Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2020

June 1, 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

I hardly know what to say. Never have I felt so anxious and overwhelmed by the state of our country and the world. Never have I felt so sick at heart and saddened by the injustices that run so deep in our society. And yet, I am heartened by the compassion and solidarity I see daily examples of.

Demonstrators face a row of police in downtown Los Angeles,

Many of you in the literary community have been part of the local protests with rallies and marches in Santa Rosa and Ukiah, and demonstrations in Petaluma. Thank you all for standing up or taking a knee for justice.

I have a niece and great-niece who live in Minneapolis, ground zero for the George Floyd protests that have swept the county. She is Japanese-Dutch-American. Her daughter is that plus African-American. The racial divides in our country touch them both personally. My niece writes every day, documenting what she is witnessing, and zooms with our family once a week. This morning, she talked about how her time as part of the resistance at Standing Rock prepared her for these days of protests and community action in Minneapolis. It was the genuine feeling of solidarity she was referring to, as well as a commitment to  honoring a people long denied their rights, and all under the imminent threat of police/military action.

Tanker truckLater, she sent photos of the fifth day of protests outside her apartment, and the horrendous scene on the nearby freeway as a tanker truck plowed into a crowd of protesters on the highway. As darkness fell, she could hear and see the tear gas canisters, the flash-bangs, as police pushed the protesters back, while water-carrying helicopters, military helicopters, and news helicopters swirled overhead.

Officers kneelWe’re in the midst of some enormous catalyst of change. If ever there was a time to speak truth to power, this is it. Bear witness if you can, participate in positive change. But stay safe and be mindful of those around you.

Global Open Mic

It’s week 11 of sheltering-in-place in a pandemic that has already altered our lives dramatically. One change, of course, is the shift to online literary readings, performances, and events. Dan Brady, host of Sacred Ground Open Mic Series, has put together a list of readings around the world you can attend without leaving your home.

You can find the constantly evolving list of Virtual Venues at this link:

And if you have an event to post on the Global Open Mic list, here’s how you can do this:

Rivertown Poets Celebrates its 7th Anniversary

One of the online events coming up later today is the 7th Anniversary of Rivertown Poets Series on Monday, June 1st, at 6:15 p.m. The aforementioned Dan Brady will be one of two featured readers. The other is Lance Giroux. Following the featured readers will be an open mic.

Sande Anfang, the series director and host, reminds those planning to join the open mic that each reader should keep to the three minute limit. Please time your share beforehand to accommodate everyone who wants to read. To sign up in advance for open mic, please fill out the JotForm. or

Pop-Up Poetry Protest
Pop-Up Poetry Contest

Jacki Rigoni, Poet Laureate of Belmont (my hometown on the Peninsula south of SF), hosted a zoom reading featuring SF Bay Area poets and community leaders protesting the extra-judicial killing of George Floyd and too many others. The reading was an online event, recorded on 5-29-2020. You can check it out at the link below.

Vicki McKinney, Chicago Mass Choir
Davina Hurt, Belmont, CA Councilmember
Kalimah Salahuddin, Jefferson Union High School District Board President
Aileen Cassinetto, San Mateo County Poet Laureate
Amos White, Poet, Author, Activist
Kim Shuck, San Francisco Poet Laureate
Michael Smith, Redwood City, CA Planning Commission
Noelia Corzo, San Mateo-Foster City School District Board President
Lois Fried, Poet

Copperfield’s “Poems for a Dark Time”

On the calendar page, you’ll find this month’s online events with several hosted by Copperfield’s Books. On that caught my eye is coming up this week on Wednesday, June 3, 7:00 p.m. Readers will be Terry Lucas, Meryl Natchez, Troy Jollimore and Heather Altfeld. You can find out more at this link:

Julia Alvarez, AfterlifeAnother Copperfield’s event is on Saturday, June 6, 4:00 p.m. when Julia Alvarez will read from her novel After Life. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves? Details at:

Writing From Memory or Imagination

The following featurette was provided by Nicole Zimmerman

Porch Time

Nicole ZimmermanAs oceans-full of sky unleash spring storms to wash away drought
it’s difficult to picture this earth parched, now wet with fresh bark
from a pile by the barn. Even the sheep sound unsettled,
their patterned movement between pastures disrupted.
The lambs bleat—a call-and-response—to bridge
the distance. Always after it rains there is a stillness.
We creatures tune in, listening while we shelter: the drip
of oak leaf onto gravel, the swish of a wing. Beaks peek out
from the brush, waiting, for the swoop of insects, seized mid-flight.

I wrote (and later revised) this poem outdoors during one of my writing workshops, based on the prompt: Observe your surroundings. Draw upon the senses. Take note. While tuning into nature I’ve been writing (and submitting) a lot of poetry—not my typical genre. This one appeared at The Dewdrop, a Zen-based online literary journal, in the section Isolation Shorts:

Nicole R. Zimmerman leads workshops at The Sitting Room (now Zoom!) using the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method, with creative prompts followed by positive feedback. Learn more about Writing From Memory or Imagination at

Remember the Running Fence?

Christo's Running Fence

It was the fall of 1976. I was a senior at Stanford, and one of my professors told us there was something he thought we should see up north of San Francisco. I was the RA in the dorm, so I grabbed a few willing freshmen, and off we drove, with no idea what we were about to see. We climbed out of the car somewhere around Point Reyes, and there, snaking its way over the undulating hills down to the sea was Christo’s Running Fence. It came alive in the wind, and if you were around to see it, you’ll never forget it. The installation was only in place for two weeks, and I think if we’d postponed our drive by even a few days, we would have missed it. Running Fence was an installation art piece conceived by Christo and Jeanne-Claude (pictured below). It was extremely controversial, since Christo had to get the rights to construct the fence across 24.5 miles of mostly private ranch land.  But such a controversy seems almost innocent by contrast to what’s tearing at us today.

Christo and Jeanne-ClaudeI mention this flash-from-the-past because Christo passed away today, age 84. Christo and Jeanne-Claude insisted that their ambitious projects, sometimes whimsical and often edgy, were about “joy and beauty.” The largest remaining intact and continuous section of the Running Fence hangs below the ceiling of the Rio Theater in Monte Rio.

Congratulations, Graduates of 2020!

I was looking for poems of protest, and came upon this one by Alberto Rios—something more than protest. I thought I’d dedicate it to all the graduates of 2020 to whom we look for hope.


A House Called Tomorrow

You are not fifteen, or twelve, or seventeen—
You are a hundred wild centuries

And fifteen, bringing with you
In every breath and in every step

Everyone who has come before you,
All the yous that you have been,

The mothers of your mother,
The fathers of your father.

If someone in your family tree was trouble,
A hundred were not:

The bad do not win—not finally,
No matter how loud they are.

We simply would not be here
If that were so.

You are made, fundamentally, from the good.
With this knowledge, you never march alone.

You are the breaking news of the century.
You are the good who has come forward

Through it all, even if so many days
Feel otherwise.  But think:

When you as a child learned to speak,
It’s not that you didn’t know words—

It’s that, from the centuries, you knew so many,
And it’s hard to choose the words that will be your own.

From those centuries we human beings bring with us
The simple solutions and songs,

The river bridges and star charts and song harmonies
All in service to a simple idea:

That we can make a house called tomorrow.
What we bring, finally, into the new day, every day,

Is ourselves.  And that’s all we need
To start.  That’s everything we require to keep going.

Look back only for as long as you must,
Then go forward into the history you will make.

Be good, then better.  Write books.  Cure disease.
Make us proud.  Make yourself proud.

And those who came before you?  When you hear thunder,
Hear it as their applause.

Copyright © 2018 by Alberto Ríos.


Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2020

May 2020

May 1, 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

terry-maskedThis is how I look when I head out into the world these days. My one-of-a-kind homemade mask was a gift from Michelle Baynes, who, like many of you across the county, has been making these masks as a way to give back to the community. Thank you, Michelle!

Sometimes the lock-down, grocery purging, gloves, and face-masks all make me feel I’m living in some dystopian fiction. But here we are. I’ve been figuring out how to teach my classes online and how to launch new books without the usual readings and events. But these challenges are small in the face of a global pandemic.

No doubt about it, this has been hard for those who continue to work on the front lines, who have lost work or wages, who have been coping with the illness, who juggle working at home with home-schooling children, or who struggle with the isolation, uncertainty, and fear.

