Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2023

February 2023

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

*   *   *

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

*   *   *

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

*   *   *

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

*   *   *

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


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2023

January 2023

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We hope you’ll consider sending us your work!

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

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

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

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

Burning the Old Year
by Naomi Shihab Nye

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classic Poems for the New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contemporary Poems for the New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elegy in Joy” by Muriel Rukeyser
We tell beginnings…

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

See more at:

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2022

December 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

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

Ada Limon at Santa Rosa JC Burbank Auditorium

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

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

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

Remembering Michael Rothenberg
feature and photo by Susan Lamont

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find out more about him at

RIP Michael

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We hope you’ll consider sending us your work!

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

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

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

Wendell Berry quote

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | October 31, 2022

November 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

November Events:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Poem for November

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

rocks stop still

waters cease

weather is no more

no city rings

as bells are peeled

of all their sound

and clouds compound

white hen clouds

plow the sky

furrows of blue

displace grey

on each side

time moves in

concentric circles

natural rhythms



there are no wants in trees

and hardly any buts or hurts

heart wood and clear heart

nary a saw of sighs


does wood cry as

nails pierce her flesh

can she recall

her treeness when all

the world was green


autumn browns give way

after rain to soft white fungus

winter’s velvet pillow


slanted trees

yellow leaves

asphalt path frames all


does the blind cat see

the wren hop along the fence

in is mind’s ear


is the disparity among

sacred, scared and scarred

more than an orthographic act


the sanderlings return

surge in and out

flow like feathered water

a mechanical wave of black & white


when the fruit is ripe

I will pluck it from the tree

make you tasty jam


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2022

October 2022

Dear literary folk,

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

The 25th annual Petaluma Poetry Walk
Contributed by Bill Vartnaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Longer Ode
Urayoán Noelby Urayoán Noel

para mi abuela en la isla

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

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

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

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


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2022

September 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delphiniums in a Window Box

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

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

No Forgiveness Ode

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

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

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2022

August 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

Sonoma County Community Welcomes Our New Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Herron
Saturday evening, the literary community gathered at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts to honor Phyllis Meshulam for her work and inspiration as our poet laureate 2020-2022, and to pass the laurel wreath to our incoming poet laureate, Elizabeth Herron. The ceremony recognized the finalists, Sande Anfang, Dave Seter, and Ed Coletti, as well as the members of the Poet Laureate Selection Committee. The highlight of the event was hearing Phyllis and Elizabeth read their work and talk briefly about their projects. Elizabeth and her partner Brendon sand a lovely duet, with Brendon’s guitar accompaniment. It was a lovely evening. For monthly messages from the poet laureate, and to learn more about the theme of Elizabeth’s project “Be Brave,” check this website’s Poet Laureate News page.

Book Launch and Readings for The Freedom of New Beginnings
The Freedom of New BeginningsAdvanced copies of the anthology The Freedom of New Beginnings: Poems of Witness and Vision from Sonoma County made their debut at the Poet Laureate Reception on Saturday. This stunning compilation of the poems of 74 poets is the result of Phyllis Meshulam’s vision to create a collection of poems of healing and reconnection, thematically responding to the work of Joanna Macy. Many of you are featured here!

Mark your calendars for the book launch, scheduled for Friday, August 26, 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.

The Petaluma Poetry Walk will also feature this new anthology with readings at the Aqus Café on Sunday, September 18. Other readings will be scheduled in the future. Keep an eye on the calendar here on the Literary Update.

Projects like these require not only vision, but many partners offering their expertise. Special thanks to Jerry Meshulam for the cover photo; to Jo-Anne Rosen for book design; to Gail King and Gwynn O’Gara for editing; to Carolyn Miller, Nancy J. Morales, and Steve Gilmartin for copy editing and proofreading; and to Bill Vartnaw and Taurean Horn Press for publishing assistance.

Book Launches for Beyond the Time of Words and Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two
You are all cordially invited to two north bay events to celebrate the publication of Beyond the Time of Words/Más allá del tiempo de las palabras, poems by Chilean poet Marjorie Agosín, and Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two, poems by Mexican poet Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon.

Marjorie lives and teaches in Wellesley, as does her translator, Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman. Both will be flying out to the Bay Area for these special events.
To order your copies of these books, visit:

Saturday, August 13, 2022 at 1:00 p.m.
Location: Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA 94925
(415) 927-0960
Refreshments will be served. Please check with Book Passage for their mask requirements.

