Posted by: wordrunner | February 27, 2020

February 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

I took a walk out along Thompson Creek, which runs behind my house, and as night fell, the frog chorus began. A sure sign of California spring, more dependable than the groundhog. The literary calendar for February is likewise brimming with readings and events. Here are a few I’d like to spotlight.

Ukiah Haiku Walk: Saturday, February 1, 2:00 p.m. Ukiah Library hosts Haiku Walk. Free & open to the public. Registration is required – please call 463-4490 to sign up! (There’s a good reason Ukiah  is haiku backwards!)

Rivertown Poets: Monday, February 3, 6:15-8:00 p.m. Rivertown Poets features Juanita Martin and Kyle Matthews. Open mic follows the features. Reading time is three minutes per poet. Come early to sign up for open mic. Location: Aqus Café, 189 H Street, Petaluma.

Poetry Out Loud: Monday, February 10, 6-9 p.m. Our 14th year of county participation! This oral recitation competition of famous poetry will include students from twelve Sonoma County high schools. Location: Downtown Santa Rosa Library, 211 E. Street, Santa Rosa. Admission is free.

Congratulations to Poet Laureate Emerita Gwynne O’Gara
Gwynn O’Gara’s poetry manuscript Clio’s Daughter With Head on Fire has won 1st Place and a $1,000 grant—the 2019 Shirley Holden Helberg Grant for Mature Women (35 and older)—awarded by the National League of American Pen Women, Phil Memmer, Judge. The manuscript is also a Finalist in The Faulkner Society 2019 Poetry Collection Contest. 

WordTemple Redux!
Yet another of our Sonoma County poets laureate is in the literary news this month: Katherine Hastings, has morphed WordTemple — her former reading series and radio program — into a blog with, in part, the intention of bringing California and New York poets (and beyond) together. If you would like to check out the blog, go to Katherine would love for you to subscribe.

Beside the Well, Poems by Donna EmersonNew Books by Donna Emerson and Joan Frank
Donna Emerson has a new book out, Beside the Well. She’ll be reading from this book on Sunday, February 16, 12:30-2:30 p.m. at Healdsburg Community Center, 1270 Healdsburg Avenue, and on Wednesday, February 26, 7-9 PM at Rebound Books, 1611 Fourth Street, San Rafael.

Try to Get Lost, Joan Frank


Joan Frank has two books to celebrate: Try to Get Lost and Where You’re All Going: Four Novellas. You can hear her read at Copperfields Books, Thursday, February 27, 7:00 p.m., 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa.


Favorite Poem Community Reading: Submit Your Selection by March 8!
The Sebastopol Center for the Arts will once again host a Favorite Poem Community Reading on Sunday, April 5. Modeled on the readings initiated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and hosted locally by Jodi Hottel and Larry Robinson, this event will bring together a wide range of people and poems into one memorable event.

You are invited to submit a copy of your single favorite poem, famous or otherwise, one that is not written by you, a friend or relative, but one that you have read, perhaps many times, or learned by heart, and to which you feel a personal attachment, along with a brief statement about the poem’s significance in your life. The poem and introductory statement should take no more than 3 minutes for you to read or recite.

Please send an email to Gwynn O’Gara at Include the subject “Favorite Poem Reading” in the subject heading. Send your name, phone # and email address, and submit your selection in either Word or a web link. Be sure to include the name of the author of the poem. There is no entry fee, and entries should be received no later than March 8.

This is our 17th annual event. The event is free, and refreshments will be served. Whether you submit a poem to share or not, we invite you to come to what is sure to be a wonderful celebration of the community’s love of language and poetry.

Sonoma County Book Launch for Plagios/Plagiarisms
Platio/PlagarismsIf you’re not planning to attend the Favorite Poems Reading on April 5, I invite you to come over to the Nicholson Ranch Winery in Sonoma on that Sunday, 2-5 PM for a gala reception and launch of Sixteen Rivers’ new books: The Machinery of Sleep, by Patrick Cahill; The Distant Sound, by Eliot Schain; and Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One, translated by Terry Ehret, John Johnson, and Nancy J. Morales. Location: 4200 Napa Road, Sonoma.

Many of you have been following the translation project these past six years, and we’d love to have you help us celebrate. This collection offers the first comprehensive translation in a bilingual edition of González de León’s poetry, including an introduction by fellow Mexican poet and Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz.

If any of you are attending the AWP Conference in San Antonio in March, we’ll be debuting our books there as well. On Friday, March 6, 2020, 1:45-3:00 PM, we’ll be hosting a panel and reading called “A Geometry of Air”: The Visionary Poetry of Ulalume González de León. This will be on the AWP Book Fair Stage Henry B. González Convention Center, 900 E. Market, San Antonio, TX.

And if you’re already booked for March and April, we hope to see you at one of the other readings and events this spring. We will have May readings at Iota Press in Sebastopol and Book Passage in Corte Madera. I’ll post these on the Literary Update’s calendar page as they come up.

Poem for February
The poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz was born on February 13, 1911, in what is now Pakistan. Faiz said that “The true subject of poetry is the loss of the beloved.” For him, the beloved and its loss was personal, political, spiritual. His life was tumultuous, and he lived almost twenty years in political exile, yet he became a master of Urdu and its poetic forms, such as the ghazal. In honor of his February birthday, I’ve chosen one of his poems.

Be Near Me
Faiz Ahmed Faizby Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984)

Be near me now,
My tormenter, my love, be near me—
At this hour when night comes down,
When, having drunk from the gash of sunset, darkness comes
With the balm of musk in its hands, its diamond lancets,
When it comes with cries of lamentation,
                                             with laughter with songs;
Its blue-gray anklets of pain clinking with every step.
At this hour when hearts, deep in their hiding places,
Have begun to hope once more, when they start their vigil
For hands still enfolded in sleeves;
When wine being poured makes the sound
                                             of inconsolable children
                      who, though you try with all your heart,
                                             cannot be soothed.
When whatever you want to do cannot be done,
When nothing is of any use;
—At this hour when night comes down,
When night comes, dragging its long face,
                                             dressed in mourning,
Be with me,
My tormenter, my love, be near me.

From The True Subject by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, translated by Naomi Lazard. © 1987 Princeton University Press.


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor


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