Among the benefits of sheltering-in-place for over 6 weeks are the new ways we have found to keep in touch, to learn, teach, create, and recreate. Last month, I reported on some of the literary events that have moved to an online format, like the Rivertown Poets, formerly at Aqus Café in Petaluma, and now an every-Monday online reading, hosted by Sande Anfang. Book Passages and Copperfield’s have also moved to live-stream author events. You’ll find many of these listed on the Calendar page.

I’d like the Literary Update to include more fiction, memoir, drama, spoken word, performance pieces, and storytelling. If you are hosting a literary event in an online format, please send us the information, so we can post them on our monthly calendar of events. Or consider writing a short “featurette” to highlight your program or event. Send it to Jo-Anne at


Shelter in Poetry

Iris Dunkle, Maya Khosla, Phyllis Meshulam

Maya Khosla, Sonoma County’s Poet Laureate through our fire-recovery years (2018-2020), has put together an online series of videos on reading and writing poetry. Her series begins with Iris Dunkle, Sonoma County Poet Laureate from 2016-2018 and will next feature our new Poet Laureate, Phyllis Meshulam.

Maya has contributed the following “featurette” on this new series: Shelter in Poetry.


When shelter in place went into effect back in mid-March, I realized most poetry month events would have to be canceled.  After two weeks of giving up hope, I had an idea. Why not reach out to the community and students through film? 

Well, here is the first in a series! KRCB North Bay Public Media is featuring the first Shelter in Poetry film and text

About a month ago, between the rain events on March 29, Iris Jamahl Dunkle led the way on a hike along a small path through Jack London State Historic Park, drops still ticking through the redwood leaves. I followed, encumbered by camera, tripod and recorders. Clouds shifted and the light grew; a northern flicker called.

If we didn’t have special permission to be there, if we weren’t keeping approximately 6 feet apart, if we didn’t have masks in our backpacks, it would have seemed like a normal day. But stepping through the open-air hallway of trees, toward “Wolf House,” was super-charged with the task at hand. 

“So now what I’d like you to do, is to think of a place that’s special to you. I know a lot of us are in our homes right now, and maybe that’s not what you want to write about. Maybe you want to write about a place you wish you could be – a place you wish you could go to…”

                                 – Iris Jamahl Dunkle, from the first lesson in Shelter in Poetry.

I couldn’t have completed the first part of the Shelter in Poetry project without countless hours of work with co-director Imrana Khan, editor Seemanta Jyoti Baishya, additional camera work by Sanjay Barnela, translations by John Johnson, and sponsorship from The Sitting Room Community Library. And thank you all at KRCB North Bay Public Media!

OK, I’ll stop there. Do watch, and take the lesson as far as you can on your own journey, or send it onward on another journey to someone else. 

My best wishes for your health and creativity – please do send me any poem(s) inspired by the film:



Petaluma Argus Courier Salutes National Poetry Month

Poetry got some serious attention from local journalist David Templeton in last week’s Petaluma Argus Courier. One article is an interview I did with David on the importance of poetry in times of crisis. The other is a sampler of pandemic poems by some Sonoma County poets. 

“Presence of Owls,” by Crystal Ockenfuss
“Easter Broken Sonnet,” by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
“Skin-Hunger in Coronavirus Times,” by Vilma Ginzberg
“Corona,” by Katherine Hastings
“In the Time of the Virus,” by Elizabeth Herron
“Funeral During a Pandemic,” by Larry Robinson
“Corona–A Pantoum,” by Sande Anfang
“Songs from School,” by Phyllis Meshulam
“Navigation,” by Kristy Hellum
“An Angel’s Touch,” by Jo Ann Smith
“Our Chrysalis Moment,” by Anodea Judith
“Hospital Chaplain,” by Ruah Bull

If you missed this, here’s the link to the Interview:

And here’s the link to the Sampler of Pandemic Poems:


Remembering Eavan Boland (1944-2020)

Eavan BolandThe Irish poet Eavan Boland passed away at her home in Dublin on Monday. Since 1996, she had lived part-time in Dublin, and part-time in the Bay Area, where she taught for many years at Stanford University, and was the director of the creative writing program. Consequently, many of us in Sonoma County and Northern California had the opportunity to hear Boland read or to study with her in workshops. Over her long career, Boland became one of the most important contemporary voices in poetry. Her poetry is known for “subverting traditional constructions of womanhood,” and “offering fresh perspectives on Irish history and mythology.”

I first heard Boland read and talk about her poetry while I was teaching the Writing Center Workshop at San Francisco State University. This was not long after she began teaching at Stanford, and had been invited to read from her 1998 collection The Lost Land, as well as her 1995 collection of essays, Object Lessons:  The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time.

Before her reading, she came to the workshop, so the students had a chance to speak with her more informally. At the time, I was juggling several teaching jobs, raising young daughters, writing, and helping to launch a fledgling publishing collective. Naturally what I was most drawn to in Boland’s poems was her challenge to the patriarchal traditions and their crushing, silencing effect on women, as well as the tenderness with which she captured the feelings of a mother. “I was a woman in a house in the suburbs,” Boland said, “married with two small children. It was a life lived by many women around me, but it was still not named in Irish poetry. . . . I used to work out of notebooks, and I learned when I had young children that you can always do something. If you can’t do a poem, you can do a line. And if you can’t do a line, you can do an image — and that pathway that leads you along, in fragments, becomes astonishingly valuable.” At that time in my life, this was precisely what I needed to hear.

There are many of Boland’s poems I’ve read and taught and admired. One of my favorites is the title poem from The Lost Land, which begins, “I have two daughters. / They are all I ever wanted from the earth. /Or almost all.” Another is her meditation on the myth of Persephone and Demeter, called “The Pomegranate”: “The only legend I have ever loved is/the story of a daughter lost in hell./And found and rescued there.”

If you aren’t familiar with Boland’s work, you can read more about her at this link:

For May, I’ve chosen Boland’s poem “Quarantine,” which is, surprisingly, a love poem.


by Eavan Boland

In the worst hour of the worst season
            of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking-they were both walking-north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
            He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
            Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
            There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
            Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and a woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

— from Against Love Poetry. © W.W. Norton & Co., 2003.


May you be safe and well in these uncertain times.

Terry Ehret
Jo-Anne Rosen
co-editors Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2020

April 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

Jo-Anne Rosen and I are hoping this post of the Sonoma County Literary Update finds you safe and sheltering at home during these uncertain times. And if you are one of the many doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, restaurant workers, maintenance staff, IT staff keeping us alive, fed, and connected, our hats are off to you! If you are staying at home, helping to flatten the curve, thank you!

Every day, we wake up to a new reality, one which is frightening in its devastation and scope. We also find evidence of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of our extended community. Early on, the videos of Italians singing from their balconies lifted my spirits. These days, one of my favorite doses of sanity is Patrick Stewart’s daily readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

But how do we create a monthly calendar of literary events amidst a global pandemic? Of course, all of our April events, and very likely those for the foreseeable future, have been or will be canceled. Zooming may be one way we will be attending literary events, even when it is safe for us to gather again, so adding Zoom links to our monthly calendar may become a common feature. Eventually, Jo-Anne will be able to put together a calendar of links to online writing salons, readings, book launches, workshops, etc.

If you are hosting a literary event in an online format, send us the information, and bear with us as we shift to these new kinds of virtual gatherings.

In the meantime, I have gathered some literary news and information on a few such events coming up.

Sonoma County’s New Poet Laureate: Phyllis Meshulam

Maya KhoslaFor two years, Sonoma County has been fortunate to have the versatility and creativity of our literary ambassador, Maya Khosla. Maya designed her projects as Poet Laureate to nurture the healing of our community in the aftermath of devastating fires in the fall of 2017, which continued during Maya’s tenure in 2018 and 2019.

Phyllis MeshulamOur new Poet Laureate steps up at a time when many of us are turning to the arts to find hope and resilience. I’m delighted to announce this new Poet Laureate is Phyllis Meshulam. A long-time resident of Sonoma County, she has published four collections of poetry, most recently Land of My Father’s War, which won the Artists’ Embassy International Award. Her work has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, including Ars Medica,; Bullets into Bells; Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace; and What Redwoods Know. Phyllis is also the editor of Poetry Crossing, CalPoet’s 50th anniversary lesson plan book, an inspirational resource for writers and teachers.