Sunday, August 14, 2022, 2:00-5:00 p.m., Sonoma County Book Launch
Book launch reception and reading
Location: Nicholson Ranch Winery
4200 Napa Road, Sonoma, CA 95476
Phone: (707) 938-8822
RSVP: This event will be held outdoors (weather permitting), with catered refreshments and wine. It is free, but to assist us in estimating the number of guests, please preregister through EventBrite:

And if you will be in the Los Angeles area, or know someone there, we’ll be reading at the Heal the Bay Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier. This, too, will be a catered event, with an outdoor reception 6-7 pm. The reading will be indoors from 7:00-8:00 p.m. Masks strongly recommended.
Wednesday, August 17, 6:00-8:00 p.m. Poetry Reading
Location: Heal the Bay Aquarium
Santa Monica Pier
1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-6149 x206

Our New U.S. Poet Laureate, Ada Limόn
Ada LimόnIn July, we learned that Sonoma poet Ada Limόn has been named the 24th US Poet Laureate. Yeah for Sonoma County!!! Ada was raised in Sonoma and her first job was at our beloved Readers’ Books. She lives in Kentucky now, but returns to Sonoma each year, and we’re often lucky to catch one of her fabulous readings.

Limón, who succeeds Joy Harjo, is an award-winning and unusually popular poet, her acclaimed collection Bright Dead Things selling more than 40,000 copies. She has published six books of poetry, most recently The Hurting Kind, and also hosts the podcast The Slowdown. (Source:

There was an excellent short feature on Ada Limόn on PBS last week. Here’s the link, in case you missed it:

Many of us in Sonoma County have long been fans of Ada Limόn’s work, and I had the great pleasure of leading a workshop on her poetry at the Sitting Room back in the fall of 2018. When Sixteen Rivers published the anthology America, We Call Your Name, we included her poem “A New National Anthem” (reprinted here at the end of this update). Ada’s poem, in turn, inspired high school student Sophia Hall from Washington, D.C. to write a poem in response called “Multiple Choice: What Is the National Anthem?” (also included here).If you’re interested in reading more of the student poems from our National Youth Poetry Contest, click here: Among these young poets is Leila Jackson, also from Washington, D.C., and daughter of our newest US Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. This September, Sixteen Rivers will release a chapbook called Anthems. The young poets featured there will be part of a virtual reading this fall. Stay tuned for date and time.

Petaluma Arts Center Call For Poetry
Petaluma Arts Center logoIf you’re reading this on August 1, you still have time to submit a poem to the Petaluma Arts Center, which is currently seeking poetry by Sonoma County writers on food and memory in tandem with an exhibit opening on August 11 called Agri-CULTURED: Reflections on our Local Food Community by Land and by Hand.

Deadline August 1
Theme: Food and Memory
All forms of poetry accepted
Line limit: one page or 48 lines (including spaces between stanzas)
One submission per person
12 pt font; Times New Roman
Online submission. Upload Word doc or PDF
Previously published work acceptable, with proper acknowledgment

Writing submissions juried by Elizabeth Herron, Poet Laureate of Sonoma County
To read these submission guidelines online, use this link:

Opening reception Thursday, August 11, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
To submit your work, please complete
this form and upload your poetry
For more information, contact 1-707-762-5600 or e-mail

Joyce Carol Oates in a Virtual Conversation
Joyce Carol OatesThursday, August 25, 5:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books welcomes the beloved Joyce Carol Oates for a virtual conversation with Paula McLain on her new book Babysitter. From one of America’s most renowned storytellers—the best-selling author of Blonde—comes a novel about love and deceit, and lust and redemption, against a backdrop of child murders in the affluent suburbs of Detroit. ONLINE. This event is free. Get a signed bookplate when you purchase the book from Copperfield’s. More details and registration/book purchase:


Two Poems for August

A New National Anthem
by Ada Limón

The truth is, I’ve never cared for the National
Anthem. If you think about it, it’s not a good
song. Too high for most of us with “the rockets
red glare” and then there are the bombs.
(Always, always, there is war and bombs.)
Once, I sang it at homecoming and threw
even the tenacious high school band off key.
But the song didn’t mean anything, just a call
to the field, something to get through before
the pummeling of youth. And what of the stanzas
we never sing, the third that mentions “no refuge
could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps,
the truth is, every song of this country
has an unsung third stanza, something brutal
snaking underneath us as we blindly sing
the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands
hoping our team wins. Don’t get me wrong, I do
like the flag, how it undulates in the wind
like water, elemental, and best when it’s humbled,
brought to its knees, clung to by someone who
has lost everything, when it’s not a weapon,
when it flickers, when it folds up so perfectly
you can keep it until it’s needed, until you can
love it again, until the song in your mouth feels
like sustenance, a song where the notes are sung
by even the ageless woods, the short-grass plains,
the Red River Gorge, the fistful of land left
unpoisoned, that song that’s our birthright,
that’s sung in silence when it’s too hard to go on,
that sounds like someone’s rough fingers weaving
into another’s, that sounds like a match being lit
in an endless cave, the song that says my bones
are your bones, and your bones are my bones,
and isn’t that enough?

