Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2022

March 2022

Thinking about Ukraine

Dear Literary Folk,

Our next door neighbors at our cabin in Serene Lakes are Ukranian. As you can imagine, they have been deeply distressed about the Russian invasion of their homeland, angered by the violence, devastated by the blow to their independence, and anxious about colleagues, friends and family in harm’s way as the violence broadens to include civilian casualties. I have learned a lot about Ukraine in the past week. My neighbor recommended this short video which does a really good job explaining deep historical roots of the conflict in under 10 min. 

There will be two rallies this weekend to protest the war on Ukraine.

On Saturday, the group from Redwood Forest Friends (organizers of last Saturday’s gathering) will hold a rally in Courthouse Square beginning at 11:30 and going until 1:00.

On Sunday, CodePink has put out a national call for protest and the Peace & Justice Center will be holding a rally in Courthouse Square from noon until 2:00. Facebook event page:

Everything Is IlluminatedBefore this week, what little I knew about Ukraine had been influenced by the Ukranian students I taught at the JC and by the books I read, such as Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2002 novel Everything is Illuminated: the story of a young American Jew who goes on a quest to find the woman who saved his grandfather during the Holocaust. The setting is the small Ukrainian town of Trochenbrod, haunted by the ghosts of those who were killed there during 1941-44, when Nazis wiped out the Ukrainian-Jewish shtetls. Its dark humor and surreal elements can be disturbing, but I found the characters and unfolding of the plot to be fascinating.

Deaf RepublicAnother writer whose work has shaped my perception of Ukraine is the poet Ilya Kaminsky. Ilya was born in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa, and lost most of his hearing at age 4. His family was granted political asylum in the US in 1993. His most recent collection of poems, Deaf Republic, opens in an occupied country in a time of political unrest. “When soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, Petya, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear—all have gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language.”

This could be the Odessa of Kaminsky’s childhood, or Kiev today: it could be the US, or anywhere democracy is threatened. Here is an excerpt from Kaminsky’s poem “Deafness, an Insurgency, Begins.”

Our country woke up the next morning and refused to hear soldiers.
     In the name of Petya, we refuse.
     At six a.m., when soldiers compliment girls in the alley, the girls slide by, pointing to their ears. At eight, the bakery door is shut in soldier Ivanoff’s face, though he’s their best customer. At ten, Momma Galya chalks No One Hears You on the gates of the soldiers’ barracks.
     By eleven a.m., arrests begin.
     Our hearing doesn’t weaken, but something silent in us strengthens.
     In the ears of the town, snow falls.

I have selected another poem by Kaminsky, “In a Time of Peace,” for the March poem. Scroll down to read it.
March is Women’s History Month
…and in honor that, here are four of the many fabulous workshops and events coming up in March that feature women writers. You can find these and more on the Calendar Page.

Brooke WarnerSunday, March 6, 5:00 p.m. Book Passages presents editor and publisher Brooke Warner in a live and online, two-hour class. Discover the Five Things She’s Learned during her nearly two decades of leading and championing women-only publishing about the ways that women writers work, collaborate, and succeed.

Kim Culbertson.Saturday, March 12, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Dominican University presents Do the Math: How to Keep Pressing Forward When We Feel Stuck, a Creative Writing Workshop with Kim Culbertson. Free, via Zoom. Registration required. Details on Workshops page.

Patti TrimbleSaturday, March 19, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. A Day of Wild Writing with Patti Trimble at Limantour Beach, Pt. Reyes Station. For details and registration:

Shugri Said SalhSunday, March 27, 3:00-4:30 p.m. Occidental Center for the Arts Literary Series celebrating Women’s History Month presents Shugri Said Salh’s The Last Nomad. Shugri was born in the desert of Somalia in 1974 and spent her early years living as a nomad, emigrating to North America in 1992. In her debut novel she recounts stories heard from her grandmothers and nomadic community when she was young.

26th Annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival—Celebrate Writers, Nature & Community
WatershedTraditionally a fall event, the annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival was postponed in 2021; this year it is a spring event, scheduled for Friday, March 18-Sunday, March 20. All events will be live on Zoom and recorded for posting on the Poetry Flash YouTube channel. Zoom registration links will be available ten days in advance. 

See for schedule updates and Zoom links.  
Watershed Programs:
Friday, March 18, 7pm PT
Saturday, March 19, Noon PT
Saturday, March 19, 3pm PT
Sunday, March 20, 1pm PT
Sunday, March 20, 3pm PT
Featured Poets & Presenters:
Linda Hogan, Barbara Jane Reyes, contributors to Poetry & Science: Writing Our Way to Discovery, read: Alison Hawthorne Deming, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, Elizabeth Bradfield, Lucille Lang Day. Patti Trimble performs with musician Peter Whitehead. California Poets in the Schools K-12 student-poets, presented by Maureen Hurley. Eco-dance by Sharon Coleman. Live steamed Nature Walk & Talks, We Are Nature Open Reading hosted by blake more, with a featured presentation by Santa Clara University eco-poetics students. Hosts are Joyce Jenkins, Kirk Lumpkin, Chris Olander. More to be announced!

