Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2020

October 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew ZapruderSun Bear
by Matthew Zapruder

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

_____
 
Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2020

September 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

100 Thousand Poets for Change Day
September 26, 2020
 

A message from Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion:

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

Diablo Winds

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

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

_____

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | July 31, 2020

August 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

Go Memorize a Poem

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

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

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

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

 
Invictus (1875)

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

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

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

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

Writing in the Time of Covid/BLM

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Poem for August

Danez Smithlittle prayer
by Danez Smith

let ruin end here

let him find honey
where there was once a slaughter

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

let this be the healing
& if not   let it be

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

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2020

July 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

Maya KhoslaZoya AhmedPhyllis Meshulam

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

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

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

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

Workshops Moving to Online Modes

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

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

 
Readings and Book Launches Are Also Online

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

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

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

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

Kathleen Winter’s Transformer

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

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

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

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

Poem for July

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

won’t you celebrate with me

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

from The Book of Light (1992)

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

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

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2020

June 1, 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

I hardly know what to say. Never have I felt so anxious and overwhelmed by the state of our country and the world. Never have I felt so sick at heart and saddened by the injustices that run so deep in our society. And yet, I am heartened by the compassion and solidarity I see daily examples of.

Demonstrators face a row of police in downtown Los Angeles,

Many of you in the literary community have been part of the local protests with rallies and marches in Santa Rosa and Ukiah, and demonstrations in Petaluma. Thank you all for standing up or taking a knee for justice.

I have a niece and great-niece who live in Minneapolis, ground zero for the George Floyd protests that have swept the county. She is Japanese-Dutch-American. Her daughter is that plus African-American. The racial divides in our country touch them both personally. My niece writes every day, documenting what she is witnessing, and zooms with our family once a week. This morning, she talked about how her time as part of the resistance at Standing Rock prepared her for these days of protests and community action in Minneapolis. It was the genuine feeling of solidarity she was referring to, as well as a commitment to  honoring a people long denied their rights, and all under the imminent threat of police/military action.

Tanker truckLater, she sent photos of the fifth day of protests outside her apartment, and the horrendous scene on the nearby freeway as a tanker truck plowed into a crowd of protesters on the highway. As darkness fell, she could hear and see the tear gas canisters, the flash-bangs, as police pushed the protesters back, while water-carrying helicopters, military helicopters, and news helicopters swirled overhead.

Officers kneelWe’re in the midst of some enormous catalyst of change. If ever there was a time to speak truth to power, this is it. Bear witness if you can, participate in positive change. But stay safe and be mindful of those around you.


Global Open Mic

It’s week 11 of sheltering-in-place in a pandemic that has already altered our lives dramatically. One change, of course, is the shift to online literary readings, performances, and events. Dan Brady, host of Sacred Ground Open Mic Series, has put together a list of readings around the world you can attend without leaving your home.

You can find the constantly evolving list of Virtual Venues at this link: http://www.drdan.solutions/Global_Open_Mic_Listings.htm

And if you have an event to post on the Global Open Mic list, here’s how you can do this: http://www.creativeideasforyou.com/emailpage.html


Rivertown Poets Celebrates its 7th Anniversary

One of the online events coming up later today is the 7th Anniversary of Rivertown Poets Series on Monday, June 1st, at 6:15 p.m. The aforementioned Dan Brady will be one of two featured readers. The other is Lance Giroux. Following the featured readers will be an open mic.

Sande Anfang, the series director and host, reminds those planning to join the open mic that each reader should keep to the three minute limit. Please time your share beforehand to accommodate everyone who wants to read. To sign up in advance for open mic, please fill out the JotForm.
aquscafe.com/online orhttps://us04web.zoom.us/j/7073476692


Pop-Up Poetry Protest
Pop-Up Poetry Contest

Jacki Rigoni, Poet Laureate of Belmont (my hometown on the Peninsula south of SF), hosted a zoom reading featuring SF Bay Area poets and community leaders protesting the extra-judicial killing of George Floyd and too many others. The reading was an online event, recorded on 5-29-2020. You can check it out at the link below.

Vicki McKinney, Chicago Mass Choir
Davina Hurt, Belmont, CA Councilmember
Kalimah Salahuddin, Jefferson Union High School District Board President
Aileen Cassinetto, San Mateo County Poet Laureate
Amos White, Poet, Author, Activist
Kim Shuck, San Francisco Poet Laureate
Michael Smith, Redwood City, CA Planning Commission
Noelia Corzo, San Mateo-Foster City School District Board President
Lois Fried, Poet

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgLDRPf2D8w&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR0QEZezVH-GD09V3_EYpAoQxjvuP7G7bPfWMWbtWG_D0GFVoqzcUdt6vnk


Copperfield’s “Poems for a Dark Time”

On the calendar page, you’ll find this month’s online events with several hosted by Copperfield’s Books. On that caught my eye is coming up this week on Wednesday, June 3, 7:00 p.m. Readers will be Terry Lucas, Meryl Natchez, Troy Jollimore and Heather Altfeld. You can find out more at this link: https://www.copperfieldsbooks.com/event/readings-terry-lucas-meryl-natchez-troy-jollimore-and-heather-altfeld

Julia Alvarez, AfterlifeAnother Copperfield’s event is on Saturday, June 6, 4:00 p.m. when Julia Alvarez will read from her novel After Life. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves? Details at: https://www.copperfieldsbooks.com/event/julia-alvarez-online


Writing From Memory or Imagination

The following featurette was provided by Nicole Zimmerman

Porch Time

Nicole ZimmermanAs oceans-full of sky unleash spring storms to wash away drought
it’s difficult to picture this earth parched, now wet with fresh bark
from a pile by the barn. Even the sheep sound unsettled,
their patterned movement between pastures disrupted.
The lambs bleat—a call-and-response—to bridge
the distance. Always after it rains there is a stillness.
We creatures tune in, listening while we shelter: the drip
of oak leaf onto gravel, the swish of a wing. Beaks peek out
from the brush, waiting, for the swoop of insects, seized mid-flight.

I wrote (and later revised) this poem outdoors during one of my writing workshops, based on the prompt: Observe your surroundings. Draw upon the senses. Take note. While tuning into nature I’ve been writing (and submitting) a lot of poetry—not my typical genre. This one appeared at The Dewdrop, a Zen-based online literary journal, in the section Isolation Shorts: https://thedewdrop.org/isolation-shorts/#nicole-zimmerman.