Ada Limón, “A New National Anthem” from The Carrying. Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón

Multiple Choice: What Is the National Anthem?
by Sophia Hall
(after “A New National Anthem,” by Ada Limón)

a) the song / that binds / and stitches / gaping wounds / two sides / sewn back / together / on
Super Bowl Sunday / or a high school homecoming / the tuba players / the solo soprano / the
audience / that stands / hand over heart / listening / the song that sustains / and softens

b) hesitating / keys in the ignition / halfway turning / the gas money / dwindling / the prices /
rising / smoke / lingering / in the air / frost / pipes rusting over / it will be a hard winter /
mother sighs / bundle up / you notice / your bare toe / peeking out / from the black sock

c) bang / chanting / no justice / no peace / bang / “there are riots” / says the news / bang /
insurrection / the glass storefronts in Georgetown boarded up / bang / Parkland / nail salons /
gay bars / bang / say their names / George / Breonna / Ahmaud / Tamir / bang
d) my grandmother / cooking / in the kitchen / today / every day / there is soup / chicken /
simmering / there on the stove / here is a bowl / take a spoonful / smell / garlic / rising /
potatoes / thick / warming / onion / down the throat / eat more / there is plenty / to share

Forthcoming in Anthems: Teen Poets Respond to America, We Call Your Name (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2022).

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2022

July 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

Poet Laureate Reception on Saturday, July 30, 4-6 p.m.
Phyllis Meshulam and Elizabeth HerronLast month’s post introduced you to our new Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Herron. The Sebastopol Center for the Arts invites you all to SebArts for a reception and reading to honor the outgoing PL Phyllis Meshulam for her extraordinary tenure, to introduce you all to Elizabeth, and to welcome her to her new position. We will also acknowledge the three outstanding finalists Sande Anfang, Ed Coletti, and Dave Seter.

Date and Time: Saturday, July 30, 4-6 p.m.
: 282 S. High Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472 (map)
Light refreshments and beverages will be served. Books by past and current poets laureate will be available for sale. The event is free to the public.

To learn more about Elizabeth and her proposed project, check the Poet Laureate News page of the Literary Update.

Petaluma Arts Center Call For Poetry
Petaluma Arts Center logoPetaluma Arts Center is currently seeking poetry by Sonoma County writers on food and memory in tandem with an exhibit opening on August 11 called Agri-CULTURED: Reflections on our Local Food Community by Land and by Hand.

Deadline August 1

Theme: Food and Memory
All forms of poetry accepted
Line limit: one page or 48 lines (including spaces between stanzas)
One submission per person
12 pt font; Times New Roman
Online submission. Upload Word doc or PDF
Previously published work acceptable, with proper acknowledgment

Writing submissions juried by Elizabeth Herron, Poet Laureate of Sonoma County
To read these submission guidelines online, use this link:

Opening reception Thursday, August 11, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
To submit your work, please complete
this form and upload your poetry
For more information, contact 1-707-762-5600 or e-mail

“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are” Brillat-Savarin 
Agri-CULTURED explores cross-cultural intersections of food and farming in our region. The project brings together food producers, purveyors, and artists who work locally and align with global concerns of sustainable practice and cultural memory. It not only bridges art, science, and agriculture but also engages the spheres of hospitality, tourism, and the economy of Sonoma County. 
This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and from Creative Sonoma.

Susan Bono at Writers Forum
On Thursday, July 7, 6:00 pm to 8:00 p.m. Writers Forum presents Susan Bono: Ready, Set, Pivot! Free Zoom workshop for anyone who wants to write in a freestyle of writing. For details about registration, click on this link:

Workshop Description: Personal narratives are documents of change. They always contain a “before” and “after.” This is really useful to remember when building our stories. In our time together, we’ll explore this concept and experiment with some structures that create natural pivots or shift points.

Susan brings wry humor, gentle guidance, and ever-evolving wisdom to the teaching of memoir and personal essay. A California-born teacher, freelance editor, and short-form memoirist, Susan has facilitated writing workshops since 1993, helping hundreds of writers find and develop their voices. She often writes about domestic life set in her small town of Petaluma. Susan is the author of What Have We Here: Essays About Keeping House and Finding Home.

San Francisco Writers Conference
Thursday, July 21–Sunday, July 24. The 18th annual San Francisco Writers Conference. 100+ Presenters (including 20 literary agents!), 80+ sessions, lectures and classes over the FOUR day weekend, the SFWC Poetry Summit and the Writing for Hollywood Summit sessions. See Conference page for details or:

Napa Valley Writers’ Conference
When writers local, national, and international gather for the annual Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, the creative energy is electric. Those of us who aren’t able to attend this year are welcome to join the conference attendees and presenters for craft lectures and readings. Here’s the list of these. Events are at Napa Valley College, 2277 Napa-Vallejo Highway, Napa. Most events are $20 or $25 at the door, $15 for students with ID. A few events are free. Details can be found on the calendar page and online at this link:

Monday, July 25, 9:00 a.m. Patricia Smith will give a talk about poetry.
Monday, July 25, 1:30 p.m. Michelle Huneven will give a talk about fiction titled “The Work of Imagination.”
Monday, July 25, 3:00 p.m. Forrest Gander will give a talk about translation titled “The Rich Rewards of Translation.”
Monday, July 25, 4:30 p.m. Author Caroline Goodwin will discuss the works of Jane Hirshfield and Kevin Brockmeier in a free seminar.
Monday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. Poet Jane Hirshfield and fiction writer Kevin Brockmeier will read following a half-hour wine reception.
Tuesday, July 26, 9:00 a.m. Dana Levin will give a talk about poetry titled “House of Feels: Image & Transformation.”
Tuesday, July 26, 1:30 p.m. ZZ Packer will give a talk about writing fiction titled “Advanced Narrative Techniques.”
Tuesday, July 26, 4:30 p.m. Author Caroline Goodwin will discuss the works of Major Jackson and Lan Samantha Chang in a free seminar.
Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. Poet Major Jackson and fiction writer Lan Samantha Chang will read following a half-hour wine reception.
Wednesday, July 27, 9:00 a.m.  Jane Hirshfield will give a talk about poetry.
Wednesday, July 27, 1:30 p.m. Kevin Brockmeier will give a talk about writing fiction titled “An Animal Within to Give Its Blessing: On the Value of Nonhuman Creatures in Fiction.”

Wednesday, July 27, 4:30 p.m. Author Caroline Goodwin will discuss the works of Patricia Smith and Michele Huneven in a free seminar.
Wednesday, July 27, 5:30 p.m. Poet Patricia Smith and fiction writer Michele Huneven will read following a half-hour wine reception.
Thursday, July 28, 9:00 a.m:  Major Jackson will give a talk about poetry titled “Our Disenfranchised Sublime: Symmetry as Aesthetic Value in Poetry.”
Thursday, July 28, 1:30 p.m. Lan Samantha Chang will give a talk about writing fiction titled “The Muddled Middle.”
Thursday, July 28, 4:30 p.m. Special Guest Lynne Thompson will give a talk titled “On Literary Citizenship: Reflections from the Poet Laureate of Los Angeles” in a free seminar.
Thursday, July 28, 6:30 p.m. On the closing night of the conference, Forrest Gander will read poetry and translation and conference participants will present their best works.

The Freedom of New Beginnings Book Launch on Friday, August 26
Mark your calendars for the book launch of Phyllis Meshulam’s Poet Laureate Project: The Freedom of New Beginnings: Poems of Witness and Vision by Poets from Sonoma County. The anthology features poems by 74 poets responding to the three themes: Gratitude, Honoring Our Pain for the World, and Seeing with New Eyes. The title was inspired by a poem by Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine Hastings. Her poem appears at the end of the post.

Here is what Gwynn O’Gara has written about the anthology: “A broken world needs poetry. Phyllis Meshulam, poet laureate of Sonoma County, California, invited poets to map the three stages of reconnection as conceived by Buddhist scholar and Rilke translator Joanna Macy. This anthology is a journey of witness and renewal in uncertain times.

