Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2022

August 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

Sonoma County Community Welcomes Our New Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Herron
Saturday evening, the literary community gathered at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts to honor Phyllis Meshulam for her work and inspiration as our poet laureate 2020-2022, and to pass the laurel wreath to our incoming poet laureate, Elizabeth Herron. The ceremony recognized the finalists, Sande Anfang, Dave Seter, and Ed Coletti, as well as the members of the Poet Laureate Selection Committee. The highlight of the event was hearing Phyllis and Elizabeth read their work and talk briefly about their projects. Elizabeth and her partner Brendon sand a lovely duet, with Brendon’s guitar accompaniment. It was a lovely evening. For monthly messages from the poet laureate, and to learn more about the theme of Elizabeth’s project “Be Brave,” check this website’s Poet Laureate News page.

Book Launch and Readings for The Freedom of New Beginnings
The Freedom of New BeginningsAdvanced copies of the anthology The Freedom of New Beginnings: Poems of Witness and Vision from Sonoma County made their debut at the Poet Laureate Reception on Saturday. This stunning compilation of the poems of 74 poets is the result of Phyllis Meshulam’s vision to create a collection of poems of healing and reconnection, thematically responding to the work of Joanna Macy. Many of you are featured here!

Mark your calendars for the book launch, scheduled for Friday, August 26, 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.

The Petaluma Poetry Walk will also feature this new anthology with readings at the Aqus Café on Sunday, September 18. Other readings will be scheduled in the future. Keep an eye on the calendar here on the Literary Update.

Projects like these require not only vision, but many partners offering their expertise. Special thanks to Jerry Meshulam for the cover photo; to Jo-Anne Rosen for book design; to Gail King and Gwynn O’Gara for editing; to Carolyn Miller, Nancy J. Morales, and Steve Gilmartin for copy editing and proofreading; and to Bill Vartnaw and Taurean Horn Press for publishing assistance.

Book Launches for Beyond the Time of Words and Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two
You are all cordially invited to two north bay events to celebrate the publication of Beyond the Time of Words/Más allá del tiempo de las palabras, poems by Chilean poet Marjorie Agosín, and Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two, poems by Mexican poet Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon.

Marjorie lives and teaches in Wellesley, as does her translator, Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman. Both will be flying out to the Bay Area for these special events.
To order your copies of these books, visit:

Saturday, August 13, 2022 at 1:00 p.m.
Location: Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA 94925
(415) 927-0960
Refreshments will be served. Please check with Book Passage for their mask requirements.

Sunday, August 14, 2022, 2:00-5:00 p.m., Sonoma County Book Launch
Book launch reception and reading
Location: Nicholson Ranch Winery
4200 Napa Road, Sonoma, CA 95476
Phone: (707) 938-8822
RSVP: This event will be held outdoors (weather permitting), with catered refreshments and wine. It is free, but to assist us in estimating the number of guests, please preregister through EventBrite:

And if you will be in the Los Angeles area, or know someone there, we’ll be reading at the Heal the Bay Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier. This, too, will be a catered event, with an outdoor reception 6-7 pm. The reading will be indoors from 7:00-8:00 p.m. Masks strongly recommended.
Wednesday, August 17, 6:00-8:00 p.m. Poetry Reading
Location: Heal the Bay Aquarium
Santa Monica Pier
1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-6149 x206

Our New U.S. Poet Laureate, Ada Limόn
Ada LimόnIn July, we learned that Sonoma poet Ada Limόn has been named the 24th US Poet Laureate. Yeah for Sonoma County!!! Ada was raised in Sonoma and her first job was at our beloved Readers’ Books. She lives in Kentucky now, but returns to Sonoma each year, and we’re often lucky to catch one of her fabulous readings.

Limón, who succeeds Joy Harjo, is an award-winning and unusually popular poet, her acclaimed collection Bright Dead Things selling more than 40,000 copies. She has published six books of poetry, most recently The Hurting Kind, and also hosts the podcast The Slowdown. (Source:

There was an excellent short feature on Ada Limόn on PBS last week. Here’s the link, in case you missed it:

Many of us in Sonoma County have long been fans of Ada Limόn’s work, and I had the great pleasure of leading a workshop on her poetry at the Sitting Room back in the fall of 2018. When Sixteen Rivers published the anthology America, We Call Your Name, we included her poem “A New National Anthem” (reprinted here at the end of this update). Ada’s poem, in turn, inspired high school student Sophia Hall from Washington, D.C. to write a poem in response called “Multiple Choice: What Is the National Anthem?” (also included here).If you’re interested in reading more of the student poems from our National Youth Poetry Contest, click here: Among these young poets is Leila Jackson, also from Washington, D.C., and daughter of our newest US Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. This September, Sixteen Rivers will release a chapbook called Anthems. The young poets featured there will be part of a virtual reading this fall. Stay tuned for date and time.