Phyllis is a shining light in our literary community, especially her work with young writers in the CalPoets program, the Poetry Out Loud Program, and many events her students participate in, including the Petaluma Poetry Walk and the Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading. She has reached diverse communities through her teaching and writing, from residents at Napa State Hospital, veterans, preschoolers, and English language learners. Her work is imbued with her passion for justice, sensitivity, and inclusiveness.

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts, along with the Poet Laureate Selection Committee, planned a reception for Maya and Phyllis for April 26. That celebration will be postponed, and we’ll let you know when it’s rescheduled.

Tribute to Geri DiGiorno
Speaking of rescheduling, the tribute to Geri Digiorno, originally scheduled for March 29, will also be held at a future date. Geri’s daughter, Michelle Baynes, has been posting on Facebook every day a new poem, photo, and work of art by Geri. If you’d like to check this out, here’s the Facebook link:

April is National Poetry Month
Yes, this is still National Poetry Month! The Academy of American Poets, which sponsors this annual celebration, asks readers to share a poem that helps to find courage, solace, and actionable energy, and a few words about how or why it does so. As responses continue to arrive from across the globe, you are invited to continue sharing poems from our collection on social media with the hashtag #ShelterInPoems or by writing to us at

I have chosen one of these ShelterInPoems for the April poem of the month: “Instructions on Not Giving Up,” by Ada Limón. Scroll down for this. 

Literary Events That Have Moved Online

Litquake on Lockdown
Rebecca Foust writes that she will be hosting Poets for National Poetry Month on Thursday, April 2, from 7-9 PM. Featured readers include Kazim Ali, Tongo Eisen-Martin, and Jane Hirshfield.

This will be live streamed, and the link will be posted at 10 AM on Thursday at these pages:

Rumi’s Caravan
Rumis CaravanLarry Robinson sends this news: You are invited to join us for a live performance of Rumi’s Caravan, an evening of poetry in the ecstatic tradition featuring Larry Robinson, Rebecca Evert, Doug von Koss, Maya Spector, Barry Spector and Kay Crista.

To watch and listen please click this link on Saturday, April 4 at 7:30 PM PDT:…

This Zoom account is limited to the first 100 but they will endeavor to livestream it on FaceBook as well at

For more information about Rumi’s Caravan, check out this link:

Aqus Café/Rivertown Poetry Series
Sande Anfang will be hosting an open mic virtual poetry reading each Monday at 6:15 p.m. for one hour via the Zoom channel. You can sign up for an open mic slot if you’d like to read. She asks that everyone keep shares to two poems / three minutes total. Here’s how to sign up:

Go to Click on Aqus Poetry Open Mic, Details, and Find Out More.

Fill in the brief jotform. (“tell us about yourself” is optional.)

Virtual Book Launch for Sixteen Rivers Press
The Distant SoundNo surprise, all our April readings have been cancelled. However, poet Eliot Schain invites you to a Zoom launch of The Distant Sound from his own home on Sunday, April 5, 3:00 p.m. Eliot plans to read from his book for 20 minutes.

Join Zoom Reading from The Distant Sound, by Eliot Schain
Meeting ID: 343 129 7167

Our other new books, The Machinery of Sleep, by Patrick Cahill, and Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One, by Ulalume González de León, will be celebrated at a later date.

If you want to purchase any of these books online, go to the Sixteen Rivers website: and click on the Order page from the menu. It’s best to use Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox. For some reason, Safari creates glitches. If Safari is your only browsing option, you can order from Small Press Distribution:

West Coast Literary Events Go Online
“With book tours, festivals, conferences, and other literary events being canceled around the world due to COVID-19 concerns, the tech-friendly west coast literary community has begun creating digital events to keep authors and readers connected during the coming weeks of social distancing and quarantine.”

This is the opening sentence of an article in Publishers Weekly. Want to find out about online literary events beyond Sonoma County? You can read the rest at this link:

North Bay Bohemian Feature and Podcast of Plagios/Plagiarisms
Thanks to Karen Hess and Daedalus Howell at the Bohemian, who have put together a feature and podcast on the translation of Ulalume González de León’s poetry, by Terry Ehret, John Johnson, and Nancy J. Morales. Both will be available soon. You can check these links:

Music, Arts, and Culture:

Kelly’s Cove Press Online Novel: Separation Sonoma
You can follow Bart Schneider’s new work online at Bart says, “I plan to add new chapters every two or three days. Chester Arnold is going to start adding art and I’m putting up photos.”


Poem for April

Instructions on Not Giving Up
by Ada Limón

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.


Terry Ehret, Literary Update Co-Editor
Jo-Anne Rosen, Literary Update Co-Editor


Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2020

March 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

Over the past month, my co-editor Jo-Anne Rosen has been working on upgrading our website so that you will no longer see ads popping up when you access the Literary Update online. Thanks to Jo-Anne for her extraordinary webmaster skills, and for those of you in the literary community who have made donations we could put to use paying for these upgrades. If you’d like to contribute to keeping the Literary Update humming along, or have an announcement you’d like posted in the next Update, contact Jo-Anne at

Remembering Susan Swartz
Susan SwartzLong time journalist, author, radio commentator, and public speaker, Susan Swart died unexpectedly on February 25. Her vivid personality and voice for feminist issues and local journalism inspired us, challenging us to find a way to make a difference in our own communities.

The Press Democrat, Swartz’s journalistic home, included an article last week about Susan’s contributions as a writer and advocate. Here’s the link, if you missed it:

Besides her many columns in the Press Democrat, she also wrote books, including Juicy Tomatoes, focused on the true stories of a group of women 50 and older, and Laughing in the Dark, based loosely, she said, “on late-night discussions I’ve had through the years with friends over the scary and the silly.”

Though Swartz struggled with depression the past year, especially after the death of her husband and fellow journalist Bob Klose, her stepdaughter Greta Klosevitz remembers Susan as “an example of how to love and how to take care of each other, and how to find the joy and beauty in life.”  

Geri DiGiornoTribute to Geri Digiorno
There will be a celebration of the life and work of Geri Digiorno at the Phoenix Theater on Sunday, March 29, from 1-4 PM, with an open-mic for anyone who would like to read a poem in remembrance, speak briefly about Geri, or share one of her poems. Geri passed away in December, 2019, and a special remembrance of Geri appeared in the January Literary Update. Geri’s daughter Michelle will also be posting on FaceBook one of Geri’s poems each day in March, leading up to the celebration.

Reminder: Favorite Poems Community Reading Deadline March 8
Last month’s post included information about the Favorite Poems Community Reading coming up on April 5, 2020. If you’d like to read or recite a poem for this event, please send an e-mail to Gwynn O’Gara at Deadline is approaching!

Sonoma County is Looking for Youth Poet Laureate—Deadline March 13.
Sonoma County California Poets in the Schools plans to follow the lead of the nations, the state, and sister counties in acknowledging a student who has achieved excellence in poetry, allowing them to be a leader for the county in raising the profile of poetry and developing its audience. Specifically, They’re looking for a student between the ages of 13 and 19, a resident of Sonoma County, who has demonstrated a commitment to literary arts and community engagement through participation in volunteer and community services, clubs, afterschool activities, and extra academic activities. This is a one-year term with a $500 stipend. For details about how to apply, see the Community News Page of the Literary Update, or contact

One Hundred Thousand Poets for Change Presents Time For A Change!
Time for Change muralOn Sunday, March 22, 2-4 PM, there will be a fundraiser for community oversight of our local law enforcement at The Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County, 467 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa. The Wroth family, whose son was killed by local law enforcement, will be joined by featured readers from across Sonoma County and beyond, including Kym Trippsmith, Jose Luis Gutiérrez, Vilma Ginzberg, Ernesto Garay, Paul Nicholson,  Juanita J. Martin,  Corlene van Sluizer,  Michael Arcangelini, Phyllis Meshulam, Terry Ehret, Ana Salgado, and John Johnson.

It’s Up to Us : Sonoma County’s Second Climate Summit
March 15 2020, 1:30-6 PM, Odd Fellows Hall, 545 Pacific Ave., Santa Rosa
The summit is a call to action, a call to connect, a call to build on common ground. We call on concerned community members, students, and Sonoma County climate activist groups to attend.

