuitroot, toadflax and whispering bells.
For the plentiful flaring open, petals upon ash,
songbirds upon branches of charcoal,
black bear upon berries of abundance, fresh juices
trickling down the corners of her mouth.

© Maya Khosla, from All the Fires of Wind and Light (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2019). You can order the book using this link: https://sixteenrivers.org/authors/maya-khosla/

_____

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | July 31, 2020

August 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

Go Memorize a Poem

Equal Justice Under LawLast week, we lost a great leader of Civil Rights, John Lewis, who wisely said, “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.”

He was a man of honor, civility, conviction, humor, and hope. “Get in good trouble,” he said, “necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.”

What interesting conversations we might have if we asked our grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, neighbors, colleagues to tell a story about a time when they or someone they knew got into some “good trouble.” Consider making that a topic at one of your social zoom meet-ups. Write your own story or poem about “good trouble,” and send it to Jo-Anne and me at editor@socolitupdate.com. We’ll post some of these over the next few months.

John Lewis was also a reader of poetry; among his favorite poems was W. E. Henley’s “Invictus” (Latin for “unconquered”). It was Nelson Mandela’s favorite poem, too.

 
Invictus (1875)

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
 
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
 
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
 
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.
 
Henley wrote the poem when he was 26. As a teenager, he was diagnosed with tubercular arthritis that necessitated the amputation of one of his legs just below the knee; as he healed in the infirmary, Henley began to write poems, and continued writing throughout his short life. “Invictus” is his most famous poem; it isn’t sophisticated, but because of the rhyme and rhythm, it lends itself to memorization. When you take the time to commit a poem or song to heart, it gets inside you, part of your breath and movement, and it can be healing and comforting.

Memorizing is easier if you have a recording to “hum along with.” Here’s a recording of Morgan Freedman reading “Invictus”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAa6qdBN7Z0

In an article from the Atlantic, July 29, 2020, Eliot A. Cohen discusses the inspirational power of “Invictus,” and encourages us to memorize poetry to lift our hearts in this time of uncertainty and crisis. He offers examples of poems by Kipling, Dickinson, Whitman, and Edna St. Vincent Millay (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/go-memorize-poem/614692/).

It’s a good article, but Cohen’s selections are decidedly white, so I suggest that you explore the work of Elizabeth AlexanderAgha Shahid AliMaya AngelouJames BaldwinMarilyn ChinAracelis GirmayLangston HughesJune JordanAudre LordeClaudia Rankine, Roger Reeves, to name just a few

Writing in the Time of Covid/BLM

Many of our favorite reading series or writing forums have made the shift to Zoom and live-streaming, and scrolling through the offerings for August, I saw several that I think will help us tune in to the times we’re living, helping us  to live a little deeper.

Phyllis MeshulamFirst and foremost, you join Phyllis Meshulam’s Poet Laureate Project: Phyllis is inviting all of us to help her create an anthology of poems for the times we are living. One section will be devoted to the theme of “Honoring Our Pain for the World.” Check out the inspiring and provocative quotes from Patricia Smith, Camille Dungy, and Joseph Zaccardi on Phyllis’s Poet Laureate page: https://socolitupdate.com/poet-laureates-news/laureate-archive-2020-2022/

Ellen Sussman and Elizabeth Stark will be offering a free Zoom class on Wednesday, August 5: Writing in the Time of Covid through Sonoma County Writers Camp. https://sonomacountywriterscamp.com/free-class/

Anne LamottAnne Lamott will lead a Book Passage virtual workshop called ”On Writing 2020” Saturday, August 8, 12:00-3:00 p.m. Registration and details:
https://courses.extendedsession.com/anne-lamott/

 

Writer’s Forum is offering several free Zoom presentations: www.thewritespot.us/forum.php

August 9, 2:00 p.m. Ted Moreno will read “I Write My Life Every Dayand guide us in a relaxation activity. Marlene Cullen will lead a writing exercise.
August 16, 2:00 p.m., Kathy Guthormsen will read “Phoenix.” Susan Bono will present “Solace of Cherries” along with a craft talk and writing exercise. 
August 23, 2:00 p.m., Constance Hale will read an excerpt from “Rereading Camus” and talk about personal essays. She will lead a writing exercise.
August 30, 2:00 p.m. Diane McKay reads “The Healing Power of Correspondence.” Marlene Cullen facilitates a writing exercise.

