Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2019

March 1, 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

Here is your Literary Update for March 1, 2019

Fire and Rain
Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of CaliforniaNavigating the wild rains and atmospheric rivers this past month has inspired me to give another shout-out to a timely anthology of poetry Fire and Rain, Ecopoetry of California, edited by Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan. The collection includes so many fine poets, including local writers Iris Dunkle, Donna Emerson, Gail Entrekin, Catharine Lucas, Elizabeth Heron, and Barbara Quick.

About this collection, former California Poet Laureate Al Young wrote, “I went back to soulful, pristine, early James Taylor to make sure I was feeling the wet, cleansing urgency of Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan’s burning anthology. Anthology, ecology, mythology, and all the ‘ologies’ boil down to four-letter words—sacred kissing cousins—love and life.”

Here’s a link if you’d like to order:

Al YoungSide Note: As many of you already know, Al Young suffered a serious stroke last weekend. Al’s son Michael posted the news on FaceBook, and has provided recent updates. Al has some paralysis, but is improving. Here’s what Jack Foley reported after visiting Al this week: “It was a very pleasant and heartening visit. Al was tired but very responsive and alert and even able to speak a little. . . . I told him I loved him but not to take that in the wrong way. He said, ‘I won’t.’ He maintained himself with the elegance which is always a part of his character.”

Kathleen Fraser (1935-2019)
Kathleen FraserSan Francisco poet, teacher, editor, and essayist Kathleen Fraser passed away on February 5. In the early ‘80s, I had the good fortune to study with Kathleen at San Francisco State; she was my thesis advisor, and sat on my orals committee where we shared a mutual love of the Italian poet Montale. Kathleen was also one of the first advisors of Sixteen Rivers Press twenty years ago. The first semester I studied with her, I showed her a traditional sonnet sequence I was working on. She read each carefully and thoughtfully, then turned to me and said, “Well, you can certainly write sonnets. Now what are you going to do?” Kathleen introduced me to the poetry of Jorie Graham, Mei-Mei Berssengrugge, Russell Edson, and Barbara Guest; she published my first essay on Gertrude Stein in Feminist Poetics, and another on the lyric in HOW(ever); and she taught me how to hear my own hesitant voice behind what she called “the shadow forms of patriarchal poetry.” She saw her work as “making textures and structures of poetry in the tentative region of the untried,” always looking for the news beyond the boundaries and ways to give language room to say more. The Poetry Foundation offers this tribute—a good introduction to Kathleen’s life and work, if you aren’t familiar with her:


Two Poetry and Music Collaborations

Dana GioiaPoet Meets Pianist: Poet Dana Gioia, former chairman of the NEA and California Poet Laureate, will perform in collaboration with renowned jazz pianist Helen Sung. The event is on Sunday, March 10, 4:00–6:00 p.m. The artists are donating their time and talents in support of Healdsburg Jazz, and the venue is the unique Geyserville home and sculpture gardens of the Voigt Family. $250 per person, tax deductible. More information at:

Ed Coletti will read from his full-length poetry collection Apollo Blue’s Harp And The Gods Of Song on Saturday March 16, 4:30-6:30 p.m. at SoCo Coffee, 1015 4th St., Santa Rosa. His grandson Justin Coletti will provide dynamite music with Steve Shain accompanying on bass. Ed’s book is his homage to and impressions of jazz, rock, classical, and blues music. More details and ordering info: Sonoma County Books in Print


Six Winning Plays
Off the Page Readers Theater presents five performances of the winning plays from the Redwood Writers short-play contest. There will be laughter, tears, love, divorce, and maybe a death or two! Playwrights include Samantha Alban, Laura McHale Holland, Paul McCormick, Harry Reid, Jean Wong, and Natasha Yim. Check the calendar page for details. Here are the dates and locations:

Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23, 7:30 p.m. At Copperfield’s Books, Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa.

Sunday, March 24, 3:00 p.m. At Abacus, 101 South Main Street, Sebastopol.

Sunday, March 31, 3:00 p.m.  At Church of the Oaks, Page and West Sierra Avenue, Cotati.


Poem for March

Here’s a poem for all our Literary Folk in the path of the floods, especially Guerneville, Sebastopol, and the Russian River area. The poet is Sonoma County’s former poet laureate, Mike Tuggle, from his collection The Motioning In (2014). Mike lived in Cazadero, so he knew a thing or two about rain. Mike passed away in June 2017.



I am standing here in the steady rain in the goat pen,
goat shit and mud up to my ankles,
my sweet pregnant does on the dry ledge beneath the overhang
looking at me as if I’m responsible.
They’ve had enough. Eighty-five inches already
and more here and coming and it’s almost the second week in June.
The greens I planted in late April are mildewing,
the tall stalks of garlic have become flaccid and pale;
even the yellow warbler who sings his heart out every spring
has lost his enthusiasm.

The rain stops abruptly and a hopeful small gleam
of sunlight slips through the northwest,
the Pacific wind swells up and starts the taller firs
singing and swaying and for a moment the sun reaches out
and pours down.

In the flush of sudden exhilaration
I remember Diane Schuur, the blind jazz singer and pianist
literally singing the sun out several years ago
at the jazz festival.
fog and clouds had hung all morning over the celebrants
at the river, a steady drizzle.
As Diane sang those sad love songs and rousing blues
she made us forget about the weather.
and on the final line of her closing number,
“A Foggy Day in London Town,” the clouds began to part
and the sun broke through, right on its heavenly cue:
“Was a foggy foggy day the sun was shining everywhere.”

Looking up expectantly, I watch the clouds swallowing the sun,
rain whispers across my face.
Mariah, the boss goat, honks at me.
Six long, curved Nubian faces look out hopefully,
fixing me in their encouraging stare.
Come on, man, you can do it! Where’s your song?

Knowing my limitations
and lacking the grace of ritual
or prayer, I raise my arms
to the heavens
and make the ultimate
futile, human gesture:

“God damn it to hell, I’ve had enough!
My goats have had enough
and the ground won’t hold anymore!
Bring back the sun!”

The answer is rain so hard it hurts,
pouring in the abruptly stilled air straight down,
as if to pound me into the ground or drown me.

— Mike Tuggle


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor


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