Nicole R. Zimmerman leads workshops at The Sitting Room (now Zoom!) using the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method, with creative prompts followed by positive feedback. Learn more about Writing From Memory or Imagination at https://www.nicolerzimmerman.com/workshops/.


Remember the Running Fence?

Christo's Running Fence

It was the fall of 1976. I was a senior at Stanford, and one of my professors told us there was something he thought we should see up north of San Francisco. I was the RA in the dorm, so I grabbed a few willing freshmen, and off we drove, with no idea what we were about to see. We climbed out of the car somewhere around Point Reyes, and there, snaking its way over the undulating hills down to the sea was Christo’s Running Fence. It came alive in the wind, and if you were around to see it, you’ll never forget it. The installation was only in place for two weeks, and I think if we’d postponed our drive by even a few days, we would have missed it. Running Fence was an installation art piece conceived by Christo and Jeanne-Claude (pictured below). It was extremely controversial, since Christo had to get the rights to construct the fence across 24.5 miles of mostly private ranch land.  But such a controversy seems almost innocent by contrast to what’s tearing at us today.

Christo and Jeanne-ClaudeI mention this flash-from-the-past because Christo passed away today, age 84. Christo and Jeanne-Claude insisted that their ambitious projects, sometimes whimsical and often edgy, were about “joy and beauty.” The largest remaining intact and continuous section of the Running Fence hangs below the ceiling of the Rio Theater in Monte Rio.


Congratulations, Graduates of 2020!

I was looking for poems of protest, and came upon this one by Alberto Rios—something more than protest. I thought I’d dedicate it to all the graduates of 2020 to whom we look for hope.

________

A House Called Tomorrow

You are not fifteen, or twelve, or seventeen—
You are a hundred wild centuries

And fifteen, bringing with you
In every breath and in every step

Everyone who has come before you,
All the yous that you have been,

The mothers of your mother,
The fathers of your father.

If someone in your family tree was trouble,
A hundred were not:

The bad do not win—not finally,
No matter how loud they are.

We simply would not be here
If that were so.

You are made, fundamentally, from the good.
With this knowledge, you never march alone.

You are the breaking news of the century.
You are the good who has come forward

Through it all, even if so many days
Feel otherwise.  But think:

When you as a child learned to speak,
It’s not that you didn’t know words—

It’s that, from the centuries, you knew so many,
And it’s hard to choose the words that will be your own.

From those centuries we human beings bring with us
The simple solutions and songs,

The river bridges and star charts and song harmonies
All in service to a simple idea:

That we can make a house called tomorrow.
What we bring, finally, into the new day, every day,

Is ourselves.  And that’s all we need
To start.  That’s everything we require to keep going.

Look back only for as long as you must,
Then go forward into the history you will make.

Be good, then better.  Write books.  Cure disease.
Make us proud.  Make yourself proud.

And those who came before you?  When you hear thunder,
Hear it as their applause.

Copyright © 2018 by Alberto Ríos.

________

Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

 

Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2020

May 2020

May 1, 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

terry-maskedThis is how I look when I head out into the world these days. My one-of-a-kind homemade mask was a gift from Michelle Baynes, who, like many of you across the county, has been making these masks as a way to give back to the community. Thank you, Michelle!

Sometimes the lock-down, grocery purging, gloves, and face-masks all make me feel I’m living in some dystopian fiction. But here we are. I’ve been figuring out how to teach my classes online and how to launch new books without the usual readings and events. But these challenges are small in the face of a global pandemic.

No doubt about it, this has been hard for those who continue to work on the front lines, who have lost work or wages, who have been coping with the illness, who juggle working at home with home-schooling children, or who struggle with the isolation, uncertainty, and fear.

Among the benefits of sheltering-in-place for over 6 weeks are the new ways we have found to keep in touch, to learn, teach, create, and recreate. Last month, I reported on some of the literary events that have moved to an online format, like the Rivertown Poets, formerly at Aqus Café in Petaluma, and now an every-Monday online reading, hosted by Sande Anfang. Book Passages and Copperfield’s have also moved to live-stream author events. You’ll find many of these listed on the Calendar page.

I’d like the Literary Update to include more fiction, memoir, drama, spoken word, performance pieces, and storytelling. If you are hosting a literary event in an online format, please send us the information, so we can post them on our monthly calendar of events. Or consider writing a short “featurette” to highlight your program or event. Send it to Jo-Anne at sonomacountyliteraryupdate@gmail.com.

 

Shelter in Poetry

Iris Dunkle, Maya Khosla, Phyllis Meshulam

Maya Khosla, Sonoma County’s Poet Laureate through our fire-recovery years (2018-2020), has put together an online series of videos on reading and writing poetry. Her series begins with Iris Dunkle, Sonoma County Poet Laureate from 2016-2018 and will next feature our new Poet Laureate, Phyllis Meshulam.

Maya has contributed the following “featurette” on this new series: Shelter in Poetry.



 

When shelter in place went into effect back in mid-March, I realized most poetry month events would have to be canceled.  After two weeks of giving up hope, I had an idea. Why not reach out to the community and students through film? 

Well, here is the first in a series! KRCB North Bay Public Media is featuring the first Shelter in Poetry film and text

About a month ago, between the rain events on March 29, Iris Jamahl Dunkle led the way on a hike along a small path through Jack London State Historic Park, drops still ticking through the redwood leaves. I followed, encumbered by camera, tripod and recorders. Clouds shifted and the light grew; a northern flicker called.

If we didn’t have special permission to be there, if we weren’t keeping approximately 6 feet apart, if we didn’t have masks in our backpacks, it would have seemed like a normal day. But stepping through the open-air hallway of trees, toward “Wolf House,” was super-charged with the task at hand. 

“So now what I’d like you to do, is to think of a place that’s special to you. I know a lot of us are in our homes right now, and maybe that’s not what you want to write about. Maybe you want to write about a place you wish you could be – a place you wish you could go to…”

                                 – Iris Jamahl Dunkle, from the first lesson in Shelter in Poetry.

I couldn’t have completed the first part of the Shelter in Poetry project without countless hours of work with co-director Imrana Khan, editor Seemanta Jyoti Baishya, additional camera work by Sanjay Barnela, translations by John Johnson, and sponsorship from The Sitting Room Community Library. And thank you all at KRCB North Bay Public Media!

