Posted by: wordrunner | January 3, 2014

January 1, 2014

January 2, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

Midnight in Paris (on a clock)New Year's Day brunch 2014A new year opens with so much to celebrate! Yesterday, I enjoyed the company of 40+ writers and friends welcoming 2014 with poetry, good food, and wonderful conversation. The evening before, New Year’s Eve, I re-watched Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. I have always been drawn to those eras when creative communities thrived—The Romantics in the early 19th Century, Paris in the 20’s, the Beats in the 50’s, the garage-band rock scene of the 60’s. But right here, right now, we are all lucky to be part of such a generous community. No doubt 2014 will give us many occasions to come together for readings, performances, publication parties, workshops, conferences, forums, friendly gatherings for coffee or tea in this spontaneous collaboration of the literary arts.

Thanks to Bill Varnaw
January marks the two-year anniversary of Bill Vatnaw’s term as Sonoma County Poet Laureate, and what a fine literary ambassador he has been! He has been as omnipresent as a person can be, short of cloning, attending readings and book festivals all over the county and beyond, and presenting his own brilliant work alongside the writers in the county he has befriended and supported. His project to set poems by Sonoma County writers in bronze has taken some intriguing and perplexing twists, which he’ll be continuing to follow in the months ahead. Hopefully he’ll keep us posted.

Sonoma County’s New Poet Laureate
Katherine HastingsCongratulations to Santa Rosa poet Katherine Hastings, Sonoma County’s Eighth Poet Laureate. I think you’ll all agree that Katherine’s presence in our community is one of the reasons Sonoma County is such a terrific place to be a writer. Her well-known projects include the  WordTemple Poetry Series, which she founded  in 2005.  In this series  she brings  established poets,  including several  U.S.  and California State Poets  Laureate, together  with  local poets.  She has hosted  the companion WordTemple program  on KRCB  FM since 2007. And has recently launched  the WordTemple Arts & Lectures  series, in which pairs of writers  read and discuss  their work  together  and then take questions from the audience. She is the author of Nighthawks, Cloud Fire, and several chapbooks, including Updraft.

Katherine will be proclaimed as Poet Laureate by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors at their meeting on January 14, 2014. Look for her Poet Laureate Post, which will be a regular feature of the Literary Update starting in February.

Poet Laureate Reception January 19
You are all invited to join the Poet Laureate Selection Committee in honoring Katherine at a reception on Sunday, January 19, at 2:00 pm at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 S. High Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472. For information visit

Thank you, Jo-Anne!
Before I write another word, let me first extend my heart-felt gratitude to Jo-Anne Rosen, my co-editor of the Sonoma County Literary Update. As you know, she keeps the website current, sifts through all the announcements, and compiles each monthly newsletter that goes out to 300 or so subscribers. I get the more prominent position of writing the most of the monthly posts, but the daily, behind-the-scenes work is hers. She is a treasure. Her WordRunner Press publishes a quarterly online chapbook series of fiction, poetry and memoir, and her website includes a special page of tips for those of you considering a self-published chapbook project. If you haven’t already, take a moment to visit her website at

Would You Like to be a Guest Blogger?
For the past nine years, I’ve been creating the monthly posts for the Literary Update, in the past few years with the help of my co-editor Jo-Anne. Often Jo-Anne and I wonder how we might make these posts more lively and varied so we’re getting a wider view of the Sonoma County literary scene. We began during Gwynn O’Gara’s term with the Poet Laureate News, and last month added Ed Coletti’s post on the Sonoma County in Print page. We’ve also tossed around the idea of inviting members of the literary community to take a month as guest blogger, and this seems like a perfect time to launch such a project.

If you’d like to try your hand at writing a monthly post, let me know. Send me an e-mail at, and we’ll see what we can work out.

Sonoma County Writers Published in Journals
As announced in December, poet Ed Coletti is hosting a new feature of the Sonoma County Literary Update that recognizes local authors whose work is published in literary journals. You’ll find these announcements on our Sonoma County in Print page.
If you have a publication in a literary journal within the last 30 days you’d like to announce, send the following information to Ed at

Your name
Title of the piece
Name of the journal and date of publication (issue/volume)
Link to journal’s website (if available)

Writers Critique Group at Aqus Cafe
I often get queries from local writers looking for a supportive critique group, and I’m happy to say, there is one starting up at the Aqus Café this month on Tuesday, January 21, 10:00 a.m. The group will meet every 3rd Tuesday at Aqus Cafe, 189 H St. Petaluma. Contact: Kathy Andrew,

A Sampler of Upcoming Literary Events

Please check out the January calendar of events page for all the readings, workshops, and events. I’ve noted these that are especially worth your attention.