Two Poems for July 2022

the lost baby poem
by Lucille Clifton

the time i dropped your almost body down
down to meet the waters under the city
and run one with the sewage to the sea
what did i know about waters rushing back
what did i know about drowning
or being drowned

you would have been born into winter
in the year of the disconnected gas
and no car       we would have made the thin
walk over genesee hill into the canada wind
to watch you slip like ice into strangers’ hands
you would have fallen naked as snow into winter
if you were here i could tell you these
and some other things

if i am ever less than a mountain
for your definite brothers and sisters
let the rivers pour over my head
let the sea take me for a spiller

of seas        let black men call me stranger
always        for your never named sake

“the lost baby poem” from Good News About the Earth (1972)


Heron, Like Smoke
Katherine Hastings

In the sapphire sky of the valley
over the old arms of oaks
where white feathered clouds float
your blue-grey wings lift you
aloft in flight, appear as 
rising spirits slow-moving
to space. Your euphoric flight
is charged by new daylight
propels us into memory beyond fire
beyond the slog of escape
beyond the catastrophe of ash
throbbing in the glass
of abandoned dreams
Light follows you, cuts a path
equal to the loss of the abandoned nest
equal to the freedom new beginnings bring

“Heron Like Smoke,” from A Different Beauty, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2022).


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2022

June 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

I’m writing this from Burbank, California, where I am visiting my daughter this Memorial Day holiday. And like most of you, the past two weeks have been devastating as we watch our national addiction to firearms repeatedly collapse our sense of a civil society, leaving us questioning our future and our children’s future.

Friday June 3rd Is National Gun Violence Day. This seems a good opportunity to reflect on how we can be the change we need in these violent times. Perhaps you can take an hour of that day to write down your thoughts, share a poem with a friend, ask a young person how they are feeling, and what their hopes, dreams, and fears are.

One Poet-teacher’s Memorial Day Response
Dante Di Stephano is a poet and high school teacher in Endicott, NY. A few years ago, when Sixteen Rivers Press was putting together an anthology of poems called America, We Call Your Name, Dante was a contributor. When the anthology was published, he participated in a reading at St. Marks in New York, and has been a consultant to the press in organizing the anthology-in-the-schools project. This was a way to get teachers to introduce their students to the poems and poets in the anthology, and to respond with their own poetic visions and voices. Every participating teacher received a class set of the anthology, and students were encouraged to submit their poems to a national youth poetry contest that Sixteen Rivers sponsored.

Sixteen Rivers will bring out a chapbook of these youth poets in the fall. We recently asked Dante to compose an afterword to the book, and this he composed this very Memorial Day weekend, following the massacre of nineteen children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Dante lives in upstate New York, just ten miles from the hometown of the Buffalo shooter who, driven by racist conspiracy theories, murdered ten people at a grocery store. On the day of the shootings in Texas, the high school where he teaches was under threat of an attack that had gone viral on social media. Dante sat with his students, those who had risked attending school that day, while an armed security guard stood outside his classroom door. Together they read poems from America, We Call Your Name, as well as poems by the youth poetry finalists. The next day he wrote about this, reflecting on his fourteen years of teaching, and how traumatized his current students are by two years of the pandemic and these horrific mass-shootings. “They appear, as a group, more anxiety-filled and lonelier than they should be,” Dante writes. “Thinking of those nineteen dead children in Texas almost paralyzes me, but then I listen to my students reading poems from today, and from hundreds, or thousands of years ago, and I’m gratefully jolted into hope.”

Our finalists in this competition participated in an online reading of their poems in February. You can read the poems of the finalists at this link:

One of Dante Di Stefano’s own poems, “Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry),” was selected by Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco for the 2019 On Teaching Poem Prize, which is given to honor the best unpublished poem written about K–12 teaching and/or teachers. I have included this at the end of this post. Scroll down to read.

Music and Poetry:
A Healing and Uplifting Community Event in Response to Buffalo and Uvalde

Community Market in Sebastopol is hosting a community reading and benefit on Sunday afternoon on June 12th, 3 pm to 4:30 pm. Poets and musicians will come together to express their support for the people of Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, and all who have suffered from gun violence in their communities. Raphael Block has organized this special event, and readers will include our Sonoma County poet laureate Phyllis Meshulam, Doug Von Koss, Kay Crista, as well as musicians Hoytus Rolen, I-Ray, Zoe Sameth, David Field, and Bonnie Brooks.

The event will take place outside the Community Market in Sebastopol, located at 6762 Sebastopol Avenue.

If you would like to share poetry that is linked in some way to these two recent terrible tragedies, please contact

The community reading will be followed by the Community Market’s weekly open mic that starts at 5 pm.

The event will benefit the Sandy Hook Promise: Protecting Children from Gun Violence. The Sandy Hook Promise envisions a future where children are free from shootings and acts of violence in their schools, homes, and communities.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Herron, Sonoma County’s New Poet Laureate!