OK, I’ll stop there. Do watch, and take the lesson as far as you can on your own journey, or send it onward on another journey to someone else. 

My best wishes for your health and creativity – please do send me any poem(s) inspired by the film: creekshade@gmail.com

https://norcalpublicmedia.org/poetry-classes-at-home-for-students-and-families

https://norcalpublicmedia.org/video/shelter-in-poetry/shelter-in-poetry

Maya

 



Petaluma Argus Courier Salutes National Poetry Month

Poetry got some serious attention from local journalist David Templeton in last week’s Petaluma Argus Courier. One article is an interview I did with David on the importance of poetry in times of crisis. The other is a sampler of pandemic poems by some Sonoma County poets. 

“Presence of Owls,” by Crystal Ockenfuss
“Easter Broken Sonnet,” by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
“Skin-Hunger in Coronavirus Times,” by Vilma Ginzberg
“Corona,” by Katherine Hastings
“In the Time of the Virus,” by Elizabeth Herron
“Funeral During a Pandemic,” by Larry Robinson
“Corona–A Pantoum,” by Sande Anfang
“Songs from School,” by Phyllis Meshulam
“Navigation,” by Kristy Hellum
“An Angel’s Touch,” by Jo Ann Smith
“Our Chrysalis Moment,” by Anodea Judith
“Hospital Chaplain,” by Ruah Bull

If you missed this, here’s the link to the Interview:

https://www.petaluma360.com/entertainment/10911771-181/petaluma-poet-terry-ehret-on

And here’s the link to the Sampler of Pandemic Poems: https://www.petaluma360.com/entertainment/10912607-181/poems-of-the-pandemic

 



Remembering Eavan Boland (1944-2020)

Eavan BolandThe Irish poet Eavan Boland passed away at her home in Dublin on Monday. Since 1996, she had lived part-time in Dublin, and part-time in the Bay Area, where she taught for many years at Stanford University, and was the director of the creative writing program. Consequently, many of us in Sonoma County and Northern California had the opportunity to hear Boland read or to study with her in workshops. Over her long career, Boland became one of the most important contemporary voices in poetry. Her poetry is known for “subverting traditional constructions of womanhood,” and “offering fresh perspectives on Irish history and mythology.”

I first heard Boland read and talk about her poetry while I was teaching the Writing Center Workshop at San Francisco State University. This was not long after she began teaching at Stanford, and had been invited to read from her 1998 collection The Lost Land, as well as her 1995 collection of essays, Object Lessons:  The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time.

Before her reading, she came to the workshop, so the students had a chance to speak with her more informally. At the time, I was juggling several teaching jobs, raising young daughters, writing, and helping to launch a fledgling publishing collective. Naturally what I was most drawn to in Boland’s poems was her challenge to the patriarchal traditions and their crushing, silencing effect on women, as well as the tenderness with which she captured the feelings of a mother. “I was a woman in a house in the suburbs,” Boland said, “married with two small children. It was a life lived by many women around me, but it was still not named in Irish poetry. . . . I used to work out of notebooks, and I learned when I had young children that you can always do something. If you can’t do a poem, you can do a line. And if you can’t do a line, you can do an image — and that pathway that leads you along, in fragments, becomes astonishingly valuable.” At that time in my life, this was precisely what I needed to hear.

There are many of Boland’s poems I’ve read and taught and admired. One of my favorites is the title poem from The Lost Land, which begins, “I have two daughters. / They are all I ever wanted from the earth. /Or almost all.” Another is her meditation on the myth of Persephone and Demeter, called “The Pomegranate”: “The only legend I have ever loved is/the story of a daughter lost in hell./And found and rescued there.”

If you aren’t familiar with Boland’s work, you can read more about her at this link: https://poets.org/poet/eavan-boland.

For May, I’ve chosen Boland’s poem “Quarantine,” which is, surprisingly, a love poem.

_______

Quarantine
by Eavan Boland

In the worst hour of the worst season
            of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking-they were both walking-north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
            He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
            Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
            There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
            Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and a woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

— from Against Love Poetry. © W.W. Norton & Co., 2003.

_______

May you be safe and well in these uncertain times.

Terry Ehret
Jo-Anne Rosen
co-editors Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2020

April 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

Jo-Anne Rosen and I are hoping this post of the Sonoma County Literary Update finds you safe and sheltering at home during these uncertain times. And if you are one of the many doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, restaurant workers, maintenance staff, IT staff keeping us alive, fed, and connected, our hats are off to you! If you are staying at home, helping to flatten the curve, thank you!

Every day, we wake up to a new reality, one which is frightening in its devastation and scope. We also find evidence of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of our extended community. Early on, the videos of Italians singing from their balconies lifted my spirits. These days, one of my favorite doses of sanity is Patrick Stewart’s daily readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

But how do we create a monthly calendar of literary events amidst a global pandemic? Of course, all of our April events, and very likely those for the foreseeable future, have been or will be canceled. Zooming may be one way we will be attending literary events, even when it is safe for us to gather again, so adding Zoom links to our monthly calendar may become a common feature. Eventually, Jo-Anne will be able to put together a calendar of links to online writing salons, readings, book launches, workshops, etc.

If you are hosting a literary event in an online format, send us the information, and bear with us as we shift to these new kinds of virtual gatherings.

In the meantime, I have gathered some literary news and information on a few such events coming up.

Sonoma County’s New Poet Laureate: Phyllis Meshulam

Maya KhoslaFor two years, Sonoma County has been fortunate to have the versatility and creativity of our literary ambassador, Maya Khosla. Maya designed her projects as Poet Laureate to nurture the healing of our community in the aftermath of devastating fires in the fall of 2017, which continued during Maya’s tenure in 2018 and 2019.

Phyllis MeshulamOur new Poet Laureate steps up at a time when many of us are turning to the arts to find hope and resilience. I’m delighted to announce this new Poet Laureate is Phyllis Meshulam. A long-time resident of Sonoma County, she has published four collections of poetry, most recently Land of My Father’s War, which won the Artists’ Embassy International Award. Her work has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, including Ars Medica,; Bullets into Bells; Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace; and What Redwoods Know. Phyllis is also the editor of Poetry Crossing, CalPoet’s 50th anniversary lesson plan book, an inspirational resource for writers and teachers.