Friday-Sunday, January 17 thru 19, 7:30 p.m. Evolution of a Woman. This readers’ theater production is the creation of eight local women who were inspired to write their own show after working together in The Vagina Monologues. After a sold out run at the Art Center in Petaluma last spring, these talented women are bringing the show to Clear Heart Gallery, 90 Jessie Lane, Petaluma. Friday and Saturday tickets: Sunday tickets:

Sunday, January 19, 1:30 p.m. Third Sunday Salon featuring Jean Wong reading from her recently released book, Sleeping with the Gods, and Donna Emerson reading from her recent chapbook, Following Hay. At the Bean Affair in Healdsburg. Details at:

Friday, January 24, 7:00 p.m. Celebrate the launch of Nighthawks with author Katherine Hastings, Sonoma county’s new Poet Laureate for 2014-2016. Reading, Q & A, book sales and signing. Admission is free, but all donations gratefully accepted.  Occidental Center for the Arts, 3850 Doris Murphy Court (Graton Rd and Bohemian Hwy. in Occidental). Further information: 707-874-9392, or website:
Instead of just one poem for the new year, I’m passing along the New Year’s Poem page from the website of the Academy of American Poets. Happy 2014!

Poems for the New Year

clockEighteenth-century Scottish poet Robert Burns may well be most famous not for a poem he wrote, exactly, but for a poem he wrote down. According to Burns Country, a comprehensive website devoted to the poet, Burns, in a letter to an acquaintance, wrote, “There is an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul. You know I am an enthusiast in old Scotch songs. I shall give you the verses on the other sheet… Light be the turf on the breast of the heaven-inspired poet who composed this glorious fragment! There is more of the fire of native genius in it than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians.”

That song was a version that Burns fashioned of “Auld Lang Syne,” which annually rings in the New Year at parties across the world, though most often sung out of tune and with improvised lyrics, as it has been described as “the song that nobody knows.” Though the history of the authorship of the poem is labyrinthine and disputed, Burns is generally credited with penning at least two original stanzas to the version that is most familiar to revelers of the New Year.
Here are the first two stanzas as Burns recorded them:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus.-For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Undoubtedly, some rousing version of the Scottish song echoed through the New Year’s night near where Thomas Hardy wrote his haunting goodbye to the ninteenth century, “The Darkling Thrush.” Dated December 30, 1900, which signaled the end of the century in Hardy’s view, the poem intones a much more somber sense of the end of one time and beginning of another. Consider the last lines of the opening stanza, which set a grim scene:

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

But century’s end, for Hardy, was possibly an arbitrary marking, too, and there was hope to be found, in the form of the sudden song issued from a thrush’s voice, a “full-hearted evensong / Of joy illimited.”
For centuries, it has been the charge of Britain’s Poet Laureate to write a poem to ring in the New Year. Laureate Nahum Tate established this practice, having written eight New Year odes between 1693 and 1708. And the phrase “ring out the old, ring in the new” first comes from another laureate’s pen, Lord Alfred Tennyson, from his most well-known poem, “In Memoriam”:

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Finally, Kobayashi Issa, a great practitioner of the haiku form, approached the new year with a sense of humility and reverence:

New Year’s Day—
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.

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

“New Year’s Day Nap” by Coleman Barks
A Song for New Year’s Eve“ by William Cullen Bryant
Auld Lang Syne“ by Robert Burns
The Old Year“ by John Clare
“One Year ago—jots what?” by Emily Dickinson
At the Entering of the New Year“ by Thomas Hardy
The Darkling Thrush“ by Thomas Hardy
“A New Year’s Gift, Sent to Sir Simeon Steward” by Robert Herrick
“New Year’s morning” by Kobayashi Issa
“New Year’s Day” by Kobayashi Issa
“New Year’s Morning” by Helen Hunt Jackson
“On a New Year’s Eve” by June Jordan
“New Year on Dartmoor” by Sylvia Plath
Te Deum“ by Charles Reznikoff
Archaic Torso of Apollo“ by Rainer Maria Rilke
The Passing of the Year“ by Robert W. Service
“New Year’s Eve” by Robert W. Service
In Memoriam“ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

– See more at:

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

A pdf of most of the pages on the Update website may be downloaded here.


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