We are the decision-makers and leaders of the local and global changes we must create.

Speakers: Daily Acts Executive Director Trathen Heckman, Tayse Crocker of North Bay Organizing Project, Cory O’Gorman of Sonoma State University, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla, Elizabeth Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm, Steve Birdlebough from Transportation and Land Use

Coalition, Youth Leaders from Sunrise Movement, Youth Leaders from Schools for Climate Action including Kate Roney, Woody Hastings Environmentalist of the Year, County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.

Writing Groups for Novelists?
Most poets I know have a group of fellow poets with whom they share new work and get constructive feedback and publishing suggestions. However, it can often be hard for novelists to find such a writing group. A quick look at our Writers’ Connections Page of the Literary Update shows only a couple of writers/writing groups dedicated to supporting novelists.

If you’re looking for a novel-writing critique group, one place to begin is Redwood Writers. This group offers professional services, workshops, contests, and events to support writers in all genres. Here’s the link to their website:

It’s also helpful to attend a local Writing Conference, such as Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, or Napa Valley Writers’ Conference (all three are accepting applications now). Often ongoing groups spring from these experiences, both in-person and online.

If you are part of a group that is open to new members, or if you are a novelist in search of a group, send me your name and contact information I’ll put you in touch with each other: Even better, send your group’s information to Jo-Anne Rosen to add to the Writers’ Connection Page:

Upcoming Events at the Sitting Room

Writing Workshop with Patti Trimble
new inquiry, new listening
Patti TrimbleSaturdays 2-5 p.m., March 7, April 4, May 2
How many conversations—personal, political, social—do we hold in our intelligent creative minds? How do our doubts and certainties, facts and fictions, lyric imaginations and deep concerns live, in reality, side by side? And when we write, how do we dignify the real relationship of things? In three free workshops we’ll address the complexity of writing today. And we’ll write together, merging genres and finding language to braid whatever: personal experience and expertise, uncertainty, imagination, world events, facts, fiction. With practices for thoughtful inquiry and for listening through for the power of personal revelation and wisdom. Join us for one or three. No charge and all levels welcome.

Saturday, March 14, 2-4: Gail Newman and Barbara Baer—Jewish Women in History
Blood MemoryAward-winning poet Gail Newman has worked for many years as a poet-teacher with California Poets in the Schools and is a Museum Educator at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. She has published two books of poems by children, Dear Earth and C is For California, and Inside Out, a book of lessons for high school teachers. She was the co-founder and editor of Room, A Women’s Literary Journal. A collection of poetry, One Worldwas published in 2011 by Moontide Press. She will read from her forthcoming book about the Holocaust, Blood Memory.

The Ice Palace WaltzIn Barbara Baer’s The Ice Palace Waltz, two Jewish immigrant families—rough and ready westerners and smooth ‘our crowd’ New Yorkers—come together in a family saga amid the financial and political turmoil of early 20th century America. Barbara,  a journalist and small press publisher, bases her multi-generational saga on remembered stories from her family and much research. She doesn’t think fiction falsifies fact, but rather adds more ingredients to a recipe that deepens the flavors.      

Mark your calendars for these Sitting Room events in April and May:
Saturday, April 25, 2-4: Experiences that Shape Us: Interior and Exterior Landscapes
Saturday, May 9, 2-5: Poetry: Maya Khosla, Ellery Akers, Patti Trimble, Rosa Lane
Saturday, May 16, 1-4 p.m.: Dreams: A Source for Poetry & Prose–Salon and Workshop with Meredith Sabini

Honoring WWII Women War Correspondents
Healdsburg author Jeane Slone presents a slide show in celebration of Women’s History Month, honoring women war correspondents who achieved equal rights by facing extreme danger to get the scoop on the war overseas for the folks at home. Highlights of the slides include women war correspondents who were hit by Junker planes in a B-17 Flying Fortress, documented the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp, or immediately following the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, photographed “Disease X.” 

Jeane has four presentations scheduled:
Thursday, March 5, 6:30 p.m.,St. Helena Public Library, 1492 Library Lane, St. Helena
Sunday, March 22, 3:00 p.m., Central Library, 211 E Street, Santa Rosa (545-0831).
Wednesday, March 25, 6:00 p.m., Healdsburg Library, 139 Piper St.,

One Acts in Guerneville
Wednesday, March 25, 7:00-8:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 28, 2:00-3:30 p.m.
The River Friends of the Library presents one-act plays by local writers and famous authors. March opens with “Hipster Hobos” by D. M. Larson about our too well connected world. “The Christmas Truce” by Aaron Shepard is a reminder that most people are innately good, even though their leaders may not be. Then there will be a special featured reading from local poet Sashana Kane Proctor. The final play will be “Three Skeleton Key” by George Toudouze which is pure suspense. Guerneville Regional Library, 14107 Armstrong Woods Road.

Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One Is Now Available
Platio/PlagarismsMany of you know that John Johnson, Nancy Morales, and I have been working on a project to translate the work of Mexican poet Ulalume González de León. The first volume is now available through Sixteen Rivers Press, and we have an ever-growing schedule of book launches, readings, and events to celebrate.

To learn more about the author and read some sample poems, use this link:

Though our official pub date is April 2, 2020, you can order your early-bird copy of Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One, right now. Just click on this link:

If you’re planning to attend AWP in San Antonio, March 4-7, we’d love to see you there. We’ll be sharing a booth at the Book Fair with Poetry Flash (#1720), and there will be a panel/reading on the Book Fair Stage on Friday, March 6, 1:45 pm to launch Plagios/Plagiarisms. Check the calendar page or e-mail me and I’ll send you information about upcoming readings and events closer to home:

Poem for March
Claudia RankineFor this month’s poem, I’ve selected an excerpt from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. I recommend reading this with Situation Video #5, a collaboration with Rankine’s husband, photographer John Lucas, at


February 26, 2012/In Memory of Trayvon Martin

My brothers are notorious. They have not been to prison. They have been imprisoned. The prison is not a place you enter. It is no place. My brothers are notorious. They do regular things, like wait. On my birthday they say my name. They will never forget that we are named. What is that memory?

The days of our childhood together were steep steps into a collapsing mind. It looked like we rescued ourselves, were rescued. Then there are these days, each day of our adult lives. They will never forget our way through, these brothers, each brother, my brother, dear brother, my dearest brothers, dear heart—

Your hearts are broken. This is not a secret though there are secrets. And as yet I do not understand how my own sorrow has turned into my brothers’ hearts. The hearts of my brothers are broken. If I knew another way to be, I would call up a brother, I would hear myself saying, my brother, dear brother, my dearest brothers, dear heart—

On the tip of a tongue one note following another is another path, another dawn where the pink sky is the bloodshot of struck, of sleepless, of sorry, of senseless, shush. Those years of and before me and my brothers, the years of passage, plantation, migration, of Jim Crow segregation, of poverty, inner cities, profiling, of one in three, two jobs, boy, hey boy, each a felony, accumulate into the hours inside our lives where we are all caught hanging, the rope inside us, the tree inside us, its roots our limbs, a throat sliced through and when we open our mouth to speak, blossoms, o blossoms, no place coming out, brother, dear brother, that kind of blue. The sky is the silence of brothers all the days leading up to my call.

If I called I’d say good-bye before I broke the good-bye. I say good-bye before anyone can hang up. Don’t hang up. My brother hangs up though he is there. I keep talking. The talk keeps him there. The sky is blue, kind of blue. The day is hot. Is it cold? Are you cold? It does get cool. Is it cool? Are you cool?

My brother is completed by sky. The sky is his silence. Eventually, he says, it is raining. It is raining down. It was raining. It stopped raining. It is raining down. He won’t hang up. He’s there, he’s there but he’s hung up though he is there. Good-bye, I say. I break the good-bye. I say good-bye before anyone can hang up, don’t hang up. Wait with me. Wait with me though the waiting might be the call of good-byes.

Originally published in Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014). Copyright © by Claudia Rankine.


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | February 27, 2020

February 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

I took a walk out along Thompson Creek, which runs behind my house, and as night fell, the frog chorus began. A sure sign of California spring, more dependable than the groundhog. The literary calendar for February is likewise brimming with readings and events. Here are a few I’d like to spotlight.

