Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2021

August 2021

Dear Literary Folk,

Black and White in Black and White: Photography Exhibit
Petaluma Historical Library and Museum
September 26-November 6

The Petaluma Historical Library & Museum will present, starting September 26, a virtual exhibit of photographs by John Johnson, an African American photographer from Lincoln, Nebraska, whose work portrays the dignity, hope, and diversity in America. 

In an article in the Smithsonian, “Lost and Found Again,” you can read the story of how Douglas Keister began his collection of Johnson’s historical photographs, and the remarkable portrait they give of what historians call “The New Negro Movement. The beginning of the 20th-century was a time of great promise and hope for race relations in America . . . a period which set the stage for the Harlem Renaissance. No one better captured the essence of this time of advancement than African American photographer John Johnson.”

Black and White in Black and White Ekphrastic Poetry Contest
You can be a part of this extraordinary and timely exhibit. Preceding the opening on September 26, the Museum is sponsoring an ekphrastic poetry contest open to all poets residing in Sonoma County. The contest is currently open, and interested poets may preview the exhibit images at: Use passcode: ee2021.

Send poems to prize coordinator, Sandra Anfang at by August 31, 2021. Snail mail submissions will not be accepted. Poems must be no longer than 500 words of original work – no translations. Prizes will be awarded to three poets residing in Sonoma County:  $50.00 first prize, $25.00, second prize, and $25.00 third prize. Additionally, each finalist will receive a copy of the chapbook created from the selected entries. There is no entry fee. Winners will be notified by early September.

For questions and more information contact Clint Gilbert, contest coordinator:

Click on this link to download the Submission Guidelines PDF

Bill Vartnaw and Taurean Horn Poets
Bill VartnawPetaluma poet, executive director of the Poetry Walk, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emeritus, and founder of Taurean Horn Press, Bill Vartnaw will be reading with several poets he has published on Sunday, August 15, 2:00-3:30 p.m. San Francisco Public Library is hosting the event, which will be online. Bill Vartnaw (Suburbs of My Childhood) will be joined by poet and musician Avotcja, poets Gail Mitchell (Root Tracings, Bone Songs) and Jeanne Powell (February Voices), Tom Sharp (Spectacles: A Sampler of Poems and Prose), and San Francisco Poet Laureate emeritus Kim Shuck (Clouds Running In).

Register to attend:

Interested in Graphic Novels?
Brian Fies will discuss the art of graphic storytelling—how words plus images add up to more than the sum of their parts—and how Brian used comics to tell the story of our community’s trauma and renewal during recent fires in his latest book, A Fire Story. The event will be on Saturday, August 21, 1:00-2:30 p.m., and will be hybrid in format: In other words, you may attend in person at Finley Center, 2060 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa, or virtually via
Zoom. The event is hosted by Redwood Writers. Details and registration:

Remembering Janice Mirikitani
American Sansei poet, dancer, and community activist Janice Mirikitani was celebrated for her poetry and for her dedication to helping others. Mirikitani co-founded Glide Memorial in San Francisco with her husband, Cecil Williams. She passed away on July 29.

Mirikitani was born in 1941 in Stockton, California, and earned a BA from UCLA. As a child, she was interned, along with her parents, in an Arkansas camp during World War II. Through her poetry and activism, Mirikitani dedicated her life to addressing the horrors of war, combating institutional racism, and advocating for women and poor people. Her collections of poetry include Awake in the River (1978), Shedding Silence (1987), We, the Dangerous: New and Selected Poems (1995), and Love Works (2001). Mirikitani has edited several anthologies, including Third World Women (1972), Time to Greez! Incantations from the Third World (1975), and Ayumi: A Japanese American Anthology (1980). In 2000, she was named the second poet laureate of San Francisco.