Phyllis is a shining light in our literary community, especially her work with young writers in the CalPoets program, the Poetry Out Loud Program, and many events her students participate in, including the Petaluma Poetry Walk and the Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading. She has reached diverse communities through her teaching and writing, from residents at Napa State Hospital, veterans, preschoolers, and English language learners. Her work is imbued with her passion for justice, sensitivity, and inclusiveness.

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts, along with the Poet Laureate Selection Committee, planned a reception for Maya and Phyllis for April 26. That celebration will be postponed, and we’ll let you know when it’s rescheduled.

Tribute to Geri DiGiorno
Speaking of rescheduling, the tribute to Geri Digiorno, originally scheduled for March 29, will also be held at a future date. Geri’s daughter, Michelle Baynes, has been posting on Facebook every day a new poem, photo, and work of art by Geri. If you’d like to check this out, here’s the Facebook link:

https://www.facebook.com/michelle.baynes.3

April is National Poetry Month
Yes, this is still National Poetry Month! The Academy of American Poets, which sponsors this annual celebration, asks readers to share a poem that helps to find courage, solace, and actionable energy, and a few words about how or why it does so. As responses continue to arrive from across the globe, you are invited to continue sharing poems from our 
Poets.org collection on social media with the hashtag #ShelterInPoems or by writing to us at shelter@poets.org.

I have chosen one of these ShelterInPoems for the April poem of the month: “Instructions on Not Giving Up,” by Ada Limón. Scroll down for this. 

Literary Events That Have Moved Online

Litquake on Lockdown
Rebecca Foust writes that she will be hosting Poets for National Poetry Month on Thursday, April 2, from 7-9 PM. Featured readers include Kazim Ali, Tongo Eisen-Martin, and Jane Hirshfield.

This will be live streamed, and the link will be posted at 10 AM on Thursday at these pages:
http://sched.co/Xwb9
https://w.facebook.com/events/2637827036538681
https://www.litquake.org

Rumi’s Caravan
Rumis CaravanLarry Robinson sends this news: You are invited to join us for a live performance of Rumi’s Caravan, an evening of poetry in the ecstatic tradition featuring Larry Robinson, Rebecca Evert, Doug von Koss, Maya Spector, Barry Spector and Kay Crista.

To watch and listen please click this link on Saturday, April 4 at 7:30 PM PDT: https://zoom.us/j/753555801…

This Zoom account is limited to the first 100 but they will endeavor to livestream it on FaceBook as well at https://www.facebook.com/larry.robinson.123829

For more information about Rumi’s Caravan, check out this link: https://rumiscaravan.com/about-us/

Aqus Café/Rivertown Poetry Series
Sande Anfang will be hosting an open mic virtual poetry reading each Monday at 6:15 p.m. for one hour via the Zoom channel. You can sign up for an open mic slot if you’d like to read. She asks that everyone keep shares to two poems / three minutes total. Here’s how to sign up:

Go to aqus.com/online. Click on Aqus Poetry Open Mic, Details, and Find Out More.

Fill in the brief jotform. (“tell us about yourself” is optional.)

Virtual Book Launch for Sixteen Rivers Press
The Distant SoundNo surprise, all our April readings have been cancelled. However, poet Eliot Schain invites you to a Zoom launch of The Distant Sound from his own home on Sunday, April 5, 3:00 p.m. Eliot plans to read from his book for 20 minutes.

Join Zoom Reading from The Distant Sound, by Eliot Schain
https://us04web.zoom.us/j/3431297167
Meeting ID: 343 129 7167

Our other new books, The Machinery of Sleep, by Patrick Cahill, and Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One, by Ulalume González de León, will be celebrated at a later date.

If you want to purchase any of these books online, go to the Sixteen Rivers website: sixteenrivers.org and click on the Order page from the menu. It’s best to use Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox. For some reason, Safari creates glitches. If Safari is your only browsing option, you can order from Small Press Distribution: www.spdbooks.org/AdvancedSearch/DefaultWfilter.aspx?SearchTerm=PubName&PublisherName=Sixteen%20Rivers%20Press

West Coast Literary Events Go Online
“With book tours, festivals, conferences, and other literary events being canceled around the world due to COVID-19 concerns, the tech-friendly west coast literary community has begun creating digital events to keep authors and readers connected during the coming weeks of social distancing and quarantine.”

This is the opening sentence of an article in Publishers Weekly. Want to find out about online literary events beyond Sonoma County? You can read the rest at this link: www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/trade-shows-events/article/82702-west-coast-literary-events-go-online.html

North Bay Bohemian Feature and Podcast of Plagios/Plagiarisms
Thanks to Karen Hess and Daedalus Howell at the Bohemian, who have put together a feature and podcast on the translation of Ulalume González de León’s poetry, by Terry Ehret, John Johnson, and Nancy J. Morales. Both will be available soon. You can check these links:

Podcasts: www.bohemian.com/northbay/podcasts/Page
Music, Arts, and Culture: www.bohemian.com/northbay/music-and-arts/Section?oid=2124177

Kelly’s Cove Press Online Novel: Separation Sonoma
You can follow Bart Schneider’s new work online at
www.kellyscovepress.com/separation-sonoma/. Bart says, “I plan to add new chapters every two or three days. Chester Arnold is going to start adding art and I’m putting up photos.”

_________

Poem for April

Instructions on Not Giving Up
by Ada Limón

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

________ 

Terry Ehret, Literary Update Co-Editor
Jo-Anne Rosen, Literary Update Co-Editor

 

Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2020

March 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

Over the past month, my co-editor Jo-Anne Rosen has been working on upgrading our website so that you will no longer see ads popping up when you access the Literary Update online. Thanks to Jo-Anne for her extraordinary webmaster skills, and for those of you in the literary community who have made donations we could put to use paying for these upgrades. If you’d like to contribute to keeping the Literary Update humming along, or have an announcement you’d like posted in the next Update, contact Jo-Anne at editor@socolitupdate.com.

Remembering Susan Swartz
Susan SwartzLong time journalist, author, radio commentator, and public speaker, Susan Swart died unexpectedly on February 25. Her vivid personality and voice for feminist issues and local journalism inspired us, challenging us to find a way to make a difference in our own communities.

The Press Democrat, Swartz’s journalistic home, included an article last week about Susan’s contributions as a writer and advocate. Here’s the link, if you missed it: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10755376-181/susan-swartz-longtime-press-democrat.