Ukiah Haiku Walk: Saturday, February 1, 2:00 p.m. Ukiah Library hosts Haiku Walk. Free & open to the public. Registration is required – please call 463-4490 to sign up! (There’s a good reason Ukiah  is haiku backwards!)

Rivertown Poets: Monday, February 3, 6:15-8:00 p.m. Rivertown Poets features Juanita Martin and Kyle Matthews. Open mic follows the features. Reading time is three minutes per poet. Come early to sign up for open mic. Location: Aqus Café, 189 H Street, Petaluma.

Poetry Out Loud: Monday, February 10, 6-9 p.m. Our 14th year of county participation! This oral recitation competition of famous poetry will include students from twelve Sonoma County high schools. Location: Downtown Santa Rosa Library, 211 E. Street, Santa Rosa. Admission is free.

Congratulations to Poet Laureate Emerita Gwynne O’Gara
Gwynn O’Gara’s poetry manuscript Clio’s Daughter With Head on Fire has won 1st Place and a $1,000 grant—the 2019 Shirley Holden Helberg Grant for Mature Women (35 and older)—awarded by the National League of American Pen Women, Phil Memmer, Judge. The manuscript is also a Finalist in The Faulkner Society 2019 Poetry Collection Contest. 

WordTemple Redux!
Yet another of our Sonoma County poets laureate is in the literary news this month: Katherine Hastings, has morphed WordTemple — her former reading series and radio program — into a blog with, in part, the intention of bringing California and New York poets (and beyond) together. If you would like to check out the blog, go to Katherine would love for you to subscribe.

Beside the Well, Poems by Donna EmersonNew Books by Donna Emerson and Joan Frank
Donna Emerson has a new book out, Beside the Well. She’ll be reading from this book on Sunday, February 16, 12:30-2:30 p.m. at Healdsburg Community Center, 1270 Healdsburg Avenue, and on Wednesday, February 26, 7-9 PM at Rebound Books, 1611 Fourth Street, San Rafael.

Try to Get Lost, Joan Frank


Joan Frank has two books to celebrate: Try to Get Lost and Where You’re All Going: Four Novellas. You can hear her read at Copperfields Books, Thursday, February 27, 7:00 p.m., 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa.


Favorite Poem Community Reading: Submit Your Selection by March 8!
The Sebastopol Center for the Arts will once again host a Favorite Poem Community Reading on Sunday, April 5. Modeled on the readings initiated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and hosted locally by Jodi Hottel and Larry Robinson, this event will bring together a wide range of people and poems into one memorable event.

You are invited to submit a copy of your single favorite poem, famous or otherwise, one that is not written by you, a friend or relative, but one that you have read, perhaps many times, or learned by heart, and to which you feel a personal attachment, along with a brief statement about the poem’s significance in your life. The poem and introductory statement should take no more than 3 minutes for you to read or recite.

Please send an email to Gwynn O’Gara at Include the subject “Favorite Poem Reading” in the subject heading. Send your name, phone # and email address, and submit your selection in either Word or a web link. Be sure to include the name of the author of the poem. There is no entry fee, and entries should be received no later than March 8.

This is our 17th annual event. The event is free, and refreshments will be served. Whether you submit a poem to share or not, we invite you to come to what is sure to be a wonderful celebration of the community’s love of language and poetry.

Sonoma County Book Launch for Plagios/Plagiarisms
Platio/PlagarismsIf you’re not planning to attend the Favorite Poems Reading on April 5, I invite you to come over to the Nicholson Ranch Winery in Sonoma on that Sunday, 2-5 PM for a gala reception and launch of Sixteen Rivers’ new books: The Machinery of Sleep, by Patrick Cahill; The Distant Sound, by Eliot Schain; and Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One, translated by Terry Ehret, John Johnson, and Nancy J. Morales. Location: 4200 Napa Road, Sonoma.

Many of you have been following the translation project these past six years, and we’d love to have you help us celebrate. This collection offers the first comprehensive translation in a bilingual edition of González de León’s poetry, including an introduction by fellow Mexican poet and Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz.

If any of you are attending the AWP Conference in San Antonio in March, we’ll be debuting our books there as well. On Friday, March 6, 2020, 1:45-3:00 PM, we’ll be hosting a panel and reading called “A Geometry of Air”: The Visionary Poetry of Ulalume González de León. This will be on the AWP Book Fair Stage Henry B. González Convention Center, 900 E. Market, San Antonio, TX.

And if you’re already booked for March and April, we hope to see you at one of the other readings and events this spring. We will have May readings at Iota Press in Sebastopol and Book Passage in Corte Madera. I’ll post these on the Literary Update’s calendar page as they come up.

Poem for February
The poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz was born on February 13, 1911, in what is now Pakistan. Faiz said that “The true subject of poetry is the loss of the beloved.” For him, the beloved and its loss was personal, political, spiritual. His life was tumultuous, and he lived almost twenty years in political exile, yet he became a master of Urdu and its poetic forms, such as the ghazal. In honor of his February birthday, I’ve chosen one of his poems.

Be Near Me
Faiz Ahmed Faizby Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984)

Be near me now,
My tormenter, my love, be near me—
At this hour when night comes down,
When, having drunk from the gash of sunset, darkness comes
With the balm of musk in its hands, its diamond lancets,
When it comes with cries of lamentation,
                                             with laughter with songs;
Its blue-gray anklets of pain clinking with every step.
At this hour when hearts, deep in their hiding places,
Have begun to hope once more, when they start their vigil
For hands still enfolded in sleeves;
When wine being poured makes the sound
                                             of inconsolable children
                      who, though you try with all your heart,
                                             cannot be soothed.
When whatever you want to do cannot be done,
When nothing is of any use;
—At this hour when night comes down,
When night comes, dragging its long face,
                                             dressed in mourning,
Be with me,
My tormenter, my love, be near me.

From The True Subject by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, translated by Naomi Lazard. © 1987 Princeton University Press.


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2020

January 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

Remembering Geri DiGiorno


Because we live in grim times, we need poetry. Poetry makes us feel and lets us see, helps us to understand. Poetry can save the world
—Geri DiGiorno

Last month, we lost one of our brightest literary stars, former Sonoma County Poet Laureate Geri Digiorno.

Most of you know Geri as the founder and director of the Petaluma Poetry Walk and an advocate of the extraordinary poetry of ordinary life. What you might not know is how Geri came to our community and what she gave to it, behind the scenes for three decades.

Geri was born in 1932 in Utah and moved to San Francisco with her family when she was three.

She grew up in Depression-era San Francisco, one of nine daughters of a Mormon family. The experiences of her youth and adolescence in her working class neighborhood would later become the subject of her poetry, but Geri didn’t discover writing until she was a young mother living in Daly City in the 1950s. Before that, she hadn’t given much thought to poetry. “I think poetry saved me,” Digiorno says. “I was probably very depressed. I didn’t drive, and I was kind of stuck in Daly City. I was so young. It was a very hard time for me.”

After Digiorno’s first marriage ended, she met Anthony Digiorno, who owned a bar in San Mateo. She and Tony were married in 1972. Toni encouraged her to be more social and to express herself in poems, so when Tony died in 1983 and the bar they owned burned down, Geri mustered her courage and moved to Sonoma County; here she recreated her life with art and poetry at the center.

2020-geri-al-young-200pxStarting in the 1990s, when her daughter Michelle began working at the COTS (Community on the Shelterless) in Petaluma, Geri led poetry and art workshops for the homeless. She worked with battered women and children, and then with individual homeless people. She was part of a poetry writing group with Dorianne Laux, and in 1992, published her first collection of poems, I’m Tap Dancing.  In 1995, she launched the Poetry Walk, and a decade later, she published her second book White Lipstick. In 2006 she became Sonoma County’s fourth poet laureate. About her work, former California State Poet Laureate Al Young said, “With these pages — sparsely worded, richly lived — Geri Digiorno reminds us how entangled the delicate roots and tendrils of family and ‘individual’ identity can become.”

Geri's artBesides being a poet, Geri was also a visual artist, and her particular genre was collage. If you don’t know Geri’s artwork, I recommend visiting this site.

And at the end of this post, you’ll find three of Geri’s poems, including one that references her collage workhop at COTS.

If you’d like to make a donation to the Petaluma Poetry Walk, check out this link: GoFundMe Page–

Geri passed away on December 13, 2019, at the age of 87. There will be a celebration of her life March 29, 2020, in Petaluma. Details in the February Literary Update.