Elizabeth was one many nominees and four distinguished finalists the selection committee considered. The other outstanding finalists were Sande Anfang, Ed Coletti, and Dave Seter. Each finalist presented a plan for a literary project, a selection of poems, and a summary of their publishing history and their activities in our literary community. How lucky we are to have so many amazing poets ready to serve!

Next month’s post will feature our current poet laureate, Phyllis Meshulam, and our newest poet laureate, highlighting the projects of both, and including more details about the events the Sebastopol Center for the Arts will be hosting to celebrate these two fine poets.

Here’s a little background on Elizabeth: After attending the University of Hawaii, Elizabeth earned a Masters in Counseling at San Francisco State University. She studied the origin of aesthetic behavior, and received a PhD in Psychology from the University for Integrative Learning, a fleeting distance-learning program founded by graduates of the Harvard School of Education. She joined the Counseling Center at Sonoma State University and subsequently moved to a faculty position, teaching Creative Writing, Creativity and Contemplative Practice, and Ecological Identity. “Whether facilitating dream groups, studying, teaching, or gathering hawthorn berries and windfall apples, writing has always been my life.”

Born in Illinois and raised in Hawaii, Elizabeth settled in the Atascadero Watershed, west of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, and south of the Russian River, in 1991, the year of the Dunsmuir Spill. After traveling north to bear witness to the aftermath of the spill, she committed a decade of her work to the study of wild trout and salmon and threats to their survival. That work led her to the climate crisis, and her recent writing includes a manuscript of poems centered on climate as well as a chapbook of “poems from the post-post world.”

For more information about Elizabeth, her publications, and her ecopoetics, check her website:

Two June Events Back-to-back
(They’re both zoom events, so you can actually manage both!)
A Creative Writing Lecture and Reading on Ecopoetics with Lynn Keller and Forrest Gander
Dominican University of California presents “Writing in the Self-Conscious Anthropocene,” a Creative Writing Lecture and Reading with Lynn Keller and Forrest Gander, Monday, June 6, 4:30-6:00 p.m. This event brings together scholarly and creative perspectives on urgent environmental concerns. Free, but pre-register using the link on the calendar page

Rivertown Poets Celebrates its Ninth Anniversary!
Rivertown Poets features a ninth anniversary reading on Monday, June 6, 6:15-8:15 p.m. with Terry Ehret and Nancy Morales, translators (with John Johnson) of Ulalume González de León’s Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two, along with Abby Bogomolnyreading her own poems. Open mic follows the feature. Details in the calendar.


Poem for June

Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry)
by Dante Di Stefano

Write about walking into the building
as a new teacher. Write yourself hopeful.
Write a row of empty desks. Write the face
of a student you’ve almost forgotten;
he’s worn a Derek Jeter jersey all year.
Do not conjecture about the adults
he goes home to, or the place he calls home.
Write about how he came to you for help
each October morning his sophomore year.
Write about teaching Othello to him;
write Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
Write about reading his obituary
five years after he graduated. Write
a poem containing the words “common”
“core,” “differentiate,” and “overdose.”
Write the names of the ones you will never
forget: “Jenna,” “Tiberious,” “Heaven,”
“Megan,” “Tanya,” “Kingsley” “Ashley,” “David.”
Write Mari with “Nobody’s Baby” tattooed
in cursive on her neck, spitting sixteen bars
in the backrow, as little white Mike beatboxed
“Candy Shop” and the whole class exploded.
Write about Zuly and Nely, sisters
from Guatemala, upon whom a thousand
strange new English words rained down on like hail
each period, and who wrote the story
of their long journey on la bestia
through Mexico, for you, in handwriting
made heavy by the aquís and ayers
ached in their knuckles, hidden by their smiles.
Write an ode to loose-leaf. Write elegies
on the nub nose of a pink eraser.
Carve your devotion from a no. 2
pencil. Write the uncounted hours you spent
fretting about the ones who cursed you out
for keeping order, who slammed classroom doors,
who screamed “you are not my father,” whose pain
unraveled and broke you, whose pain you knew.
Write how all this added up to a life.

About This Poem
“I’ve taught tenth and twelfth grade English for the past eleven years at Union-Endicott High School in upstate New York. This poem attempts to catch some of the heartbreak and some of the vibrancy from the first-third of my teaching life. The architecture of the poem was suggested by Adam Gellings’s poem ‘Prompt,’ and by Elaina Ellis’s poem ‘Write About an Empty Birdcage.’”


Terry Ehret, Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2022

May 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

(Note: With kind regards to the Literary Update’s technical creator and co-editor Jo-Anne Rosen, today’s Literary Update post will have no images/graphics. Our platform is WordPress, and they have made inserting images more difficult. We hope to resolve this problem in the future, but thank you for bearing with the text-only Update today).

Fishing for Fallen Light
I recently came across this beautiful verse by Pablo Neruda, from The Sea and the Bells, translated by poet William O’Daly:

We need to sit on the rim
of the well of darkness
and fish for fallen light
with patience.

In these times, that act of faith and trust in the “fallen light” of hope seems essential, though often unacknowledged. I think one could end each day by taking inventory, however slim it might be, of the “fallen light” we’ve found in the darkness. Maybe it’s a line or two from a favorite poem, a moment of beauty, a kindness directed our way. Rereading Dylan Thomas’s “In My Craft and Sullen Art” from April’s Update, every line seems to ring with a different clarity and truth, as if I’d never read it before, though I know the poem by heart. Finding this Neruda quote led me to the source and to William O’Daly, who is a new acquaintance and friend. Such serendipity! The poem in which this verse can be found is included at the end of today’s Update, along with the Spanish.

My husband Don and I have been involved the past few months in a program called Cool Blocks Challenge. Petaluma was one of three cities in California to receive a grant to organize and execute the program, which is aimed at reducing our carbon footprint, one neighborhood at a time. It’s a grassroots response to climate change, which gives us something concrete to do with our anxiety and distress. It is fueled by hope—a sustainable resource. As author Grace Paley often said, “Hope is action.” If you live in Petaluma, you should check out this website to see how you can get involved: And if you live anywhere else, you can see about starting such a program in your town.

One of the big take-aways from this program is how little we really know our immediate neighbors, and what a difference it makes to come together over our shared concerns. Another take-away is that we really aren’t as prepared for disaster as we think we are, and we could all be doing so much more to reduce consumption in general. Though not directly related to our writing and literary lives, this is what’s on my mind today. I think of all of you as my literary neighbors, and Sonoma County as my literary neighborhood. I’m proud of how we’ve always come together to support and celebrate each other in times of disaster and in times of success. Thank you all for being such an amazing community!

Phyllis Meshulam’s Poet Laureate Project The Freedom of New Beginnings
The past few months, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with our poet laureate Phyllis Meshulam on her project to produce an anthology of poems by Sonoma County poets. Through that, I’ve gotten to know many poets who are new to me, and familiar poets in new ways. If you’ve been following Phyllis’s Poet Laureate page on the Update, you know that the anthology revolves around three themes: “Gratitude,” “Honoring Our Pain for the World,” and “Seeing with New Eyes.” Its title, The Freedom of New Beginnings, was inspired by a poem by Katherine Hastings, which ends with these inspirational lines: “beyond the catastrophe of ash/ throbbing in the glass/of abandoned dreams/Light follows you, cuts a path//equal to the loss of the abandoned nest/equal to the freedom new beginnings bring.”

For me, the overarching emotional impact of reading the poems in this anthology many times over is hope. Here’s what Gwynn O’Gara wrote about this amazing book: A broken world needs poetry. Phyllis Meshulam, poet laureate of Sonoma County, California, invited poets to map the three stages of reconnection as conceived by Buddhist scholar and Rilke translator Joanna Macy. This anthology is a journey of witness and renewal in uncertain times.”

Huge thanks to Phyllis for her vision, and to those 74 poets who contributed their work! We hope to have the anthology available in July, so keep an eye on the Update, especially the Poet Laureate’s page, for news of the book launch and readings across the county.

National Recognition for Petaluma playwright David Templeton’s Galatea
Congratulations to local author and playwright David Templeton for Galatea, which has recently won a number of prestigious awards. Galatea is a four-actor play set in the distant future that centers on the relationship between a synthetic human named Seventy-One and her therapist, Dr. Mailer (Sindu Singh). When the play begins, Seventy-One has been found floating in deep space in a decaying space craft, the lone surviving crew member of the Galatea, a large human-transport ship that disappeared without a trace more than 100 years earlier.