Petaluma Arts Center Call For Poetry
Petaluma Arts Center logoIf you’re reading this on August 1, you still have time to submit a poem to the Petaluma Arts Center, which is currently seeking poetry by Sonoma County writers on food and memory in tandem with an exhibit opening on August 11 called Agri-CULTURED: Reflections on our Local Food Community by Land and by Hand.

Deadline August 1
Theme: Food and Memory
All forms of poetry accepted
Line limit: one page or 48 lines (including spaces between stanzas)
One submission per person
12 pt font; Times New Roman
Online submission. Upload Word doc or PDF
Previously published work acceptable, with proper acknowledgment

Writing submissions juried by Elizabeth Herron, Poet Laureate of Sonoma County
To read these submission guidelines online, use this link:

Opening reception Thursday, August 11, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
To submit your work, please complete
this form and upload your poetry
For more information, contact 1-707-762-5600 or e-mail

Joyce Carol Oates in a Virtual Conversation
Joyce Carol OatesThursday, August 25, 5:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books welcomes the beloved Joyce Carol Oates for a virtual conversation with Paula McLain on her new book Babysitter. From one of America’s most renowned storytellers—the best-selling author of Blonde—comes a novel about love and deceit, and lust and redemption, against a backdrop of child murders in the affluent suburbs of Detroit. ONLINE. This event is free. Get a signed bookplate when you purchase the book from Copperfield’s. More details and registration/book purchase:


Two Poems for August

A New National Anthem
by Ada Limón

The truth is, I’ve never cared for the National
Anthem. If you think about it, it’s not a good
song. Too high for most of us with “the rockets
red glare” and then there are the bombs.
(Always, always, there is war and bombs.)
Once, I sang it at homecoming and threw
even the tenacious high school band off key.
But the song didn’t mean anything, just a call
to the field, something to get through before
the pummeling of youth. And what of the stanzas
we never sing, the third that mentions “no refuge
could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps,
the truth is, every song of this country
has an unsung third stanza, something brutal
snaking underneath us as we blindly sing
the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands
hoping our team wins. Don’t get me wrong, I do
like the flag, how it undulates in the wind
like water, elemental, and best when it’s humbled,
brought to its knees, clung to by someone who
has lost everything, when it’s not a weapon,
when it flickers, when it folds up so perfectly
you can keep it until it’s needed, until you can
love it again, until the song in your mouth feels
like sustenance, a song where the notes are sung
by even the ageless woods, the short-grass plains,
the Red River Gorge, the fistful of land left
unpoisoned, that song that’s our birthright,
that’s sung in silence when it’s too hard to go on,
that sounds like someone’s rough fingers weaving
into another’s, that sounds like a match being lit
in an endless cave, the song that says my bones
are your bones, and your bones are my bones,
and isn’t that enough?

Ada Limón, “A New National Anthem” from The Carrying. Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón

Multiple Choice: What Is the National Anthem?
by Sophia Hall
(after “A New National Anthem,” by Ada Limón)

a) the song / that binds / and stitches / gaping wounds / two sides / sewn back / together / on
Super Bowl Sunday / or a high school homecoming / the tuba players / the solo soprano / the
audience / that stands / hand over heart / listening / the song that sustains / and softens

b) hesitating / keys in the ignition / halfway turning / the gas money / dwindling / the prices /
rising / smoke / lingering / in the air / frost / pipes rusting over / it will be a hard winter /
mother sighs / bundle up / you notice / your bare toe / peeking out / from the black sock

c) bang / chanting / no justice / no peace / bang / “there are riots” / says the news / bang /
insurrection / the glass storefronts in Georgetown boarded up / bang / Parkland / nail salons /
gay bars / bang / say their names / George / Breonna / Ahmaud / Tamir / bang
d) my grandmother / cooking / in the kitchen / today / every day / there is soup / chicken /
simmering / there on the stove / here is a bowl / take a spoonful / smell / garlic / rising /
potatoes / thick / warming / onion / down the throat / eat more / there is plenty / to share

Forthcoming in Anthems: Teen Poets Respond to America, We Call Your Name (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2022).

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


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