Nominations for the next Sonoma County Poet Laureate Are Open until January 15

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee invite you to send us nominations for the Sonoma County’s 11th Poet Laureate 2020-21.

The Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident who has demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in the County. The Poet Laureate often participates in official ceremonies and readings and receives a $1,000 stipend.

If you know someone you’d like to nominate, or if you’d like to be considered for this prestigious post, you can find information about requirements and application instructions on the Sebastopol Center for the Arts website at

Poet Laureates Reading at Sonoma Valley Regional Library January 11

On Saturday, January 11 at 3:00 p.m. Sonoma Valley Regional Library will host a Poet Laureates’ Poetry Reading, honoring the work of Poet Laureate Emeritus Geri Digiorno. The reading will feature Dana Gioia, California Poet Laureate Emeritus, Iris Jamahl Dunkle and Terry Ehret, Sonoma Poets Laureate Emerita. Zoya Ahmed and Hannah Minton, two student winners of the previous Poets Out Loud (POL) competitions, will recite poems. Location: Sonoma Valley Regional Library,755 West Napa Street, Sonoma. Details at:

Writing about Family

Al Young’s comments above about the way Geri Digiorno’s poetry explores “how entangled the delicate roots and tendrils of family and ‘individual’ identity can become,” highlights the importance of family history in a writer’s life.

2020-DorothyRice-250pxWriting about family is a powerful source of inspiration for many authors, whether to enrich fiction, as a foundation for memoir or biography or to preserve fading personal histories for future generations.  On Sunday, January 12, 2:00–4:30 p.m. Redwood Writers Club presents a workshop with memoirist Dorothy Rice, who will share her experiences writing about family and friends, including techniques and tools for navigating issues of confidentiality and trust, differing views on past events and the ramifications of exposing sensitive topics and history. Dorothy Rice is the author of two published memoirs, Gray Is The New Black (Otis Books, June 2019) and The Reluctant Artist (Shanti Arts, 2015). Workshop Location: Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa, 2777 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa. Check the calendar page for details.

Reading of the Poetry of Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon from Plagios/Plagiarisms

2020-deLeon-120pxMany of you know that I’ve been working on translating the poetry of Mexican poet Ulalume González de León. The first volume is at the printers and will debut at the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference in San Antonio, Texas in March.

To catch a sneak preview, my co-translators John Johnson and Nancy Morales and I invite you to a reading on Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 3 PM: Ukiah Library LOBA Series, 105 N. Main Street, Ukiah 95482.

Two Book Launches for Local Writers

Saturday, January 25, 2:00-3:30 p.m.
2020-Hotl-Jodi-200pxJodi Hottel reads from her new chapbook,Out of the Ashes,  in commemoration of the 2017 wildfires and the Kincade fire.  This will be a community reading of healing. Featured guest readers, Maya Khosla, current Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Poet Laureate emerita, and Ed Coletti, author of Fire Storm, Larry Robinson, author of Roll Away the Stone, and Phyllis Meshulam, author of Land of My Father’s War, will share some of their poems relating to the wildfires. An open mic will follow, when anyone can read a poem of their own about the fires. This event is free and refreshments will be served. Windsor Branch, Sonoma County Public Library, Community Room, 9291 Old Redwood Hwy. #100, Windsor, CA 95492. For more information, email Jodi Hottel:

Sunday, January 26, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
2020-Susan-Swartz-head-shotLaughing in the Dark, Susan Swartz’ first novel, revolves around three old friends who together tackle infidelity, the latest in California dying styles and the inevitable absurdities of aging. As the book’s subtitle says: Girlfriends are the Best Medicine.

A resident of Sebastopol and long-time columnist for the Press Democrat and other newspapers, Susan’s non-fiction includes Juicy Tomatoes: Plain Truths, Dumb Lies and Sisterly Advice After 50 and The Juicy Tomatoes Guide to Ripe Living After 50. 

Susan will be in conversation with close friend and fellow writer, Miriam Silver to talk about her new novel. Book sales and signing, refreshments served, free admission.


Three Poems for January by Geri Digiorno

one year later

one year later
I will be living
in a home for
unwed mothers
in Oakland

right there in black and white
I am fifteen years old
standing between
dorothy hardy and
john luhring
jim cancella behind us
in a light suit and tie
a mouth full of teeth
like a cold breeze

joan is wearing a white
two-piece dress
with matching heels
her lips open
marilyn monroe style
albino curls oppose
her bony features
dorothy’s dress
sweeps away behind her
outlining heavy legs
thick brown locks
cut short
surround her dimples

I’m the only one
not smiling
dark blondness falls
across my cheeks
my eyes tumble
to the ground
diploma tightly held
in both hands


ray gunn

at the homeless center
ray is looking for a quarter
for the dryer
i tell him i’ll give him one
if he comes to the collage class
and he does
a week later i see him in line at the kitchen
he comes running over when he sees me
says he’s got to tell me something
ever since he did the collage class
every where he looks he sees collage
in the street
the newspaper
on tv
he’s collaging the walls in his room
he says


i believe

in my self
light rain
sudden storms
the moon
polenta and sausage
good sex
red sunsets
a perfect martini
the stars
true love
monet’s garden
cracked crab
long baths
soft jazz
a walk on the beach
and root beer floats

i believe
in quiet mornings
the ocean
slow dancing
the back of a man’s neck
fred astaire tapping across the screen
the magic of the sacramento delta
stone angels in italian cemeteries
growing your own tomatoes
paul newman’s eyes
that writing poetry is telling the truth
ironing is therapy
kissing is an art
and dusting is a waste of time

from White Lipstick (Red Hen Press, 2005)


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2019

December 2019

Call for Nominations for Sonoma County Poet Laureate

Opens December 1, 2019


Dear Literary Folk,

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee invite you to send us nominations for the Sonoma County’s 11th Poet Laureate 2020-21.

The Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident who has demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in the County. The Poet Laureate often participates in official ceremonies and readings and receives a $1,000 stipend.

If you know someone you’d like to nominate, or if you’d like to be considered for this prestigious post, you can find information about requirements and application instructions on the Sebastopol Center for the Arts website at

All nominees will be considered for the position. The new Poet Laureate will be announced in March, and the new term will begin in April, 2020.

Maya KhoslaMaya Khosla, our current Poet Laureate, has brought her passion for habitat restoration science to her position as Sonoma County’s literary ambassador. In the aftermath of the recent wildfires, Maya’s work has helped educate the public about how natural environments and human communities recover after devastating disasters. The readings and projects she has sponsored across the county in our communities and schools have also offered healing and solace to those affected by the fires. Check her monthly PoetLaureate’s News page on this website:

Bill Vartnaw, Katherine Hastings, Iris Dunckle

Previous Poets Laureate of Sonoma County:
Don Emblen, 2000-2001

David Bromige, 2002-2003
Terry Ehret, 2004–2005
Geri Digiorno, 2006-2007
Mike Tuggle, 2008-2009
Gwynn O’Gara, 2010–2011
Bill Vartnaw, 2012-2013
Katherine Hastings, 2014-15
Iris Dunkle, 2016-17
Maya Khosla, current Poet Laureate


Creativity Workshops for Kids 9-14

Three Raven Gate, Brian R. MartensBrian Martens is teaching a one-day class in creativity for kids age 9 to 14 at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts (SCA) on Dec. 3, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Brian’s first book of poetry is entitled Three Raven Gate: Haiku and Other Poems. Brian will use the haiku form in his class as an example of creativity and challenge the kids to write a few and discuss them. He will also break the kids into small groups and challenge them to come up with some creative ideas they can present to the other groups.

If you have any kids ages 9 -14 in your family including grandkids, or know of some friends’ kids who might be interested, please contact Julie at the SCA at 707-823-1511, and she can help you with registration.

You can also bring kids the day of the class and register them at that time. If you choose to do that, you should arrive at SCA no later that 3:15 p.m. to complete the registration. The class cost $47.50. SCA is located at 282 S High St.


Creative Writing Classes at Santa Rosa Junior College

Many of you know of my plans to retire from SRJC in 2021. SRJC has offered me a chance to teach English 4ABC, a multi-genre, multi-level creative writing class in the

Spring Semester 2020. I would love to have you join me for this!

This class meets on Friday morning, 9-noon, so I will not be offering my usual Friday writing workshop at the Sitting Room.

You can register at this link:

If you need help with the registration process, you can talk to someone in Admissions and Records at (707) 527-4685.

English 4ABC: Creative Writing with Terry Ehret
Fridays, 9am to noon, January 17 through May 22, 2020
Santa Rosa Junior College
1501 Mendocino Avenue, 1614 Emeritus
Sections 4278, 4281, 4286

3 Units ($138)

In this Creative Writing class, open to beginning and experienced writers, we will cover various styles and techniques in imaginative literature: poetry, fiction, memoir, voice and dialogue. In class, we will begin with some playful loosening-up exercises, examine how both traditional and experimental writers have approached their craft, and discuss the students’ own writing in a supportive workshop format. Out of class, students will keep a writing journal, attend readings of local and visiting writers, and create a personal portfolio of their work. Guest writers will be invited share their creative process and experience with the class

Other Creative Writing Classes are available at the Junior College. Check here for days/times/instructors:


December Memoir Writing Workshops

4 Friday Mornings beginning December 6, 11:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Alchemy of Memory: Creative Writing As Spiritual Practice with Clara Rosemarda. Fee $160. Email or call for address: 707-567-7117 or Details on Workshops page.

Sunday, December 8, 2:00–4:30 p.m. Writing About Family: The Craft of Memoir, Dorothy Rice. Redwood Writers Club monthly meeting in the Empire Room at the Flamingo Resort & Spa, 2777 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa. Cost: $5 for members, $10 for nonmembers. Details:


Two Holiday Literary Favorites

Two Holiday Classics: A Christmas Memory / A Child's Christmas in WalesCelebrating their 10th Year! Petaluma Readers Theater presents A Christmas Memory and A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

Petaluma Historical Library & Museum
20 Fourth Street, Petaluma

$15 Museum members, $18 nonmembers. Tickets Available here.

Petaluma Arts Center
Thursday December 12 & Friday December 13 @ 7pm
Tickets available through the Center. Click here.


Sixteen Rivers Press Announces Call for Manuscripts

As of November 1, Sixteen Rivers Press is open to submissions for full-length poetry manuscripts.

The press is on a three-year production cycle. A manuscript accepted in this cycle would be published in April 2022.

Before you submit, read the guidelines on the Submissions page.


Poem for December

The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less
by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

hopkins_0The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less; The times are winter, watch, a world undone: They waste, they wither worse; they as they run Or bring more or more blazon man’s distress. And I not help. Nor word now of success: All is from wreck, here, there, to rescue one— Work which to see scarce so much as begun Makes welcome death, does dear forgetfulness.  Or what is else? There is your world within. There rid the dragons, root out there the sin. Your will is law in that small commonwealth…


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2019

November 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

It has been a harrowing week plus for all of us in Sonoma and Napa counties, including Terry Ehret who was without power for several days and hosting three evacuees. She is not able to write this month’s post. On this beautiful morning after the night before—the first night the Kincade Fire did NOT grow—most of us are thankful to be alive and in our own homes, reconnected with friends, and not freezing.

One writer friend who lives close to the burn zone still doesn’t know if her home has survived. She and her husband evacuated with two horses, a dog, a cat and a laptop with her novel in progress on it. I feel a guilty privilege to have survived the week in a section of Petaluma that never lost power, along with two evacuees, a dear friend who was also with me during the Loma Prieta Quake, and this time her grandson. We had a wonderful time on both occasions. And last night children old and young thronged D Street in Petaluma for a massive and gleeful celebration (or collective sigh of relief)—more trick or treaters than any of us had ever seen. 

Our literary calendar this month is slenderer than usual since some contributors were unable to make the publication deadline. Of note in November:

Celebrate Chester Aaron’s life on Sunday, November 3, 3:00 p.m. at the Occidental Center for the Arts. See our calendar or for details.

Rising from the AshesOn November 10,  2:00-5:00 p.m. Rising from the Ashes Two Years Later: The Heart of Poetry — A Commemoration. Free poetry reading and gathering featuring poets Poets Laureate Emeriti Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Gwynn O’Gara, Bill Vartnaw, and many other poets from across the county. Maya Khosla will host. Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Refreshments will be served. More info at:

Later the same day, Sunday. November 10, 8:00-9:30 p.m., check out the Penngrove Market Reading Series at 10070 Main Street, Penngrove. Featured readers: Anita Jackson, Virginia Duan, and Marilyn Skinner Lanier. Open mic to follow. Upcoming dates and featured readers:

Last but not least in November, you aspiring novelists out there can sign up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) at https://www.nanowrimo.orgIt’s free! The Santa Rosa Library is sponsoring NaNoWriMo “Come Write-In” events on Monday nights from 6:00-8:30 p.m. Event details:

Stay safe and strong,

Jo-Anne Rosen
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2019

October 2019

Dear literary folk,

Remembering Beatrice Lagos
Beatrice LagosOur literary community has lost an accomplished poet, memoirist, and novelist, and one of the most important bilingual poets writing in California. Beatriz Lagos was born in Argentina in 1931, during the years of successive military dictatorships. She moved to Petaluma in 1976, and lived here till her death on September 5, 2019. She was a Professor of Spanish Literature and Argentine Literature and History, graduated in Buenos Aires. She was also a graduate of Sonoma State University and UC Berkeley, and taught at Santa Rosa JC, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma State University.

Beatriz was devoted to the literary community, giving readings throughout the county, helping with the Bilingual Poetry on the Bus Program, Petaluma Poetry Walk, and Art after Dark Evenings; organizing and emceeing the Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading; and coordinating the Poem in Your Pocket events for National Poetry Month. For her extraordinary passion and talent, she was twice nominated for the Sonoma County Poet Laureate. But less widely known are Beatriz’s publications and work as a literary ambassador beyond our local community. In the years I came to know Beatriz, she spoke with great pleasure about living in Spain from 1990-1997, where her “House of the Poets” in Hita became a mecca for visiting poets from all over the world. She was proud to have been invited by The World Congress of Poets to attend the congresses in San Francisco, Madrid, Florence, and Greece with Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Nicanor Parra, and many others. You may know her two collections in English, The Great Petaluma Mill and Love and Wine Poems (both now out of print), but she also published three historical novels, her memoirs, and six collections of poetry in Spain and Mexico. In 2009, AACHE published Beatriz´s Selected Poems in English and her Poemas Selectos en español. 

October Literary Highlights
October offers many opportunities to come together as a literary community. Here are a few, but you’ll find many more on the October calendar page.

Watershed Environmental FestivalWatershed Environmental Poetry Festival
On Saturday, October 5, the annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival will be held at Civic Center Park in Berkeley. Featured readers include Patricia Smith, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla, Joshua McKinney, Kim Schuck, and young poets from the California Poets in the Schools Program. The day begins at noon and runs till 4:30. Local publishers will exhibit their books, and the stage events will also include music. The event is free. Poetry Flash is the sponsor. Location is the corner of MLK Jr. Way and Center.

Fall 2019 SRJC’s Work of Literary Merit is Thoreau’s Walden
Walden book coverIn a time of environmental crisis, it seems most fitting that Santa Rosa Junior College’s English Department has selected Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, as the Work of Literary Merit for Fall 2019 and Spring 2020. For two semesters, many English classes will be reading this book together, and the English Department is sponsoring a series of lectures, which are open to the public. The lectures are held in Newman Auditorium on the Santa Rosa Campus from noon-1:00 PM.

Here is the schedule for the Walden Events coming up in October and November.

Wednesday, October 9,  12-1 pm: “Waking Up in Walden.” Terry Mulcaire

Wednesday, November 13 12-1 pm  Ed Castellini

Monday, November 18, 12 noon – 1 pm
“Making Walden: How Thoreau Went About It.” Mitchell Breitwieser

Mitchell BreitweisWalden is the well-known and much-loved story of Henry David Thoreau’s “life in the woods,” as he put it in the subtitle. The story of Walden itself, the book, is much less familiar, but equally intriguing, at least for me, because it shows the growth in Thoreau’s understanding of what had happened to him while he lived alone by the side of the pond during the years after he had returned to town. He knew from the first that what he considered to have been a great experiment had changed him for the better, reconciling him with his own life by providing a sense of direction, and he set pen to paper to encourage others to attempt to do something similar. But writing the book ended up taking eight years, running through seven drafts, as he attempted to keep pace with his deepening comprehension of what had happened within him during those two years of solitary self-exploration. I will try to tell the story of the book, and to persuade you that knowing that story will enhance your appreciation of the story that is told in the book.

