Dear Literary Folk,
Happy spring to you all on this glorious April morning! April is, of course, National Poetry Month, so there’s much going on the lift the spirit and inspire the writer in you, whatever your genre.
For example, Oakland poet, playwright, essayist, and activist Alison Luterman will be interviewed by Irwin Keller on Thursday, April 6, 7-8:30 at 85 La Plaza, Cotati. Luterman and Keller will discuss “how we live our lives to the fullest, and how we tell our stories – turning our days into poetry, written sometimes in ink and sometimes in flesh and blood, breath, and action.” For more information or to register for this event, check out this link: www.commonweal.org/events/?eid=4542
Later in the month, on Saturday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m., the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference is marking National Poetry Month with a Celebration of Poetry featuring California’s poet laureate, Dana Gioia, and Bay Area authors at the Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave., St. Helena. Among those joining Gioia will be Sonoma County Poet Laureate Iris Dunkle; Caroline Goodwin, who served as San Mateo’s first poet laureate; Rachel Richardson, author of two poetry books and co-founder of Left Margin Lit; David Roderick, San Francisco Chronicle poetry columnist, author, and co-founder of Left Margin Lit; and Napa County Poet Laureate Beclee Newcomer Wilson.
If you can’t make it to St. Helena on tax day, then consider catching Joyce Carol Oats at 7:00 p.m., Santa Rosa’s Copperfield’s Bookstore. Oates will be reading from her latest, A Book of American Martyrs.
Then on Tuesday, April 25, 6:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books and Redwood Writers present their Spotlight on Fiction with Crissi Langwell’s novel The Road to Hope at Copperfield’s Montgomery Village.
And a final highlight from our extensive calendar of April events is Independent Bookstore Day, a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on Saturday, April 29. The event will be held locally at Copperfield’s Montgomery Village at 10 a.m.
Poetry Contest for Sonoma County History
Our current Poet Laureate, Iris Dunkle, has announced a poetry contest for adults and youth, sponsored by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, on the topic of Sonoma County History. The deadline for submission is May 1, 2017. Check Iris’s Poet Laureate page for all the details.
More Suggestions for Celebrating National Poetry Month
The Academy of American Poets has a great list of says to celebrate National Poetry Month. You’ll find the complete list at this link: www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/30-ways-celebrate-national-poetry-month.
Among their recommendations is to pick a poem and memorize it, a tradition honored every year by the annual “Favorite Poems” evening. In honor of National Poetry Month, the Sebastopol Center for the Arts will be hosting its annual Favorite Poems event the afternoon of Sunday, April 9 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. If you would like to read or recite your favorite poem, please send a copy to Larry Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org, and include a short statement of why it is your favorite. The only restriction is that the poem cannot be one of your own or that of a family member. We have usually been able to fit most submissions into the program but we may not have room for long poems.
Poetry and Film
Another recommendation from the Academy of American Poets is to watch a poetry movie. Here are two suggestions:
In theaters right now, look for a remarkable film called Paterson. The film presents a week in the life of a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey, who is himself named Paterson. Besides driving bus, he also writes poetry, which one critic says “slip across the screen like water.” The film’s title alludes to William Carlos Williams, whose epic poem Paterson was in turn inspired by the works of Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and Hart Crane. The poems featured in the film were actually written by Ron Padgett, a still-living poet with roots in the “New York School.”
There is also a wonderful film about Robert Bly, called A Thousand Years of Joy. The film’s website says, “A Thousand Years of Joy charts Bly’s singular path from farmer’s son on a wintry Minnesota farm to radical anti-Vietnam War activist to wild man of the 1990’s men’s movement.” If you missed it, you can view the film at http://sebastopolfilmfestival.org/films/robert-bly-thousand-years-joy/
Who’s Your Literary Best Friend?
The Sitting Room’s Call for Contributions to their Annual Publication: As Edward Mendelson reminds us, “A reader who identifies with the characters in a novel […] is performing one of the central acts of literary understanding.” (The Things That Matter, a study of seven women writers.) Are there times in your life when you have turned to a literary character for comfort and company – an imagined friend who sticks with you through thick and thin? Or indeed, an adversary, someone who gets under your skin, who reminds you of some of the shapes of evil?
The Sitting Room invites contributions and will publish all that adhere to the theme and format guidelines in their 2017 publication, celebrated in June at the Sitting Room’s annual birthday party. The deadline is April 15. For details and guidelines, visit the Sitting Room Website: www.sittingroom.org/publish.html
Remembering Rich Benbrook and Tomcat
Sadly, Sonoma County has lost another of our literary lights, Rich Benbrook, who founded the art and literary magazine Tomcat in the 90s. Many poets appeared in Tomcat, and if any of your readers were among those Rich supported, and would like to send me your thoughts, I will hold a special place in the May 1 Literary Update to honor and remember Rich’s contributions to our literary community.
Get Lit in Petaluma Has a New Home and Night
Formerly at the Corkscrew Wine Bar, Get Lit, a quarterly reading series hosted by Dani Burlison and Kara Vernor, is moving to Aqus Cafe. Join them Thursday, April 13, from 7:00-9:00 for the launch of their new location with featured readers Dave Madden (San Francisco), Amy Elizabeth Robinson (Santa Rosa), and Jeremy Benson (Napa). An open mic during the second hour will follow the featured readers, so bring something to share (five minute limit). Get Lit is a free event that hosts emerging and established writers and aims for lively, funny, heartbreaking, and real. Past readers have included Molly Giles, Guy Biederman, Stefanie Freele, Shirin Yim Bridges, Glen David Gold, and many others. More info at facebook.com/getlitreadings.
For a new anthology, Sixteen Rivers Press is seeking unpublished poems that respond to the cultural, moral, and political rifts that now divide our country: poems of resistance and resilience, witness and vision,that embody what it means to be a citizen in a time when our democracy is threatened.
Poets are encouraged to interpret this call broadly. We welcome voices raised in passion and in praise, whether lyrical, philosophical, visionary, or personal. Because we hope to create a wide-ranging conversation among the poems, this anthology will combine submitted contemporary work with previously published poems from other periods of unrest and upheaval.
Submission period: February 15–May 15, 2017. Submit 1 to 3 unpublished poems, totaling no more than 3 pages, either online by Submittable or by regular mail. We expect to complete our selection by September 30, 2017; our scheduled publishing date is June 2018. Payment for publication will be two copies of the anthology.
Note: This book will be nationally advertised and similar in scope and design to our first anthology, The Place That Inhabits Us, now in its fourth printing.
Poem for April
For this month, here’s one of my favorite spring poems.
I went down to
mingle my breath
with the breath
of the cherry blossoms.
There were photographers:
Mothers arranging their
gnarled old trees;
a couple, hugging,
asks a passerby
to snap them
so that their love
will always be caught
between two friendships:
ours & the friendship
of the cherry trees.
why can’t my poems
be as beautiful?
A young woman in a fur-trimmed
coat sets a card table
with linens, candles,
a picnic basket & wine.
A father tips
a boy’s wheelchair back
so he can gaze
up at a branched
All around us
you have an ancient beauty.
you have an ancient beauty.
From The Undertaker’s Daughter, by Toi Derricotte, 2011, University of Pittsburgh Press.