Rivertown Poets Every Monday
Sandy Anfang hosts open mic readings every Monday at 6:15 PM with Rivertown Poets. Twice a month, the program begins with featured readers. Monday, August 3, the features are Shawna Swetech and Michael Giotis. Monday, August 17 the feature is jazz/blues musician, poet, and activist Avotcja. https://us04web.zoom.us/j/7073476692

Global Open Mic
Dan Brady, host of Sacred Ground Open Mic Series, has put together a list of readings around the world you can attend without leaving your home. You can find the constantly evolving list of Virtual Venues at this link: http://www.drdan.solutions/Global_Open_Mic_Listings.htm. And if you have an event to post on the Global Open Mic list, here’s how you can do this: http://www.creativeideasforyou.com/emailpage.html

Did You Miss the Poet Laureate Reception?
If you missed last month’s Poet Laureate/Youth Poet Laureate Reception, or simply want to savor the celebration again, here’s a link to a recording. Terrific readings by Phyllis Meshulam and Zoya Ahmed (Youth Poet Laureate), and a tribute to David Bromige, by Bill Vartnaw; and to Geri DiGiorno, by her daughter, Michelle Baynes. https://sebarts.org/poet-laureate/

Poem for August

Danez Smithlittle prayer
by Danez Smith

let ruin end here

let him find honey
where there was once a slaughter

let him enter the lion’s cage
& find a field of lilacs

let this be the healing
& if not   let it be

From Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2020

July 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

I want to begin this month’s post with a statement of solidarity, composed by our Poet Laureate Phyllis Meshulam, in collaboration with the Poet Laureate Committee.
_______
 
The burden borne by people of color in this country is almost incomprehensible to those who haven’t experienced it. Sonoma County’s Poets Laureate and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and others who want to re-imagine society, to expose racist roots wherever they might be, to challenge systemic racism within the power structure and to hold accountable those given the authority to use lethal force. We understand the urgency of addressing these centuries-old problems. We pledge to participate in this process, holding inclusive and topical events, amplifying the voices that need to be heard to make change, regularly including relevant work from a diverse community of poets in our readings. We believe that poetry can help us march in others’ shoes.Listen to an excerpt from “Accidental” in Incendiary Art, by Patricia Smith: “My children/ are blasted daily out of their own/ names, paying with breath for the sin/ of pockets. And wallets. And bottles./ And phones. And toys.”Or listen to an excerpt from “By the Way” in American Sunrise by Joy Harjo: “That’s how blues emerged, by the way—/ Our spirits needed a way to dance through the heavy mess./ The music, a sack that carries the bones of those left alongside/ The trail of tears when we were forced/ To leave everything we knew by the way—”
 
We also pledge to support groups like Reclaim Our Vote, My Brother’s Keeper, Undocufund and NAACP by volunteering, donating and spreading the word.
 

Phyllis Meshulam
Maya Khosla
Gwynn O’Gara
Bill Vartnaw
Sandra Anfang
Cynthi Stefenoni
Iris Jamahl Dunkle
Ernesto Garay
Kim Hester Williams
Clara Rosemarda
Terry Ehret
Rebecca Patrascu
Gail King
Kathleen Winter
Arthur Dawson
Cynthia Helen Beecher
_______

 
Back in April, the Sonoma County Poet Laureate Committee proudly announced the selection of Phyllis Meshulam as Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2020-2022. Her term runs from April, 2020 through March, 2022. You’ll find the full introduction presented in the April Post https://socolitupdate.com/2020/04/01/april-2020/. But let me highlight the reasons we chose Phyllis from a field of four gifted and well qualified finalists.
 