Katherine Hastings, Sonoma County Poet Laureate emerita, wrote this about Janice:

“Janice Mirikitani was a goddess. She helped so many people with the deepest kindness, patience and love, including me in the mid-80s when I was healing from old unbearable trauma. She refused to be silenced about her own past suffering and encouraged others to speak up, to re-claim themselves. As they did, she was a fountain of support and hope not just for people who had experienced what she did in her childhood, but any kind of trauma.  I’ll never forget my time with her during my years at Glide, including a reading I participated in from an anthology she wrote an introduction for, and being introduced by her, in person, to the equally powerful Maya Angelou, who also provided warmth and support.  All of it was love. The real kind.  I’m saddened that she is no longer with us but relieved to know, from what I hear, that she didn’t suffer in her passing. Janice, you always were an angel. Thank you. Peace and Love and Gratitude forever.”

Katherine has selected a poem of Janice’s for August. Scroll down to read this. You can read more about Janice’s life and work on the Poetry Foundation website:

Many poets are gathering to honor Janice Mirikitani in a Zoom event on August 12th at 2PM.  Follow this link to register:

Celebration of Life for Amy Trussell
Last month, we shared the sad news of Amy Trussell’s passing. I wanted to update you on Amy’s Celebration of Life, scheduled for Saturday, August 28, starting at 2 PM. It will be held at the Sebastopol Youth Annex. Music will be provided by Midnight Sun Massive, 2-10. For more information, use this link:

The family of Amy Trussell welcomes donations in Amy’s memory to help with medical expenses and help with her celebration of life. Here’s the donation page link:

Plagios/Plagiarisms wins the Northern California Book Award in Poetry Translation
Five Sonoma County authors were nominated for a Northern California Book Award this year: Joan Frank, Kathleen Winter,  John Johnson, Nancy Morales, and Terry Ehret. At the awards ceremony on July 11, Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One was honored by the Northern California Book Reviewers with first place in Poetry Translation. This year, for the first time, the translation competition was statewide
If you’d like to order this collection of poems by Mexican poet Ulalume González de Leόn, you can do so directly from the publisher, Sixteen Rivers Press, at this link:

I had the additional honor of receiving the award on behalf of my translation partners, John Johnson and Nancy J. Morales. In my acceptance speech, I thanked the NCBA for including translation among its award categories, which is surprisingly rare, and quoted what Nancy and John had to say about the importance of literary translation:

“Ulalume’s poetry reminds us over and over that we live in a world of others, among the words of others, and that we are all participants in the act of meaning-making, which is above all a pleasure.” (John Johnson)

“Living in the United States, a country with a diverse and international population, but operating under a monolinguistic and monocultural paradigm, it is necessary and vital that we experience poetry from other countries.” (Nancy J. Morales)

Nancy and I will be participating in the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference First Book Panel on Friday, August 6 at 9 AM. To find out the schedule for this year’s conference week, check this link: See also the reminder below.

Napa Valley Writers’ Conference August 1-6
The Napa Valley Writer’s Conference begins today. If you are thinking about attending one of the readings or craft lectures open to the public, keep in mind that, the Conference will be held on the main campus of Napa Valley College, in the heart of Napa, CA. This move also provides ample outdoor spaces on the main campus for all daytime events, including workshops, craft talks, and meals, making it a safer choice for social distancing. Evening readings will also be outdoors on the main campus. You’ll need a facemask for any indoor events.

Poem for August

by Janice Mirikitani

I collected insects
for my biology class
Dropped them into a bottle
of cyanide fumes
and quickly stilled
those beating wings.

                        He locked me
                        in an airless vault of shame,
                        the darkness of closets, barns,
                        and muffled bedrooms.
                        Kept me in a jar
                        of silence
                        with the poisons of threat:
                        “If you speak of this,
                        you will kill your mother.”

I pinned dead insects
neatly on paraffin
with gleaming
silver straight needles.

                        I think I hear

                        He peeled back my skin,
                        pierced my flesh
                        with the dull blades
                        of his hands,
                        slowly pulled off my wings,
                        impaled me, writhing.
                        Without swift mercy
                        of insecticide,
                        I suffocated slowly,
                        swallowing bits of my tongue.

                        My body
in the mute row
of corpses
to paraffin.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Lit
erary Update co-editor


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