Galatea debuted at Spreckels Theater in Rohnert Park in September 2021 and recently received an astonishing bevy of awards, including the 2022 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) New Play Award and Citations, and the following Excellence in Theatre Awards, just announced by the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle:

Overall Production for the entire Bay Area
Overall Production for the North Bay
Original Script
Director — Marty Pistone
Principle Actor — Abbey Lee
Projection design — Chris Schloemp
Set Design — Eddy Hansen, Elizabeth Bazzano

There are two great features on David’s accomplishments, one in Petaluma 360, and the other in the Bohemian. Check out these links:

Napa Valley Writers’ Conference
Deadline to apply to the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference is Monday, May 2. Click here to apply to the Conference! The 2022 conference will take place from Sunday, July 24, to Friday, July 29, on the Napa campus of Napa Valley College. We offer workshops in poetry, fiction and translation. For more information about this years’ phenomenal faculty visit:

Three Reading Invitations
As you all know, I’ve been focusing much of my creative energy over the past decade on translating and publishing the poetry of Ulalume González de León. And I’m so pleased that I can celebrate the publication of volume two of Plagios/Plagiarisms this month with a reading with Ukiah Library’s Loba Series, which is now a virtual series, which makes getting to beautiful Ukiah easier. This will be on Thursday, May 26, at 7 PM. Here’s the link for details:

A second celebratory reading will be on Monday, June 6 at 6:15 PM, as part of Sande Anfang’s delightful Rivertown Poets Series. Whether this will be live or online is still up in the air. Location will be announced in June’s Literary Update, and by Sande as well.

The third invitation is to a reading of my own poetry, Tuesday, May 24, 7 PM, on the theme of relationships. The reading is hosted by Poetic License Sonoma and includes guest student poet from SRJC: Joan Osterman. Registration is required to receive the Zoom link which will be emailed to you prior to event. Please note, there is a nominal charge of $5.00. Details and registration:

Other May Events Coming Up
(Note: Be sure to check the April Calendar of Events for the full list of readings, performances, workshops, and open mics across Sonoma County and beyond. The following are just a tasty sample.)

Nature and Writing Walk with Patti Trimble: Sunday, May 15
, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Summer Writing Walk on Sonoma State University’s Galbreath Wildlands Preserve in southern Mendocino County, just twenty miles northwest of Cloverdale. Use your sensory perception in this natural environment and translating those experiences to the page through poetry. Details and registration:

Haiku in Ukiah:
Calling all haiku (and palindrome) enthusiasts! Mark your calendars for Sunday, May 15, 2:00-4:00 PM, for the Ukiah Haiku Festival, a 20th Anniversary Retrospective, hosted by poet laureate Melissa Eleftherion Carr and past poet laureate Michael Riedell. Open mic follows readings selected by the laureates (signups at 2 p.m.). At Grace Hudson Museum Wild Gardens, Ukiah:

Jonah Raskin’a New Novel Beat Blues, San Francisco, 1955 : Sunday May 15, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
at Readers Books, 130 E. Napa Street, Sonoma. Contact Readers Books, 707.939.1779,

Sonoma County Poets at Café Frida Gallery:
With thanks to Ed Coletti, another wonderful array of Sonoma County poets will present on Sunday, May 29, 3:00-5:00 p.m. Café Friday is located at 300 A St. Participants include Phyllis Meshalum, Larry Robinson, Vilma Ginzberg, David Seter, Marvin Hiemstra, Brian Martens, Ed Coletti, and Steve Shain on bass. ​Attendees are encouraged to arrive early to get parked, seated, coffeed and snacked, and out of respect for the poets who are reading. We are all hungry to share our work in public once again! Come one, Come all, and bring guests!

Reverberations Two: A Visual Conversation Exhibition runs through May 15:
Ekphrastic poetry is poetry inspired by a work of art. In 2018, Sebastopol Center for the Arts premiered “Reverberations: A Visual Conversation,” an exhibition in which poetry was written in response to pieces of artwork. ReverberationsTwo: A Visual Conversation reverses this dynamic, asking artists to create a piece of artwork in response to poems. Each artist in the exhibit was given a different poem to respond to. The exhibition is really stunning. I hope you’ll get a chance to drop by the gallery at SCA in the next two weeks. Check here for gallery hours: Thursday – Sunday, 10 am – 4 PM. Check this link for details:


Poem for May: “Here/Aquí”
by Pablo Neruda, translated by William O’Daly


I came here to count the bells
that live upon the surface of the sea,
that sound over the sea,
within the sea.
So, here I live.

If each day falls
inside each night,
there exists a well
where clarity is imprisoned.

We need to sit on the rim
of the well of darkness
and fish for fallen light
with patience.


Me vine aquí a contar las campanas
que viven en el mar,
que suenan en el mar,
dentro del mar.
Por eso vivo aquí.

Si cade día cae
dentro de cade noche
hay un pozo
donde la claridad está encerrada.

Hay que sentarse a la orilla
del pozo de la sombra
y pescar de la sombra
y pescar luz caída
con paciencia.

From The Sea and the Bells, Copper Canyon Press, 1988


Terry Ehret, Literary Update Co-Editor

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