Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2022

October 2022

Dear literary folk,

A Grand Return of the Petaluma Poetry Walk
Congratulations to Bill Vartnaw and his team for a great return of the Petaluma Poetry Walk. Even with all the rain!

The 25th annual Petaluma Poetry Walk
Contributed by Bill Vartnaw

Bill Vartnaw at Petaluma Poetry Walk 2022The 25th annual Petaluma Poetry Walk (minus two years off for pandemic concerns) reconvened again this year at its usual time, on the third Sunday in September. As director I have nothing but gratitude to everyone who played a part: poets, venues, audience, emcees, the weather and bassist Steve Shain. This is a community event, and it took a community to pull it off. I would like to thank especially Karen Petersen, Carl Macki, Sande Anfang and Kyla Schwaberow, who handled getting the word out through the internet and through our Richard-Benbrook-logo schedules, mostly at the last minute due to the fact that I waited until June to even schedule the Walk and then I got Covid.

This day was all about Geri Digiorno, the founder & first director of the Petaluma Poetry Walk. Geri left the terrestrial world in December 2019. We celebrated Geri through poetry, mostly by reading our favorite poems that she wrote and left us, but some poets wrote to or about Geri. It was an intimate gathering at the Phoenix Theater, one of Geri’s favorite Petaluma places. Michelle Baynes, Geri’s daughter, emceed & shared Geri’s books, hats and scarves with all those who came to remember her mother. Also, as a part of this remembrance three poets who read at the first Walk in 1996, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar and Joyce Jenkins, read their work at this 25th edition of the Walk as well. Each participated at the Phoenix too.

As has been the case, the Walk consisted of eight readings in eight different venues for nine hours. For the 10th year Sixteen Rivers Press started off the Walk. We had two new venues this year, Artaluma and Life on Earth Art, both were very helpful when adapting to the Walk’s changes. Actually, we had three new venues; The Big Easy offered their nightclub at the last minute when the unexpected forecast of rain made the Helen Putnam Plaza a dangerous prospect. Avotcja premiered With Every Step I Take 2 at Copperfields, the only venue that has spanned the complete 25-year orbit. For the eighth year in a row, we’ve ended the Walk with the Petaluma Museum and then the Aqus Café. At Aqus, we had another premiere, an anthology, The Freedom of New Beginnings, Poems of Witness and Vision from Sonoma County, California, edited by Sonoma County poet laureate emerita, Phyllis Meshulam with Gail King, Gwynn O’Gara and Terry Ehret.

Autumn in Golden
I’m composing this post as a one-fingered typist on my IPad from Golden, Colorado. The weather here has been warm and summery one moment, stormy and cold the next. All this Rocky Mountain drama has turned the aspens tawny and gold. No matter how many photos I take, none captures the quality of light filtering through the quaking leaves, nor the ecstasy of standing in an aspen grove when the wind whips through and showers you with gold.

If you hunger for autumn color, I recommend visiting the Carson Pass area on Hwy 88. Traditionally October 12 is the peak of color, but it varies from year to year.

Upcoming Readings for The Freedom of New Beginnings
In August, former Poet Laureate Phyllis Meshulam launched her Sonoma County anthology, called The Freedom of New Beginnings, with a reading by contributing poets at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. A second reading provided the closing act of the Petaluma Poetry Walk at Aqus Cafe.

This month there will be a third anthology reading on Saturday, October 22, at 7 pm, at Russian River Books and Letters in Guerneville. Location: 14045 Armstrong Woods Road.

And in December, Occidental Center of the Arts will host a fourth reading. Stay tuned for details in the next Literary Update post.

Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival Returns Saturday, October 15, 2022
watershed logoEnjoy the Strawberry Creek Walk at 10 AM, followed by an afternoon of Poetry, nature writers and speakers, music. Since 1998, this unique gathering of poets, nature writers and environmental activists has challenged people to pay attention to Strawberry Creek, which is tunneled beneath most of Berkeley. The Watershed project is the inspiration of former U. S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, who along with Poetry Flash magazine started this annual celebration. Location: Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park, Berkeley. Check the October Literary Update for details, or visit:

Sonoma County Writers Conference
on Saturday, October 8, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Redwood Writers Club will host the Sonoma County Writers Conference at Finley Community Center, Santa Rosa. Early bird registration till September 30: $95, members; $125, nonmembers. Regular registration: $110, members; $150, nonmembers. Details and registration:

Off the Page Readers Theater Showcases Local Authors
On Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15, 7:00 p.m.; Sunday, October 16, 3:00 p.m. Off the Page Readers Theater presents “Choices,” a collection of local literary gems. Stories, plays and poems by authors: Robin Beeman, Susan Bono, Sher Christian, Armando Garcia Davila, Gene Hottel, Chuck Kensler, Rita Losch, Linda Loveland Reid, Roger C. Lubeck, Hilary Susan Moore. Actors/directors: Kathleeen Haynie, RW Hessler, Beth Moise, Hilary Moore, Jeff Savage. Music: Patrick Michael McCarty. Tickets at the door: $15. Masks required.