Every Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident whose poetry manifests a high degree of excellence, who has produced a critically acclaimed body of work, and who has demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in Sonoma County. Our new Poet Laureate steps up at a time when many of us are turning to the arts to find hope and resilience. We are traveling through such difficult times, without much of a compass, other than the generous, vital, and creative spirit we all share. It was the committee’s feeling that Phyllis’s work, imbued as it is with her passion for justice, sensitivity, and inclusiveness, would provide this important leadership.
 
Poet Laureate Virtual Gala Reception, Sunday, July 12th

Maya KhoslaZoya AhmedPhyllis Meshulam

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts, along with the Poet Laureate Selection Committee, invites the public to a virtual reception on July 12, 2020 at 4 PM. We’ll be honoring our outgoing Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, our new Laureate, Phyllis, and the recently selected Youth Poet Laureate, Zoya Ahmed.
 
Register for the online reception on the SCA website at sebarts. org. For interviews, please contact Phyllis Meshulam directly at meshalom@sonic.net or 707-486-7450.
 
RSVP: Poet Laureate reception July 12th 4 pm
 
Poet Laureate Anthology Project and Writing Prompts

One of the projects Phyllis has proposed for her Poet Laureate tenure is to create an anthology from members of our community:  poems probing obstacles we face in aligning our society with the needs of the planet as a whole and all its inhabitants. The concept of this book takes some of its inspiration from Joanna Macy’s “the work that reconnects.” Macy, an environmental activist and translator of Rilke, starts with the concept of “gratitude,” then moves to “honoring our pain for the world,” then “seeing with new eyes.”

Archived on Phyllis’s Poet Laureate News page are the prompts to get you started writing. https://socolitupdate.com/poet-laureates-news/laureate-archive-2020-2022/

When you have a piece ready, send it as an attachment in a word document Times New Roman or comparable font at 12 points, to this email: phyllie@sonic.net

Workshops Moving to Online Modes

Local writers who have been teaching workshops in memoir, fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry have moved their workshops to online formats. Some are even offering their workshops free of charge. Many thanks to Jo-Anne Rosen, who has kept up with the literary events and workshops in their new online incarnation, and presented these in detail on the Calendar Page and Workshops Page. Here are a few upcoming and ongoing workshops I recommend:

  • Marlene Cullen’s online writing event on Wednesday, July 8, 6:30 p.m., hosted by Aqus Café
  • Margaret Caminsky-Shapiro’s Sonoma County Writing Practice, Mondays at 2.00 p.m. and 6.00 p.m. and Tuesdays at 9.15 a.m. and 6.00 p.m.
  • Sher Christian’s Workshops and Intuitive Coaching on Fridays, 11:30 am to 12:30 pm
  • Writer’s Forum: Brenda Knight will talk about how to navigate the hurdles of book publishing, Tuesday, July 14,  6:30 p.m.
  • Writer and instructor Stacey Dennick will present tips on how to create dynamic dialogue Wednesday, July 15, 6:30-8:30 p.m, sponsored by Aqus Foundation. 
  • Memoir Class with Suzanne Sherman suzanne@suzannesherman.com
  • Christine Walker’s Writing Courses and YouTube Videos https://courses.christinewalker.net
  • Jordan Rosenfeld—Free classes, writing groups & editing: jordanwritelife (at) gmail (dot) com

 
Readings and Book Launches Are Also Online

Rivertown Poets features Paul Watsky and Crystal Ockenfuss. Followed by Open Mic Monday, July 6, 6:15 p.m.

Book Passage presents Joan Frank reading from Try to Get Lost. Wednesday, July 8, 7:00 p.m.

