Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2020

September 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

The past few weeks have been intensely difficult here in Sonoma County. Some of you have lost your homes and many have spent long, anxious days under evacuation orders or warnings. Our country continues to blaze and smolder in the cauldron of racial injustice. The pandemic keeps us distanced and isolated, and we’ve lost too many. Too many.
At such a time, these monthly posts seem like mouse-farts in the dark (borrowing a metaphor from John Steinbeck). But I am also reminded of Bertolt Brecht’s lines in another time of darkness—1939: “In the dark times/Will there also be singing?/Yes, there will also be singing/About the dark times.”

So we go on singing in these dark times, hoping the smoke clears, and the work we do will continue to sustain us until as a literary community, we can come together again.

At last check, our beloved Petaluma Poetry Walk has been cancelled. Supporting the Poetry Walk through their GoFundMe Campaign is still a great way to make sure the events in the future are possible. GoFundMe site: PetalumaPoetryWalk.

The Sitting Room Community Library is on hiatus, too, at least as a place for events, book groups, workshops, and nourishing browsing through their fabulous collections. Nicole Zimmerman and Sheila Bare have continued offering their workshops via Zoom. JJ Wilson writes that the she is using this time to do some renovations. I hope to be able to offer my own workshops under SR’s banner in the spring, though very likely these, too, will be in an online format.

Rivertown Poets, Occidental Center for the Arts, and Writers Forum continue to host readings and presentations in Zoom format, and the calendar for September is brimming with virtual events. Here are a few I’d like to spotlight.
Book Launch for Blood Memory
Blood Memory, Poems by Gail NewmanGail Newman and Cecilia Woloch
Poetry Flash Reading
September 6, 2020, 3 pm
Please contact Gail for Zoom link:

Gail Newman’s new book, BLOOD MEMORY, was honored with a Marsh Hawk Press First Place Award, chosen by Marge Piercy.There isn’t a weak poem in the book. Writing about the Holocaust can be difficult now, not that it was ever easy. …Those who deny what happened multiply. To make fresh powerful poems rooted in Shoah is amazing. She does it by specifics. There are no faceless men in dirty ragged striped uniforms. The people are individualized. —Marge Piercy

Beside the WellBook Launch for Beside the Well
September 13, 2020, 4:00-5:00 PM
Occidental Center for the Arts Literary Series presents its first virtual book launch for Beside The Well, by poet Donna Emerson, with musical interludes by Jared Emerson-Johnson. Selected readings with Q&A to follow. This is a free event, but you’ll need to register at to receive the Zoom link.
America Poetry Video Launch
September 20, 
7:00 p.m. EDT, 4 p.m. PDT

America We Call Your NameIn this reading, launched less than a month and a half before the 2020 presidential election, some of our country’s finest poets address the social and political rifts that currently divide our country. Please join us for the launch of this timely and important video featuring contributors to our anthology, America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience, reading their poems and others from the book:
Camille DungyRick Barot, Joshua Bennett, Mai Der Vang, Camille Dungy (pictured here), Dante Di Stefano, Judy Halebsky, Forrest Hamer, Brenda Hillman, and Evie Shockley.
Visit the Sixteen Rivers website for the Zoom link.
Following the launch, the video will be available on YouTube.
Invitation from Cole Swenson to Join WAP
Cole SwensonAlthough I recognize not everyone feels comfortable engaging in political gestures, such as this open letter recommends, I pass this along at the request of Cole Swenson. Cole and I graduated from SF State’s Creative Writing Program in 1984an auspicious date! She is a poet, translator, editor, copywriter, and professor. Originally from Kentfield, California, she now divides her time between Paris and Providence, RI, where she is on the permanent faculty of Brown University’s Literary Arts Program.
“I’m extending the invitation to you to join Writers Against Trump, a group launched by writers such as Paul Auster, Sophie Auster, Peter Balakian, James Carroll, Todd Gitlin, Siri Hustvedt, Julia Lattimer, Askold Melnyczuk, Shuchi Saraswat, Natasha Trethewey, and Carolyn Forché, to defeat the nightmare of racism, anti-environmentalism, sexism, and fascism currently ruling our country.

“As one writer to another, I encourage you to join with us. Attached is the steering committee’s letter of invitation, and there is also a simple, easy Google doc for signing up and telling us how public you’d like to be about your involvement:
“With hope and belief in the power of the people.”
Cole Swenson

100 Thousand Poets for Change Day
September 26, 2020

A message from Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion:

100 Thousand Poets for Change“2020 marks 10 years since the 100 Thousand Poets for Change movement began. It has been a breathtaking experience to work and create together in community building with you, and to witness a global community working for positive change.
“We hope you will all participate and organize again this year to signify that peace, justice and sustainability are things you and your community of poets, musicians, and artists care deeply about. We stand with you in reaffirming your commitment to this vision.
“What we are suggesting for the 10th anniversary of 100tpc is that local organizers work to prepare Zoom sessions all around the world. We are asking that you reconnect with your community through social media events and invite poets from your local community and from around the world to participate. The need for positive change is greater than ever and we must not let our spirits diminish in the task of speaking up for change.
“If you decide to organize a virtual event please let me know and I will add your event to promotions and archives just as we have done for the past ten years. Zoom sessions can be recorded easily and added to the Stanford University effort to document this historic movement.
 “Important! You do not need to organize your event on September 26, you can organize any time that is convenient for you during the fall and winter months.
Most important, know that you have friends around the world who care about you and share your creative vision. We are not alone. We will get through this.”
Michael and Terri
Poem for September
As we recover from the lightning fires of August, and brace for the fall fire season here in Sonoma County, I offer this poem by Poet Laureate Emerita Maya Kholsa.

Diablo Winds

Fire is a very powerful force of nature that’s been here for millions of years. Will be here for millions more. —Tim Ingalsbee
We woke to shrill voices and smoke.
Winds letting go; messages flying far.
A pine-and-cedar incense of imminence
wrapping the stars. Santa Ana, Diablo, Fohn.
Pages flapping. Nothing to hold the books,
the photos, the shared cups of tea, to the moment.
Rooms loosened from meaning. Walls
turning into paper in the hands of chance.
Anything, anything, grabbed without thought.
The mind a leaf spinning. The prayers caught
in our throats for months. One for shelter,
one for first responders knocking on doors,
one for the lost, one for fighters who drove
past flames. One for the hills rimmed with a rolling
brightness, for history to make us wise about lands
that have always returned after fire. For time, for time.
For the surprises tiptoeing in, unannounced, just weeks
after the flames. One for rain and the rise of suncup,
biscuitroot, toadflax and whispering bells.
For the plentiful flaring open, petals upon ash,
songbirds upon branches of charcoal,
black bear upon berries of abundance, fresh juices
trickling down the corners of her mouth.

© Maya Khosla, from All the Fires of Wind and Light (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2019). You can order the book using this link:


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor


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