Remembering the 2017 Fires
Sunday, October 16, 4:00-5:30 pm. Occidental Center for the Arts Literary Series presents Glen Ellen author Elisa Stancil Levine and former Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, at the five-year anniversary of the 2017 Fires. Reading from their recent works, This or Something Better, A Memoir of Resilience by Elisa Stancil Levine, and All the Fires of Wind and Light by Maya Khosla, these authors explore grief, desire, hope and strength in the wake of the firestorm. Free admission and all donations gratefully accepted. Book sales & signing to follow. Wine, beer, refreshments for sale. OCA: 3850 Doris Murphy Way, Occidental, CA. OCA’s facilities are accessible to people with disabilities. For more info: or 707-874-9392.

Sonoma County’s Joan Frank Reads from Two New Books
On Thursday, October 20, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books welcomes Joan Frank to Montgomery Village in celebration of her two upcoming books, Late Work and Juniper Street. The discussion will be followed by a Q&A and a book signing. This is a free event. Masks required for in-store events. Copperfield’s Books-Montgomery Village, 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa.

And if you can’t make it to Montgomery Village, Joan will be reading again on Thursday, October 27, 6:00 Book Passage Corte Madera, 51 Tama Vista Blvd.

Poetry at Cafe Frida
Sunday October 30, noon to 2:00 p.m. Poetry reading outdoors at Cafe Frida Gallery, 300 South A Street #4, Santa Rosa. Readers include Fran Claggett, Ed Coletti (hosting), Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Karl Frederick, Susan Lamont, Marty Lees (LeRenard), Pamela Singer, Viola Weinberg Spencer, Kathleen Winter, Steve Shain accompanying on bass.

El Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead
Day of the DeadOctober is Hispanic Heritage Month with many ways to celebrate, including the local events for El Dia de los Muertos.

On Saturday, October 29, 4:00-8:00 p.m. the town of Windsor will celebrate with Native American Pomo dance, Mexica dance, Folkloric Ballet, craft vendors, cultural product vendors, food vendors, children’s activities, and a candle light procession at 6:50 p.m.

Location: Windsor Town Green, 701 McClelland Drive, Windsor, CA.

Poem for October (and for those enduring this season of hurricanes)

No Longer Ode
Urayoán Noelby Urayoán Noel

para mi abuela en la isla

A hurricane destroyed your sense of home
and all you wanted was to pack your bags
in dead of night, still waving mental flags,
forgetting the nation is a syndrome.
All that’s left of the sea in you is foam,
the coastline’s broken voice and all its crags.
You hear the governor admit some snags
were hit, nada, mere blips in the biome,
nothing that private equity can’t fix
once speculators pour into San Juan
to harvest the bad seed of an idea.
She tells you Santa Clara in ’56
had nothing on the brutal San Ciprián,
and yes, your abuela’s named María.

Thoughts of Katrina and the Superdome,
el Caribe mapped with blood and sandbags,
displaced, diasporic, Spanglish hashtags,
a phantom tab you keep on Google Chrome,
days of hunger and dreams of honeycomb.
Are souls reborn or worn thin like old rags?
The locust tree still stands although it sags,
austere sharks sequence the island’s genome
and parrots squawk survival politics
whose only power grid is the damp dawn.
There is no other way, no panacea.
Throw stuff at empire’s walls and see what sticks
or tear down the walls you were standing on?
Why don’t you run that question by María?

Beyond the indigenous chromosome,
your gut genealogy’s in chains and gags,
paraded through the colonies’ main drags
and left to die. So when you write your tome
please note: each word must be a catacomb,
must be a sepulcher and must be a
cradle in some sort of aporía
where bodies draw on song as guns are drawn,
resilient, silent h in huracán.
Your ache-song booms ashore. Ashé, María.

Copyright © 2018 by Urayoán Noel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


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