Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2014

February 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

It’s a strange non-winter we’ve just passed through with searing frost, but without rain or snow, the driest year on record in California History. Like an answer to a prayer, light rains darkened the thirsty ground this past week, and a modest snowfall is coming down in the Sierras as I write these words. I’m heading up to Hope Valley today for a little snow-shoeing, grateful I won’t have to clamber about on bare rock. But we know it’s not enough.

Thoughts on the Drought
We’ve all felt the drought in our bones for weeks before the official declaration. Has the weather drawn from you an essay? a poem? a rant? A lament? If so, please send me what you’ve written. I’m thinking of including these in next month’s post.

You can send me your thoughts to Please write Thoughts on the Drought in the subject line. Try to keep contributions under 250 words.

Poetry Out Loud
Coming up on tomorrow evening, February  2, is the annual Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud Competition. If you’ve never been, consider adding this to your weekend plans. The program features high school students who have memorized poems for recital. It’s a chance to hear poetry returned to its oral form, the words coming alive in remarkable ways; even familiar pieces by Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson can sound entirely new in their delivery.

The program runs from 6:30 to 9:30 at the Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. Free admission. Details on County News page.

Record-a-Poem on SoundCloud
Record-a-PoemMaybe you have a favorite poem you’ve learnt by heart, or simply love to hear read out loud? The Poetry Foundation has created the Record-a-Poem group where everyone is invited to post audio recordings of their favorite poems.

Here’s the link with samples to listen to and instructions for uploading your own favorite poem recording:

Rumi’s Caravan
Rumi’s Caravan is returning to the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa Saturday, February 8 for its 13th season. Critics have called this “the premier poetry event of the year for the North Bay.” The evening begins with a 5:45 PM reception of Persian appetizers and wine, followed by a 7:00 PM performance of poetry in the ecstatic tradition accompanied by middle eastern music.

All proceeds will go to benefit the Climate Protection Campaign. Tickets are $25 and can be bought online at

In the Mood for Love?
On Sunday February 9, 1:30-3:30 p.m. The Healdsburg Literary Guild presents Annual Poetry Valentine. Twenty-one poets chosen after a call for love poems will be reading their selections, accompanied by chocolate goodies, at the Guild’s annual love-gift to the community.  A chapbook of the poems, titled Love by Any Other Name, will be available for purchase, proceeds to the Guild. At the Bean Affair, 1270 Healdsburg Avenue. FREE and open to the public. Info:

Digging Our Poetic Roots
roots-bookOur new Sonoma County Poet Laureate Katherine Hastings invites you all to participate in her project called “Digging Our Poetic Roots.” Katherine will regularly select a number of poems over the two-year period to share electronically with our local and invite Sonoma County to respond with poems of their own. Everyone is invited to participate — experienced and inexperienced, young and old. For details about the project and how you can sign up to participate, visit the Poet Laureate News page.

Call for Poetry Manuscripts
For those of you with poetry manuscripts in the drawer, Sixteen Rivers Press announces that the deadline for submissions for the 2013 manuscript competition has been extended! Manuscripts will now be accepted up to March 1, 2014 both online and through regular mail. All other submission guidelines still apply. Please see complete guidelines at

Here are two poems for the season: “The Drought,” by Gary Soto, and “Tenderness and Rot,” a poem about love, by Kay Ryan

gary_sotoThe Drought

The clouds shouldered a path up the mountains
East of Ocampo, and then descended,
Scraping their bellies gray on the cracked shingles of slate.

They entered the valley, and passed the roads that went
Trackless, the houses blown open, their cellars creaking
And lined with the bottles that held their breath for years.

They passed the fields where the trees dried thin as hat racks
And the plow’s tooth bit the earth for what endured.
But what continued were the wind that plucked the birds spineless

And the young who left with a few seeds in each pocket,
Their belts tightened on the fifth notch of hunger—
Under the sky that deafened from listening for rain.

Gary Soto, “The Drought” from The Tale of Sunlight
(Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1978).
Copyright © 1978 by Gary Soto.
Reprinted with the permission of the author,
Source: Poetry (June 1977).

KayRyanTenderness and Rot

Tenderness and rot
share a border.
And rot is an
aggressive neighbor
whose iridescence
keeps creeping over.

No lessons
can be drawn
from this however.

One is not
two countries.
One is not meat

It is important
to stay sweet
and loving.

Source: Poetry (January 2002).

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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