Besides her many columns in the Press Democrat, she also wrote books, including Juicy Tomatoes, focused on the true stories of a group of women 50 and older, and Laughing in the Dark, based loosely, she said, “on late-night discussions I’ve had through the years with friends over the scary and the silly.”

Though Swartz struggled with depression the past year, especially after the death of her husband and fellow journalist Bob Klose, her stepdaughter Greta Klosevitz remembers Susan as “an example of how to love and how to take care of each other, and how to find the joy and beauty in life.”  

Geri DiGiornoTribute to Geri Digiorno
There will be a celebration of the life and work of Geri Digiorno at the Phoenix Theater on Sunday, March 29, from 1-4 PM, with an open-mic for anyone who would like to read a poem in remembrance, speak briefly about Geri, or share one of her poems. Geri passed away in December, 2019, and a special remembrance of Geri appeared in the January Literary Update. Geri’s daughter Michelle will also be posting on FaceBook one of Geri’s poems each day in March, leading up to the celebration.

Reminder: Favorite Poems Community Reading Deadline March 8
Last month’s post included information about the Favorite Poems Community Reading coming up on April 5, 2020. If you’d like to read or recite a poem for this event, please send an e-mail to Gwynn O’Gara at
gwynn@gwynnogara.com. Deadline is approaching!

Sonoma County is Looking for Youth Poet Laureate—Deadline March 13.
Sonoma County California Poets in the Schools plans to follow the lead of the nations, the state, and sister counties in acknowledging a student who has achieved excellence in poetry, allowing them to be a leader for the county in raising the profile of poetry and developing its audience. Specifically, They’re looking for a student between the ages of 13 and 19, a resident of Sonoma County, who has demonstrated a commitment to literary arts and community engagement through participation in volunteer and community services, clubs, afterschool activities, and extra academic activities. This is a one-year term with a $500 stipend. For details about how to apply, see the Community News Page of the Literary Update, or contact
meg@CPITS.org.

One Hundred Thousand Poets for Change Presents Time For A Change!
Time for Change muralOn Sunday, March 22, 2-4 PM, there will be a fundraiser for community oversight of our local law enforcement at The Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County, 467 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa. The Wroth family, whose son was killed by local law enforcement, will be joined by featured readers from across Sonoma County and beyond, including Kym Trippsmith, Jose Luis Gutiérrez, Vilma Ginzberg, Ernesto Garay, Paul Nicholson,  Juanita J. Martin,  Corlene van Sluizer,  Michael Arcangelini, Phyllis Meshulam, Terry Ehret, Ana Salgado, and John Johnson.

It’s Up to Us : Sonoma County’s Second Climate Summit
March 15 2020, 1:30-6 PM, Odd Fellows Hall, 545 Pacific Ave., Santa Rosa
The summit is a call to action, a call to connect, a call to build on common ground. We call on concerned community members, students, and Sonoma County climate activist groups to attend.

We are the decision-makers and leaders of the local and global changes we must create.

Speakers: Daily Acts Executive Director Trathen Heckman, Tayse Crocker of North Bay Organizing Project, Cory O’Gorman of Sonoma State University, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla, Elizabeth Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm, Steve Birdlebough from Transportation and Land Use

Coalition, Youth Leaders from Sunrise Movement, Youth Leaders from Schools for Climate Action including Kate Roney, Woody Hastings Environmentalist of the Year, County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.

Writing Groups for Novelists?
Most poets I know have a group of fellow poets with whom they share new work and get constructive feedback and publishing suggestions. However, it can often be hard for novelists to find such a writing group. A quick look at our Writers’ Connections Page of the Literary Update shows only a couple of writers/writing groups dedicated to supporting novelists.

If you’re looking for a novel-writing critique group, one place to begin is Redwood Writers. This group offers professional services, workshops, contests, and events to support writers in all genres. Here’s the link to their website: http://www.redwoodwriters.org.

It’s also helpful to attend a local Writing Conference, such as Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, or Napa Valley Writers’ Conference (all three are accepting applications now). Often ongoing groups spring from these experiences, both in-person and online.

If you are part of a group that is open to new members, or if you are a novelist in search of a group, send me your name and contact information I’ll put you in touch with each other: tehret99@comcast.net. Even better, send your group’s information to Jo-Anne Rosen to add to the Writers’ Connection Page: editor@socolitupdate.com.

Upcoming Events at the Sitting Room

Writing Workshop with Patti Trimble
new inquiry, new listening
Patti TrimbleSaturdays 2-5 p.m., March 7, April 4, May 2
How many conversations—personal, political, social—do we hold in our intelligent creative minds? How do our doubts and certainties, facts and fictions, lyric imaginations and deep concerns live, in reality, side by side? And when we write, how do we dignify the real relationship of things? In three free workshops we’ll address the complexity of writing today. And we’ll write together, merging genres and finding language to braid whatever: personal experience and expertise, uncertainty, imagination, world events, facts, fiction. With practices for thoughtful inquiry and for listening through for the power of personal revelation and wisdom. Join us for one or three. No charge and all levels welcome.

Saturday, March 14, 2-4: Gail Newman and Barbara Baer—Jewish Women in History
Blood MemoryAward-winning poet Gail Newman has worked for many years as a poet-teacher with California Poets in the Schools and is a Museum Educator at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. She has published two books of poems by children, Dear Earth and C is For California, and Inside Out, a book of lessons for high school teachers. She was the co-founder and editor of Room, A Women’s Literary Journal. A collection of poetry, One Worldwas published in 2011 by Moontide Press. She will read from her forthcoming book about the Holocaust, Blood Memory.

The Ice Palace WaltzIn Barbara Baer’s The Ice Palace Waltz, two Jewish immigrant families—rough and ready westerners and smooth ‘our crowd’ New Yorkers—come together in a family saga amid the financial and political turmoil of early 20th century America. Barbara,  a journalist and small press publisher, bases her multi-generational saga on remembered stories from her family and much research. She doesn’t think fiction falsifies fact, but rather adds more ingredients to a recipe that deepens the flavors.      

Mark your calendars for these Sitting Room events in April and May:
Saturday, April 25, 2-4: Experiences that Shape Us: Interior and Exterior Landscapes
Saturday, May 9, 2-5: Poetry: Maya Khosla, Ellery Akers, Patti Trimble, Rosa Lane
Saturday, May 16, 1-4 p.m.: Dreams: A Source for Poetry & Prose–Salon and Workshop with Meredith Sabini

Honoring WWII Women War Correspondents
Healdsburg author Jeane Slone presents a slide show in celebration of Women’s History Month, honoring women war correspondents who achieved equal rights by facing extreme danger to get the scoop on the war overseas for the folks at home. Highlights of the slides include women war correspondents who were hit by Junker planes in a B-17 Flying Fortress, documented the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp, or immediately following the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, photographed “Disease X.” 

