Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2020

June 1, 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

I hardly know what to say. Never have I felt so anxious and overwhelmed by the state of our country and the world. Never have I felt so sick at heart and saddened by the injustices that run so deep in our society. And yet, I am heartened by the compassion and solidarity I see daily examples of.

Demonstrators face a row of police in downtown Los Angeles,

Many of you in the literary community have been part of the local protests with rallies and marches in Santa Rosa and Ukiah, and demonstrations in Petaluma. Thank you all for standing up or taking a knee for justice.

I have a niece and great-niece who live in Minneapolis, ground zero for the George Floyd protests that have swept the county. She is Japanese-Dutch-American. Her daughter is that plus African-American. The racial divides in our country touch them both personally. My niece writes every day, documenting what she is witnessing, and zooms with our family once a week. This morning, she talked about how her time as part of the resistance at Standing Rock prepared her for these days of protests and community action in Minneapolis. It was the genuine feeling of solidarity she was referring to, as well as a commitment to  honoring a people long denied their rights, and all under the imminent threat of police/military action.

Tanker truckLater, she sent photos of the fifth day of protests outside her apartment, and the horrendous scene on the nearby freeway as a tanker truck plowed into a crowd of protesters on the highway. As darkness fell, she could hear and see the tear gas canisters, the flash-bangs, as police pushed the protesters back, while water-carrying helicopters, military helicopters, and news helicopters swirled overhead.

Officers kneelWe’re in the midst of some enormous catalyst of change. If ever there was a time to speak truth to power, this is it. Bear witness if you can, participate in positive change. But stay safe and be mindful of those around you.

Global Open Mic

It’s week 11 of sheltering-in-place in a pandemic that has already altered our lives dramatically. One change, of course, is the shift to online literary readings, performances, and events. Dan Brady, host of Sacred Ground Open Mic Series, has put together a list of readings around the world you can attend without leaving your home.

You can find the constantly evolving list of Virtual Venues at this link:

And if you have an event to post on the Global Open Mic list, here’s how you can do this:

Rivertown Poets Celebrates its 7th Anniversary

One of the online events coming up later today is the 7th Anniversary of Rivertown Poets Series on Monday, June 1st, at 6:15 p.m. The aforementioned Dan Brady will be one of two featured readers. The other is Lance Giroux. Following the featured readers will be an open mic.

Sande Anfang, the series director and host, reminds those planning to join the open mic that each reader should keep to the three minute limit. Please time your share beforehand to accommodate everyone who wants to read. To sign up in advance for open mic, please fill out the JotForm. or

Pop-Up Poetry Protest
Pop-Up Poetry Contest

Jacki Rigoni, Poet Laureate of Belmont (my hometown on the Peninsula south of SF), hosted a zoom reading featuring SF Bay Area poets and community leaders protesting the extra-judicial killing of George Floyd and too many others. The reading was an online event, recorded on 5-29-2020. You can check it out at the link below.

Vicki McKinney, Chicago Mass Choir
Davina Hurt, Belmont, CA Councilmember
Kalimah Salahuddin, Jefferson Union High School District Board President
Aileen Cassinetto, San Mateo County Poet Laureate
Amos White, Poet, Author, Activist
Kim Shuck, San Francisco Poet Laureate
Michael Smith, Redwood City, CA Planning Commission
Noelia Corzo, San Mateo-Foster City School District Board President
Lois Fried, Poet

Copperfield’s “Poems for a Dark Time”

On the calendar page, you’ll find this month’s online events with several hosted by Copperfield’s Books. On that caught my eye is coming up this week on Wednesday, June 3, 7:00 p.m. Readers will be Terry Lucas, Meryl Natchez, Troy Jollimore and Heather Altfeld. You can find out more at this link:

Julia Alvarez, AfterlifeAnother Copperfield’s event is on Saturday, June 6, 4:00 p.m. when Julia Alvarez will read from her novel After Life. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves? Details at:

Writing From Memory or Imagination

The following featurette was provided by Nicole Zimmerman

Porch Time

Nicole ZimmermanAs oceans-full of sky unleash spring storms to wash away drought
it’s difficult to picture this earth parched, now wet with fresh bark
from a pile by the barn. Even the sheep sound unsettled,
their patterned movement between pastures disrupted.
The lambs bleat—a call-and-response—to bridge
the distance. Always after it rains there is a stillness.
We creatures tune in, listening while we shelter: the drip
of oak leaf onto gravel, the swish of a wing. Beaks peek out
from the brush, waiting, for the swoop of insects, seized mid-flight.

I wrote (and later revised) this poem outdoors during one of my writing workshops, based on the prompt: Observe your surroundings. Draw upon the senses. Take note. While tuning into nature I’ve been writing (and submitting) a lot of poetry—not my typical genre. This one appeared at The Dewdrop, a Zen-based online literary journal, in the section Isolation Shorts:

Nicole R. Zimmerman leads workshops at The Sitting Room (now Zoom!) using the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method, with creative prompts followed by positive feedback. Learn more about Writing From Memory or Imagination at

Remember the Running Fence?

Christo's Running Fence

It was the fall of 1976. I was a senior at Stanford, and one of my professors told us there was something he thought we should see up north of San Francisco. I was the RA in the dorm, so I grabbed a few willing freshmen, and off we drove, with no idea what we were about to see. We climbed out of the car somewhere around Point Reyes, and there, snaking its way over the undulating hills down to the sea was Christo’s Running Fence. It came alive in the wind, and if you were around to see it, you’ll never forget it. The installation was only in place for two weeks, and I think if we’d postponed our drive by even a few days, we would have missed it. Running Fence was an installation art piece conceived by Christo and Jeanne-Claude (pictured below). It was extremely controversial, since Christo had to get the rights to construct the fence across 24.5 miles of mostly private ranch land.  But such a controversy seems almost innocent by contrast to what’s tearing at us today.

Christo and Jeanne-ClaudeI mention this flash-from-the-past because Christo passed away today, age 84. Christo and Jeanne-Claude insisted that their ambitious projects, sometimes whimsical and often edgy, were about “joy and beauty.” The largest remaining intact and continuous section of the Running Fence hangs below the ceiling of the Rio Theater in Monte Rio.

Congratulations, Graduates of 2020!

I was looking for poems of protest, and came upon this one by Alberto Rios—something more than protest. I thought I’d dedicate it to all the graduates of 2020 to whom we look for hope.


A House Called Tomorrow

You are not fifteen, or twelve, or seventeen—
You are a hundred wild centuries

And fifteen, bringing with you
In every breath and in every step

Everyone who has come before you,
All the yous that you have been,

The mothers of your mother,
The fathers of your father.

If someone in your family tree was trouble,
A hundred were not:

The bad do not win—not finally,
No matter how loud they are.

We simply would not be here
If that were so.

You are made, fundamentally, from the good.
With this knowledge, you never march alone.

You are the breaking news of the century.
You are the good who has come forward

Through it all, even if so many days
Feel otherwise.  But think:

When you as a child learned to speak,
It’s not that you didn’t know words—

It’s that, from the centuries, you knew so many,
And it’s hard to choose the words that will be your own.

From those centuries we human beings bring with us
The simple solutions and songs,

The river bridges and star charts and song harmonies
All in service to a simple idea:

That we can make a house called tomorrow.
What we bring, finally, into the new day, every day,

Is ourselves.  And that’s all we need
To start.  That’s everything we require to keep going.

Look back only for as long as you must,
Then go forward into the history you will make.

Be good, then better.  Write books.  Cure disease.
Make us proud.  Make yourself proud.

And those who came before you?  When you hear thunder,
Hear it as their applause.

Copyright © 2018 by Alberto Ríos.


Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update



%d bloggers like this: