Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2017

January 2, 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

newyears2017photo-4newyears2017partyOnce again, poets, writers, and friends gathered at our home in Petaluma on New Year’s Day to invoke our creative energies in a poetic embrace of 2017. Healdsburg poet Vilma Ginzberg summed up the day eloquently in wishing us a year of a thousand acts kindness for which there is no inoculation. If you’d like to be included on the e-mail invitations for this annual New Year’s Poetry Pot-luck, you can e-mail me at

New Year Updates
Some of the Sonoma County Literary Update pages are in need of their own update, including Writers’ Connections, Ongoing Groups/Open Mics, Calls for Submission (ongoing) and Workshops (ongoing). Co-editor Jo-Anne Rosen has done some initial housekeeping and would like to thank Karen Pierce Gonzalez for her preliminary investigations. We post whatever comes our way, but we’d love if if readers out there in the literary community would help us to keep these pages more current and interactive. Please contact us if this appeals to you or if you notice any expired links or out-of-date information.

Farewell to Two Great Poet-Musicians
David MeltzerOn New Year’s Eve, poet David Meltzer left us to join the great host of writers and musicians, actors and leaders who have gone before us in 2016.

Meltzer wrote more than 40 volumes of poetry, among them Arrows: Selected Poetry 1957—1992, Name: Selected Poetry, 1973-1983 and Beat Thing. His nonfiction work includes Reading Jazz, Writing Jazz, When I Was a Poet and most recently Two-Way Mirror: A Poetry Notebook, a collection of anecdotes and quotations published by Oyez Press in 1977 and rereleased by City Lights Publishers in 2015. For those of you who don’t know David Meltzer’s work, a great place to start is the Poetry Foundation’s page:

Poet Diane de Prima has said, “David Meltzer is a hidden adept, one of the secret treasures on our planet. Great poet, musician, comic; mystic unsurpassed, performer with few peers.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti has called Meltzer “One of the greats of post-World War Two San Francisco poets and musicians. He brought music to poetry and poetry to music!”

Here’s an excerpt from his 2011 When I was a Poet:

I was an Acrobat
a Tightrope Walker
keeping balance
in my slippers
on a wire above
Grand Canyon
Inferno Vertigo
Oh I did prance the death-defying dance
whereas now
death defines each second
of awaking

To view a video of David Meltzer reading the full poem, recorded this past September, check out this link:

leonardcohenThe other great poet-musician who left us in November is Leonard Cohen. Cohen’s work needs no gloss here. I will only say that his lyrics and his honesty were an inspiration to many of us. I first heard “Bird on a Wire” when I was about 12 years old, and it became a kind of anthem for me. Judging from the outpouring of tributes and testimonies to Cohen’s life and work in the days following his death (one day before our tumultuous election day), I venture to say that Leonard Cohen was and will always be the soul of a generation.

January Events Worth Noting
Tonight, Monday, January 2, Rivertown Poets will feature North Bay poets M.J. Arcangelini and Crystal Ockenfuss. Open mic will follow the features. Signups start at 5:45 p.m., and the readings at 6:15. The Aqus Café hosts at 189 H Street in downtown Petaluma.

Youth Poetry Slam takes place on Saturday, January 7, 7:30 p.m. at Art Center Ukiah, 201 South State Street, Ukiah.

For those of you with a book in search of an agent, mark your calendar for Sunday, January 8, 2:30-4:30 p.m. Redwood Writers presents Agents’ Day & Pitchfest. At the Flamingo Hotel, 2777 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa.

Our Sonoma County dramatic arts community, Off Page Readers Theater, marks the new year on Friday, January 20, 7:30 p.m., with its Winter 2017 show, Family Matters, performing work by local authors: Sandra Anfang, Joe Arcangelini, Catharine Bramkamp, Armando Garcia-Dávila, Craig Harris, John Johnson,Chuck Kensler, Nancy Long, David Madgalene, Hilary Susan Moore, Megan O’Hara, Linda Saldaña, Jean Wong. Mockingbird Books, 6932 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol.

And finally, this event caught my eye as something we can all benefit from: Saturday, January 21, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Bookstore (138 Main Street, Sebastopol) features Mark Coleman discussing his new book, Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Your Inner Critic.

These and many more events for January and February can be found on our Calendar Page, with many thanks for Jo-Anne Rosen, who keeps the calendar and our website up to date.

Poem for January
The poem I’ve selected for January 2017 is called “Good Bones,” by poet Maggie Smith. This poem unexpectedly went “viral” in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings and in the months of tragedies that followed, including the November election.

Maggie Smith is the author of The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015), winner of the Dorset Prize, and Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award.

Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


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