Jeane has four presentations scheduled:
Thursday, March 5, 6:30 p.m.,St. Helena Public Library, 1492 Library Lane, St. Helena
Sunday, March 22, 3:00 p.m., Central Library, 211 E Street, Santa Rosa (545-0831).
Wednesday, March 25, 6:00 p.m., Healdsburg Library, 139 Piper St.,

One Acts in Guerneville
Wednesday, March 25, 7:00-8:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 28, 2:00-3:30 p.m.
The River Friends of the Library presents one-act plays by local writers and famous authors. March opens with “Hipster Hobos” by D. M. Larson about our too well connected world. “The Christmas Truce” by Aaron Shepard is a reminder that most people are innately good, even though their leaders may not be. Then there will be a special featured reading from local poet Sashana Kane Proctor. The final play will be “Three Skeleton Key” by George Toudouze which is pure suspense. Guerneville Regional Library, 14107 Armstrong Woods Road.

Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One Is Now Available
Platio/PlagarismsMany of you know that John Johnson, Nancy Morales, and I have been working on a project to translate the work of Mexican poet Ulalume González de León. The first volume is now available through Sixteen Rivers Press, and we have an ever-growing schedule of book launches, readings, and events to celebrate.

To learn more about the author and read some sample poems, use this link: https://sixteenrivers.org/authors/gonzalez-de-leon/.

Though our official pub date is April 2, 2020, you can order your early-bird copy of Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One, right now. Just click on this link: https://sixteenrivers.org/order/.

If you’re planning to attend AWP in San Antonio, March 4-7, we’d love to see you there. We’ll be sharing a booth at the Book Fair with Poetry Flash (#1720), and there will be a panel/reading on the Book Fair Stage on Friday, March 6, 1:45 pm to launch Plagios/Plagiarisms. Check the calendar page or e-mail me and I’ll send you information about upcoming readings and events closer to home: tehret99@comcast.net.

Poem for March
Claudia RankineFor this month’s poem, I’ve selected an excerpt from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. I recommend reading this with Situation Video #5, a collaboration with Rankine’s husband, photographer John Lucas, at http://movingpoems.com/2014/09/situation-5-by-claudia-rankine/.

_______

February 26, 2012/In Memory of Trayvon Martin

My brothers are notorious. They have not been to prison. They have been imprisoned. The prison is not a place you enter. It is no place. My brothers are notorious. They do regular things, like wait. On my birthday they say my name. They will never forget that we are named. What is that memory?

The days of our childhood together were steep steps into a collapsing mind. It looked like we rescued ourselves, were rescued. Then there are these days, each day of our adult lives. They will never forget our way through, these brothers, each brother, my brother, dear brother, my dearest brothers, dear heart—

Your hearts are broken. This is not a secret though there are secrets. And as yet I do not understand how my own sorrow has turned into my brothers’ hearts. The hearts of my brothers are broken. If I knew another way to be, I would call up a brother, I would hear myself saying, my brother, dear brother, my dearest brothers, dear heart—

On the tip of a tongue one note following another is another path, another dawn where the pink sky is the bloodshot of struck, of sleepless, of sorry, of senseless, shush. Those years of and before me and my brothers, the years of passage, plantation, migration, of Jim Crow segregation, of poverty, inner cities, profiling, of one in three, two jobs, boy, hey boy, each a felony, accumulate into the hours inside our lives where we are all caught hanging, the rope inside us, the tree inside us, its roots our limbs, a throat sliced through and when we open our mouth to speak, blossoms, o blossoms, no place coming out, brother, dear brother, that kind of blue. The sky is the silence of brothers all the days leading up to my call.

If I called I’d say good-bye before I broke the good-bye. I say good-bye before anyone can hang up. Don’t hang up. My brother hangs up though he is there. I keep talking. The talk keeps him there. The sky is blue, kind of blue. The day is hot. Is it cold? Are you cold? It does get cool. Is it cool? Are you cool?

My brother is completed by sky. The sky is his silence. Eventually, he says, it is raining. It is raining down. It was raining. It stopped raining. It is raining down. He won’t hang up. He’s there, he’s there but he’s hung up though he is there. Good-bye, I say. I break the good-bye. I say good-bye before anyone can hang up, don’t hang up. Wait with me. Wait with me though the waiting might be the call of good-byes.

Originally published in Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014). Copyright © by Claudia Rankine.

________

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | February 27, 2020

February 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

I took a walk out along Thompson Creek, which runs behind my house, and as night fell, the frog chorus began. A sure sign of California spring, more dependable than the groundhog. The literary calendar for February is likewise brimming with readings and events. Here are a few I’d like to spotlight.

Ukiah Haiku Walk: Saturday, February 1, 2:00 p.m. Ukiah Library hosts Haiku Walk. Free & open to the public. Registration is required – please call 463-4490 to sign up! (There’s a good reason Ukiah  is haiku backwards!)

Rivertown Poets: Monday, February 3, 6:15-8:00 p.m. Rivertown Poets features Juanita Martin and Kyle Matthews. Open mic follows the features. Reading time is three minutes per poet. Come early to sign up for open mic. Location: Aqus Café, 189 H Street, Petaluma.

Poetry Out Loud: Monday, February 10, 6-9 p.m. Our 14th year of county participation! This oral recitation competition of famous poetry will include students from twelve Sonoma County high schools. Location: Downtown Santa Rosa Library, 211 E. Street, Santa Rosa. Admission is free.

Congratulations to Poet Laureate Emerita Gwynne O’Gara
Gwynn O’Gara’s poetry manuscript Clio’s Daughter With Head on Fire has won 1st Place and a $1,000 grant—the 2019 Shirley Holden Helberg Grant for Mature Women (35 and older)—awarded by the National League of American Pen Women, Phil Memmer, Judge. The manuscript is also a Finalist in The Faulkner Society 2019 Poetry Collection Contest. 