Nominations for Sonoma County Poet Laureate Are Open Until April 15, 2022
The public is invited to nominate qualified poets. Information about requirements and application instructions can be found on the Sebastopol Center for the Arts website at

Nominations for Poet Laureate require that the poet be a resident of Sonoma County whose poetry manifests a high degree of excellence and who has produced a critically acclaimed body of work. The nominee must also have demonstrated an active commitment to the literary arts in Sonoma County, must propose and perform a project of their own creation, and must agree to participate in official ceremonies and poetry events. Consistent with tradition, the Sonoma County Poet Laureate will not have a formal job description but will be encouraged to develop an agenda promoting poetry and the literary arts in Sonoma County.

Whether you’d like to nominate a poet for this position, or you’d like to be considered for this position yourself, the Poet Laureate Selection Committee welcomes your application.

Reading in April to Launch Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two
Plagios PlagarismsMany of you have been following the translation project I’ve been working on for nearly a decade now. Along with John Johnson and Nancy J. Morales, we’ve been translating the complete published poems of Mexican poet Ulalume González de León.

Volume Two (of a three volume series) is now available from Sixteen Rivers Press, and our first poetry reading to launch the release of volume two will be on Tuesday, April 12, at 7 PM. This will be an online event hosted by the Stanislaus-Modesto Poetry Center Second Tuesday Poetry Series.  

My translation partner Nancy J. Morales and I will be joined by acclaimed translator and poet William O’Daly. The reading also includes an open mic segment.

Here’s the link for the Stanislaus-Modesto Poetry Center. Check here (after March 8) to register for the reading:

And you can order your copy of Plagios/Plagiarisms on the Sixteen Rivers Website, using this link:

Poems for March
I have selected two poems for this month. Because this is Women’s History Month, I did a search online to acquaint myself with women poets from Ukraine. I selected a poem by Yulia Musakovska, an award winning Lviv-based poet, author of four poetry collections, and translator of Ukrainian poetry into English. She works in the IT industry.

Yuliya MusakovskaDo not kiss me on the forehead like a corpse
by Yulia Musakovska, translated by Yury Zavadsky

Do not kiss me on the forehead like a corpse
say, almost twice withered, the glasses and eyes themselves.
Mixed medicines with sweets, the pages of the book as yellow as his skin.
He pours a few of his precious stories into the empty space.
I see all the protagonists as old acquaintances. KGB officers squatting on the same hospital bed, in shiny Hungarian shoes — for these he could kill. The look is mocking.
He said, these Beatles, this foreign languages department, would not do you any good.
All this is for the chosen ones, not for orphans, poor relatives.
And he hid like cheese in butter, quietly like a mouse.
We caught people like you in the alleys, cut the roots.
Respectable people liked it, this was respected.
It would be for his son. For a fighting pear, for live warm meat.
I also see that woman, her crooked, bright mouth. Her
spider legs, dotted porcelain, metal tools.
A musty apartment with ceilings that are too high.
But I see him the clearest of all — strong, with a guitar.
With eyes wide open and his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans.
With thousands of book pages stored in memory.
With a face open to the world. To the dark and deep water.
Not for a girl, not for a dispute –
for the free range of arms,
for a high wave, albeit not on the shoulder.

The second poem is by Ilya Kaminsky. You can learn more about Kaminsky and read more of his poetry on his website:

Ilya KamiskyIn a Time of Peace
by Ilya Kamisky

Inhabitant of earth for forty something years
I once found myself in a peaceful country. I watch neighbors open
their phones to watch
a cop demanding a man’s driver’s license. When a man reaches for his wallet, the cop
shoots. Into the car window. Shoots.
It is a peaceful country.
We pocket our phones and go.
To the dentist,
to buy shampoo,
pick up the children from school,
get basil.
Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement
for hours.
We see in his open mouth
the nakedness
of the whole nation.
We watch. Watch
others watch.
The body of a boy lies on the pavement exactly like the body of a boy.
It is a peaceful country.
And it clips our citizens’ bodies
effortlessly, the way the President’s wife trims her toenails.
All of us
still have to do the hard work of dentist appointments,
of remembering to make
a summer salad: basil, tomatoes, it is a joy, tomatoes, add a little salt.
This is a time of peace.
I do not hear gunshots,
but watch birds splash over the backyards of the suburbs. How bright is the sky
as the avenue spins on its axis.
How bright is the sky (forgive me) how bright.

From Deaf Republic. Copyright © 2019 by Ilya Kaminsky.


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor


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