Global Open Mic: Dan Brady, host of Sacred Ground Open Mic Series, has put together a list of readings around the world you can attend without leaving your home. You can find the constantly evolving list of Virtual Venues at this link: http://www.drdan.solutions/Global_Open_Mic_Listings.htm. And if you have an event to post on the Global Open Mic list, here’s how you can do this: http://www.creativeideasforyou.com/emailpage.html

So many authors have released books this spring and summer, without the usual reading tour and book launches that help bring these new works to the public’s attention. If you have a new book, let us help you promote it!

Kathleen Winter’s Transformer

Kathleen Winter: TransformerKathleen WinterKathleen is author of three poetry collections, including Transformer (March 2020), selected by Maggie Smith for the Hilary Tham Collection at The Word Works Press. Winter’s second book, I will not kick my friends, won the Elixir Poetry Prize, and her debut collection, Nostalgia for the Criminal Past, won the Texas Institute of Letters Bob Bush Memorial Award and the Antivenom Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in The New Republic, The New Statesman, Poetry London, Agni, Cincinnati Review, Tin House, Michigan Quarterly Review and other journals. She has received fellowships from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Dora Maar House, James Merrill House, Cill Rialaig Project and Vermont Studio Center. Her awards include the Poetry Society of America The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award and the Ralph Johnston Fellowship at University of Texas’s Dobie Paisano Ranch. Winter is an associate editor at 32 Poems. She teaches creative writing at Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University.

If you’d like to read some of the poems in Transformer and/or order a copy for yourself, here’s the link: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781944585389/transformer.aspx

Ida Rae Egli’s New Novel, Krisanthi’s War: in Hitler’s Greece

In Hitler's Greece: Ida Rae EgliIda Rae EgliResearching and writing Krisanthi’s War: in Hitler’s Greece has been Ida Egli’s project for many years;  finally it has been released by local publisher McCaa Books and is available on Amazon.com or at McCaaBooks.com. The Kindle version is also available on Amazon.
 
Synopsis:
Three women struggle to survive in Hitler’s Greece. The war takes them to near starvation and to a violence they could not have imagined, but also to romance, love, babies being born, to village humor and the bravery of local resistance fighters. By working together they have a chance of surviving, though the costs to themselves, to family, and to Greece are high.
 
“When I first read Ida Egli’s novel of Greece in the time of Hitler, I was drawn in immediately and knew it was a masterpiece. It ranks up there with The Great Gatsby, Cold Mountain, Suite Francaise, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Moby Dick. It conveys three wonderful love stories (no! four), amidst the horrors of war that women have to endure, and to be clever enough to survive, moving through hanging bodies in the streets of Athens, and the slaughters of simple villagers on the island of Rhodes. Krisanthi’s War is a novel among the best in American fiction.”
                                                   —Neal Metcalf, author of The Pure Gamble and Loving Lady Chatterley
 
Some of the proceeds from book sales will be used to set up a fund to aid Greek families struggling with the pandemic and the poor Greek economy. 
 
Here is the link to take a look at Ida’s novel and order your own copy:
https://www.amazon.com/Krisanthis-War-Ida-Rae-Egli/dp/1733777032/

Poem for July

Lucille CliftonLucille Clifton’s birthday was just a few days ago. On June 27, she would have been 84. In the early days of shelter-in-place, when we were singing Happy Birthday to make sure we were washing our hands for 20 seconds, a meme circulated on the Internet proposing reciting this poem while hand-washing. This was before the Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, with their invitation to re-examine our identities, our assumptions, the racism that is so tightly woven into our history and society. Reciting this poem every day might move us all in the direction of empathy and necessary change.

won’t you celebrate with me

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

from The Book of Light (1992)

You can find Clifton’s poem and many other poems of resistance and resilience in the anthology America, We Call Your Name, published in 2018 by Sixteen Rivers Press.

Here’s the link to read some sample poems and/or order a copy: https://sixteenrivers.org/authors/anthology/

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

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