WordTemple Redux!
Yet another of our Sonoma County poets laureate is in the literary news this month: Katherine Hastings, has morphed WordTemple — her former reading series and radio program — into a blog with, in part, the intention of bringing California and New York poets (and beyond) together. If you would like to check out the blog, go to www.wordtemple.com. Katherine would love for you to subscribe.

Beside the Well, Poems by Donna EmersonNew Books by Donna Emerson and Joan Frank
Donna Emerson has a new book out, Beside the Well. She’ll be reading from this book on Sunday, February 16, 12:30-2:30 p.m. at Healdsburg Community Center, 1270 Healdsburg Avenue, and on Wednesday, February 26, 7-9 PM at Rebound Books, 1611 Fourth Street, San Rafael.

Try to Get Lost, Joan Frank

 

Joan Frank has two books to celebrate: Try to Get Lost and Where You’re All Going: Four Novellas. You can hear her read at Copperfields Books, Thursday, February 27, 7:00 p.m., 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa.

 

Favorite Poem Community Reading: Submit Your Selection by March 8!
The Sebastopol Center for the Arts will once again host a Favorite Poem Community Reading on Sunday, April 5. Modeled on the readings initiated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and hosted locally by Jodi Hottel and Larry Robinson, this event will bring together a wide range of people and poems into one memorable event.

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

Please send an email to Gwynn O’Gara at gwynn@gwynnogara.com. Include the subject “Favorite Poem Reading” in the subject heading. Send your name, phone # and email address, and submit your selection in either Word or a web link. Be sure to include the name of the author of the poem. There is no entry fee, and entries should be received no later than March 8.

This is our 17th annual event. The event is free, and refreshments will be served. Whether you submit a poem to share or not, we invite you to come to what is sure to be a wonderful celebration of the community’s love of language and poetry.

Sonoma County Book Launch for Plagios/Plagiarisms
Platio/PlagarismsIf you’re not planning to attend the Favorite Poems Reading on April 5, I invite you to come over to the Nicholson Ranch Winery in Sonoma on that Sunday, 2-5 PM for a gala reception and launch of Sixteen Rivers’ new books: The Machinery of Sleep, by Patrick Cahill; The Distant Sound, by Eliot Schain; and Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One, translated by Terry Ehret, John Johnson, and Nancy J. Morales. Location: 4200 Napa Road, Sonoma.

Many of you have been following the translation project these past six years, and we’d love to have you help us celebrate. This collection offers the first comprehensive translation in a bilingual edition of González de León’s poetry, including an introduction by fellow Mexican poet and Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz.

If any of you are attending the AWP Conference in San Antonio in March, we’ll be debuting our books there as well. On Friday, March 6, 2020, 1:45-3:00 PM, we’ll be hosting a panel and reading called “A Geometry of Air”: The Visionary Poetry of Ulalume González de León. This will be on the AWP Book Fair Stage Henry B. González Convention Center, 900 E. Market, San Antonio, TX.

And if you’re already booked for March and April, we hope to see you at one of the other readings and events this spring. We will have May readings at Iota Press in Sebastopol and Book Passage in Corte Madera. I’ll post these on the Literary Update’s calendar page as they come up.

Poem for February
The poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz was born on February 13, 1911, in what is now Pakistan. Faiz said that “The true subject of poetry is the loss of the beloved.” For him, the beloved and its loss was personal, political, spiritual. His life was tumultuous, and he lived almost twenty years in political exile, yet he became a master of Urdu and its poetic forms, such as the ghazal. In honor of his February birthday, I’ve chosen one of his poems.

Be Near Me
Faiz Ahmed Faizby Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984)

Be near me now,
My tormenter, my love, be near me—
At this hour when night comes down,
When, having drunk from the gash of sunset, darkness comes
With the balm of musk in its hands, its diamond lancets,
When it comes with cries of lamentation,
                                             with laughter with songs;
Its blue-gray anklets of pain clinking with every step.
At this hour when hearts, deep in their hiding places,
Have begun to hope once more, when they start their vigil
For hands still enfolded in sleeves;
When wine being poured makes the sound
                                             of inconsolable children
                      who, though you try with all your heart,
                                             cannot be soothed.
When whatever you want to do cannot be done,
When nothing is of any use;
—At this hour when night comes down,
When night comes, dragging its long face,
                                             dressed in mourning,
Be with me,
My tormenter, my love, be near me.

From The True Subject by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, translated by Naomi Lazard. © 1987 Princeton University Press.

________

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2020

January 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

Remembering Geri DiGiorno

2020-Geri-250px

Because we live in grim times, we need poetry. Poetry makes us feel and lets us see, helps us to understand. Poetry can save the world
—Geri DiGiorno

Last month, we lost one of our brightest literary stars, former Sonoma County Poet Laureate Geri Digiorno.

Most of you know Geri as the founder and director of the Petaluma Poetry Walk and an advocate of the extraordinary poetry of ordinary life. What you might not know is how Geri came to our community and what she gave to it, behind the scenes for three decades.

Geri was born in 1932 in Utah and moved to San Francisco with her family when she was three.

She grew up in Depression-era San Francisco, one of nine daughters of a Mormon family. The experiences of her youth and adolescence in her working class neighborhood would later become the subject of her poetry, but Geri didn’t discover writing until she was a young mother living in Daly City in the 1950s. Before that, she hadn’t given much thought to poetry. “I think poetry saved me,” Digiorno says. “I was probably very depressed. I didn’t drive, and I was kind of stuck in Daly City. I was so young. It was a very hard time for me.”

After Digiorno’s first marriage ended, she met Anthony Digiorno, who owned a bar in San Mateo. She and Tony were married in 1972. Toni encouraged her to be more social and to express herself in poems, so when Tony died in 1983 and the bar they owned burned down, Geri mustered her courage and moved to Sonoma County; here she recreated her life with art and poetry at the center.

2020-geri-al-young-200pxStarting in the 1990s, when her daughter Michelle began working at the COTS (Community on the Shelterless) in Petaluma, Geri led poetry and art workshops for the homeless. She worked with battered women and children, and then with individual homeless people. She was part of a poetry writing group with Dorianne Laux, and in 1992, published her first collection of poems, I’m Tap Dancing.  In 1995, she launched the Poetry Walk, and a decade later, she published her second book White Lipstick. In 2006 she became Sonoma County’s fourth poet laureate. About her work, former California State Poet Laureate Al Young said, “With these pages — sparsely worded, richly lived — Geri Digiorno reminds us how entangled the delicate roots and tendrils of family and ‘individual’ identity can become.”

Geri's artBesides being a poet, Geri was also a visual artist, and her particular genre was collage. If you don’t know Geri’s artwork, I recommend visiting this site.

And at the end of this post, you’ll find three of Geri’s poems, including one that references her collage workhop at COTS.

If you’d like to make a donation to the Petaluma Poetry Walk, check out this link: GoFundMe Page–https://www.gofundme.com/f/petaluma-poetry-walk-2019.

Geri passed away on December 13, 2019, at the age of 87. There will be a celebration of her life March 29, 2020, in Petaluma. Details in the February Literary Update.

Nominations for the next Sonoma County Poet Laureate Are Open until January 15

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee invite you to send us nominations for the Sonoma County’s 11th Poet Laureate 2020-21.

The Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident who has demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in the County. The Poet Laureate often participates in official ceremonies and readings and receives a $1,000 stipend.

If you know someone you’d like to nominate, or if you’d like to be considered for this prestigious post, you can find information about requirements and application instructions on the Sebastopol Center for the Arts website at www.sebarts.org/poet-laureate.

Poet Laureates Reading at Sonoma Valley Regional Library January 11

On Saturday, January 11 at 3:00 p.m. Sonoma Valley Regional Library will host a Poet Laureates’ Poetry Reading, honoring the work of Poet Laureate Emeritus Geri Digiorno. The reading will feature Dana Gioia, California Poet Laureate Emeritus, Iris Jamahl Dunkle and Terry Ehret, Sonoma Poets Laureate Emerita. Zoya Ahmed and Hannah Minton, two student winners of the previous Poets Out Loud (POL) competitions, will recite poems. Location: Sonoma Valley Regional Library,755 West Napa Street, Sonoma. Details at: https://sonomacounty.libcal.com/event/6242893

Writing about Family

Al Young’s comments above about the way Geri Digiorno’s poetry explores “how entangled the delicate roots and tendrils of family and ‘individual’ identity can become,” highlights the importance of family history in a writer’s life.

2020-DorothyRice-250pxWriting about family is a powerful source of inspiration for many authors, whether to enrich fiction, as a foundation for memoir or biography or to preserve fading personal histories for future generations.  On Sunday, January 12, 2:00–4:30 p.m. Redwood Writers Club presents a workshop with memoirist Dorothy Rice, who will share her experiences writing about family and friends, including techniques and tools for navigating issues of confidentiality and trust, differing views on past events and the ramifications of exposing sensitive topics and history. Dorothy Rice is the author of two published memoirs, Gray Is The New Black (Otis Books, June 2019) and The Reluctant Artist (Shanti Arts, 2015). Workshop Location: Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa, 2777 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa. Check the calendar page for details.

Reading of the Poetry of Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon from Plagios/Plagiarisms

2020-deLeon-120pxMany of you know that I’ve been working on translating the poetry of Mexican poet Ulalume González de León. The first volume is at the printers and will debut at the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference in San Antonio, Texas in March.

To catch a sneak preview, my co-translators John Johnson and Nancy Morales and I invite you to a reading on Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 3 PM: Ukiah Library LOBA Series, 105 N. Main Street, Ukiah 95482.

Two Book Launches for Local Writers

Saturday, January 25, 2:00-3:30 p.m.
2020-Hotl-Jodi-200pxJodi Hottel reads from her new chapbook,Out of the Ashes,  in commemoration of the 2017 wildfires and the Kincade fire.  This will be a community reading of healing. Featured guest readers, Maya Khosla, current Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Poet Laureate emerita, and Ed Coletti, author of Fire Storm, Larry Robinson, author of Roll Away the Stone, and Phyllis Meshulam, author of Land of My Father’s War, will share some of their poems relating to the wildfires. An open mic will follow, when anyone can read a poem of their own about the fires. This event is free and refreshments will be served. Windsor Branch, Sonoma County Public Library, Community Room, 9291 Old Redwood Hwy. #100, Windsor, CA 95492. For more information, email Jodi Hottel: 
hottel@sonic.net.

Sunday, January 26, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
2020-Susan-Swartz-head-shotLaughing in the Dark, Susan Swartz’ first novel, revolves around three old friends who together tackle infidelity, the latest in California dying styles and the inevitable absurdities of aging. As the book’s subtitle says: Girlfriends are the Best Medicine.

A resident of Sebastopol and long-time columnist for the Press Democrat and other newspapers, Susan’s non-fiction includes Juicy Tomatoes: Plain Truths, Dumb Lies and Sisterly Advice After 50 and The Juicy Tomatoes Guide to Ripe Living After 50. 

Susan will be in conversation with close friend and fellow writer, Miriam Silver to talk about her new novel. Book sales and signing, refreshments served, free admission.

__________

Three Poems for January by Geri Digiorno

one year later

one year later
I will be living
in a home for
unwed mothers
in Oakland

right there in black and white
I am fifteen years old
standing between
dorothy hardy and
john luhring
jim cancella behind us
in a light suit and tie
a mouth full of teeth
like a cold breeze

joan is wearing a white
two-piece dress
with matching heels
her lips open
marilyn monroe style
albino curls oppose
her bony features
dorothy’s dress
sweeps away behind her
outlining heavy legs
thick brown locks
cut short
surround her dimples

I’m the only one
not smiling
dark blondness falls
across my cheeks
my eyes tumble
to the ground
diploma tightly held
in both hands

__________

ray gunn

at the homeless center
ray is looking for a quarter
for the dryer
i tell him i’ll give him one
if he comes to the collage class
and he does
a week later i see him in line at the kitchen
he comes running over when he sees me
says he’s got to tell me something
ever since he did the collage class
every where he looks he sees collage
in the street
the newspaper
magazines
on tv
he’s collaging the walls in his room
he says

__________

i believe

in my self
light rain
sudden storms
the moon
polenta and sausage
good sex
red sunsets
a perfect martini
the stars
true love
monet’s garden
cracked crab
long baths
soft jazz
a walk on the beach
and root beer floats

i believe
in quiet mornings
the ocean
slow dancing
the back of a man’s neck
fred astaire tapping across the screen
the magic of the sacramento delta
stone angels in italian cemeteries
growing your own tomatoes
paul newman’s eyes
that writing poetry is telling the truth
ironing is therapy
kissing is an art
and dusting is a waste of time

from White Lipstick (Red Hen Press, 2005)

__________

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

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