Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2018

April 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

Here’s the news for April.

Remembering Penelope La Montagne

Jigsaw Heart. Penelope la MontagneOn Friday, March 23, Sonoma County lost one of its brightest literary lights, Penelope La Montagne. Penelope was a poet, essayist, teacher, traveler, small business owner, and real estate agent who came to Healdsburg in 1989, fell in love with the Russian River and the people of Sonoma County, and made this her home. She served as Healdsburg’s Literary Laureate 2003-2005, taught poetry in the schools, volunteered for many years with the Sonoma County Book Festival and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee. The familiar image of Penelope standing in the river, book in hand, brings together the deep loves that stirred and inspired her.

I can’t remember a time since I moved to Sonoma County 28 years ago when I didn’t know Penelope. We worked together and read together on so many occasions, but I didn’t know that in 2011, Penelope joined a humanitarian trip to Pereira, Colombia, with an international nonprofit agency that brings volunteers to South America to perform free reconstructive surgeries for children with cleft palates and other medical needs. Although Penelope had no medical training, she could speak Spanish well, which made her an extremely valuable part of the team.

One of Penelope’s friends, Timothy Williams, remembered another occasion when Penelope’s healing hand touched a need in the community: On that terrible night of September 11, 2001, Penelope hosted an evening of poetry on public access TV in Santa Rosa. Timothy writes, “She held the moment, the evening, with that great empathy and compassion we have grown accustomed to.” Her niece, Patricia Gallagher, says that Penelope taught her “that magic is real and lives inside us all. . . . That’s how she lived, with her heart full of love, life, magic, and a light that was shared with so many.”

Penelope once wrote, “Perhaps the only way to transfer a wee worm of hope to another human being is to go out of your way to do a kindness for another. A split second extension of heart to hand or voice.” We can honor Penelope’s legacy by remembering these words and living by them.

Penelope’s family is planning a celebration of her life, which will be held in May, her birth month. In lieu of flowers, you might consider making a donation to The Russian Riverkeeper or signing up to help with fire recovery at this link:

I have included one of Penelope’s poems at the end of this post.

Sonoma County’s 10th Poet Laureate
Congratulations to Maya Khosla who was selected as Sonoma County’s newest Poet Laureate.

Maya KhoslaMaya is a poet and film maker whose efforts to film and create awareness about the high value of post-fire forests can be viewed at: Her field efforts have been supported by Patagonia and the Sacramento Audubon Society. She has written Web of Water: Life in Redwood Creek; Tapping the Fire, Turning the Steam: Securing the Future with Geothermal Energy; and Keel Bone (Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize from Bear Star Press) and has received writing awards from Flyway Journal, and Headlands Center for the Arts. Maya is one of the newest members of Sixteen Rivers Press. Her manuscript Unknown World on Fire was selected for publication in 2019.

In a time of recovery from the devastating October firestorms, Maya’s proposal to lead a poet-laureate “Natural Legacy” project is particularly timely. The project has three aspects: “Local Legacy,” creating a series of readings in open spaces; “Global Legacy,: creating an exchange program between local writers and Nagaland, India; and a film bringing these two legacies together.

Congratulations to the Outstanding Finalists and Candidates

Fran ClaggettPhyllis Meshulam

Donna EmersonOn behalf of the Poet Laureate Selection Committee, I also want to extend our heartfelt congratulations to the finalists, Fran Claggett, Phyllis Meshulam, and Donna Emerson, as well as to candidates Julia Park Tracey and Jessica Malone Latham. Sonoma County is indeed fortunate to have so many qualified and talented poets step forward for this important role in our literary community.

Poet Laureate Reception on April 29
The Poet Laureate Selection Committee will honor Maya at a reception at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts on Sunday, April 29 at 3-5 PM. Maya will be formally recognized by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, May 8, at 1:30 PM. The literary community is invited to join us for both of these events.

We will also be honoring our outgoing Laureate, Iris Dunkle, whose remarkable literary leadership and passion for local history have inispired us for more than two years. Past poet laureate Mike Tuggle and selection committee member Penelope La Montage will also be remembered at the reception.

Celebrate National Poetry Month: WordTemple and Favorite Poem Readings
On the weekend of April 14/15, Sebastopol Center for the Arts will be the site for two literary events: Wordtemple reading hosted by Gregg Randall, and featuring Jodi Hottell, Rosa Lane, and Sharon Doubiago on Saturday, April 14 at 7 PM; and the Favorite Poem reading, hosted by Jodi Hottel, on Sunday, April 15 at 2 PM. See the April calendar of events for details.

Thank You and Bon Voyage to Katherine Hastings
As many of you already know, Katherine Hastings and her partner Kathy moved last month from Santa Rosa to Grand Island, New York. I know many of us feel deeply indebted to Katherine for her many years of hosting the WordTemple Reading Series and radio program on KRCB. Katherine’s genius was to bring together writers both local and national and to create a special place in the North Bay where readers and writers could come together in celebration of the word. Katherine also brought writers together in her anthologies What Redwoods Know, Digging Our Poetic Roots, and Know Me Here, and served as Sonoma County’s Poet Laureate from 2014-15. We will miss you, Katherine, and wish you all the best in your new home!

Aquainted with the Night
Kate Willens
Sebastopol poet and musician Kate Magdalena Willens has just released a new CD called Acquainted With the Night, with 13 original songs, 5 of them poems. About the music CD, Willens writes , “This is really two interwoven albums, each touching upon the theme of ‘night.’ There is evocative poetry set to music, and there are songs of political, environmental, and personal darkness. There are three Yeats poems, one Frost poem, and a poem by John Masefield set to music. The title song is from Frost’s “Acquainted With the Night.” There are also some songs protesting the state of the natural world, calling for its protection, and for the protection of our bodies from GMOs.”

The album is available on Spotify. You can also visit where the songs are available or the website

Kate will be performing in a Peacetown Concert at the Community Center Annex on May 25 at 7 pm.

Poem for April
You can listen to Penelope read her poem at this link:

by Penelope La Montagne

When people ask me what’s new, I tell them
I have a hummingbird nest in my pear tree.
My theory of everything defines this as perfection,
a reward
for good living, the ultimate gift
where nature chooses you back, makes your
yard the home place of the tiniest New World bird.
The little
who crowns the lichen ball
senses the nectar in me and does a wing ballet
inches from my face as I sit on the
slider and rock.
My heart quickens so as to true up to that racing beat.
There is a kind of
in this.
Only straight on can I see the ruby drop on her throat.
All the love inside me is well met
in the whir and thrum of that manic little heart.


Terry Ehret,
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


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