Letter Press Printing Is Alive and Well in Sonoma County

Three events coming up at North Bay Letterpress Arts. The first is fundraiser on Sunday, October 6, 2:00-5:00 p.m. at Hopmonk Tavern, where a special menu and libations will be served, featuring speaker Kathleen Walkup, a silent auction and raffle, and other fun & games. Lunch will be followed by a reception and champagne toast up the road at the printshop. The goal is two-fold: 1) to raise funds to launch a youth printing program and 2) to sustain the NBLA organization. Details and registration:

The second event is an afternoon with Pat Nolan on Sunday, October 20, 2PM. Join Pat Nolan in celebrating Philip Whalen’s birthday, the publication of Volume Two of Pat’s Selected Poems, Notebook Keyboard, as well as meandering digressions covering his 50 plus year odyssey as an outlier’s outlier, poet, translator, editor, and as a publisher, from the days of the mimeograph revolution to handmade craft books to desktop print on demand publishing, blogging, and twitterture. Books will be available for sale. The event is free but donations are always appreciated. NBLA/Iota Press 925D Gravenstein Hwy S., Sebastopol (behind BeeKind).

The third event is a hands-on workshop in Letterpress Poetry Printing with Eric Johnson of Iota Press on Saturday, October 26, 1:00-5:00 p.m. Typeset a short poem or quotation and they’ll print it on a platen press. A chance to explore some of the refinements of type design and the mechanical delights of the vintage presses. Touching on the history of typographic treatments of poetry. Cost: $75. No previous experience needed. Details and registration:

LitQuake Is Coming

Thursday, October 10 through Saturday, October 19, San Francisco’s 20th Litquake. Featuring Tobias Wolff, Ann Patchett, Jane Hirschfield, Jeanette Winterson, Michelle Tea and many more. Details at:

Poetry of Remembrance/Poesía del Recuerdo Community Reading
On Friday, October 18, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, members of the community are invited to attend the annual “Poesía del Recuerdo/Poetry of Remembrance” celebration. We are pleased to announce that this year’s event will take place at the Connie Mahoney Reading Room in the library on the SRJC Petaluma Campus, 680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway, Petaluma.

Our featured presenters include Forrest Gander, recipient of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, who will read poems in Spanish and English; artist and sociologist Irma Vega Bijou who will share poetry and art honoring José Guadalupe Posada, whose “Calavera Catrina” came to symbolize Día de los Muertos in Mexico; and poet and Spanish teacher Jabez Churchill, who will offer more bilingual poetry and songs. The event will be hosted by Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla.

Those who wish to honor the memory of a departed loved one are encouraged to bring something—a photo or personal item—that can be placed on a community altar for the evening.

Those who would also like to be part of the community reading are welcome to present a brief poem or statement, in Spanish, English or other language. After the event, you will be invited to post your poem or remembrance in the Petaluma Regional Library of Sonoma County until November 2, the final day of Día de los Muertos. If you are interested in reading please contact John Johnson:

This event is part of the Día de los Muertos Petaluma celebration, featuring community altars, sugar skull workshops, music, dance, and a procession with giant puppets.

Admission is free. Traditional refreshments will be served. For more information about this or other Día de Los Muertos events, check out Facebook at El Día de Los Muertos Petaluma.

Poetry and Music in Albany
On Friday, October 25, 7:00 p.m. Sebastopol poet and book artist Renée Owen will read her work, accompanied by Brian Foster on shakuhachi flute. Renee will be joined by poets Chuck Brickley and Bruce Feingold, at the Fourth Friday Formal Reading series in Albany, presented by Calliope: East Bay Music and Arts. The event includes an open reading period and an interview with the poets. St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 1501 Washington Avenue, Albany.

Celebrate Sixteen Rivers Press’s 20th Anniversary!
Every fall, Sixteen Rivers hosts a Benefit Reading, but this year, we are throwing a party and inviting all our friends to be our guests.

Join us for an afternoon of wine, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, and readings by Sixteen Rivers poets to celebrate twenty years of publishing fine poetry and to thank our donors, subscribers, advisors, friends of the press, and lovers of poetry for making it all possible.

The event is Sunday, November 3 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Mill Valley Golf Clubhouse, 267 Buena Vista Avenue, Mill Valley, California 94941. The event is free, but to help us anticipate the number of guests, we request that you RSVP. You can to this by going to and click on Register in the upper right-hand corner.


Poem for October

Walden Pond and Thoreaux's cabom


Daybreak, Swimming Walden
by Barbara Swift Brauer

I step forward at water’s edge, another step,
crouch and launch face-first into the liquid dark.

First light rides the ripples as I begin the practiced pull
hand over hand. I stroke and breathe

and think of the boatmen ferrying souls
across the rivers of the underworld,

of Michael crossing Jordan, and imagine
saints moving with me across the colorless depths.

The difference between a pond and a lake
is a matter of opinion (a lake may be larger),

but this morning Walden is a pond and a lake
and a river all at once. I am here and everywhere.

When have I been so immersed, so central
to the heart of things? The water brightens,

echoes the sky, blue on the crest of a wave,
cloud-yellow the next. The circle of the forest

grows distinct. Sun tops the trees,     
full flooding the pond.


Narbara Swift BrauerBarbara Swift Brauer is a freelance writer living in San Geronimo, California. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies as well as in art exhibitions and installations. Her poetry collections At Ease in the Borrowed World (2013) and Rain, Like a Thief (2019) were published by Sixteen Rivers Press. With portrait artist Jackie Kirk, she is coauthor of the nonfiction book, Witness: The Artist’s Vision in “The Face of AIDS” (Pomegranate Artbooks, 1996).



Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2019

September 1, 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

Geri DigiornoSonoma County Poet Laureate Emerita Geri Digiorno is celebrating her recent move with a grand book sale. Please help support one of Sonoma County’s literary treasures by calling her daughter, Michelle Baynes, to learn how you can purchase books from Geri’s extensive art and literary collection. 707 326 3773

Reading at Pepperwood Preserve Saturday, September 7
Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla will host a reading featuring three Sonoma-based poets: Forrest Gander, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize, Greg Mahrer and Kathleen Winter. The reading will begin at 4 PM at the Preserve’s Dwight Center at Pepperwood Preserve.


Many of you know about Maya’s Legacy Project, and this reading will be part of the series. Feel free to arrive a few minutes early to enjoy the view and the refreshments. The Dwight Center is surrounded by grasslands, oak woodlands and conifers that have experienced phenomenal regeneration since the 2017 fires.

Maya will also be reading at Aqus Café with Camille Norton on Monday, September 2 at 6:16 PM, and on Saturday, September 14, at 2:00 PM, she will conduct poetry writing exercises, share writing tools, and read from her work. Northwest Santa Rosa Library, 150 Coddingtown Ctr., Santa Rosa.

Reading Series at Penngrove Market
On Sunday, September 8, 8:00 PM, check out the Penngrove Market Reading Series with featured readers Tom Walsh, Sheila Bare, and Claire Hennessy. Open mic to follow. Anyone can sign up for the open mic upon arrival, and as many people will read as time allows. Please limit your reading to five minutes. All genres welcome.Location: 10070 Main Street, Penngrove.

Marianne RogoffExploring Narrative Medicine
Starting on September 10, and running for 4 consecutive Tuesdays, Marianne Rogoff will present “Writing to Release: Narrative Medicine.” Workshops will be held at 6-7:30 p.m Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma. See Workshops page for details.

Printing, Print Making, and Book Art
This month, three workshops will offer writers a chance to learn how to bring words and visual design together, as well as how to present words as art. The first of these is on Saturday, September 14, 1:00-5:00 p.m. Letterpress Fundamentals, With Eric Johnson (Iota Press). North Bay Letterpress Arts, 925-D Gravenstein Hwy South, Sebastopol. The second is on Saturday, September 28, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monoprinting: Lasting Impressions, with Jami Taback. Monoprints incorporate craft(wo)manship, painting and printmaking. And the third is on Sunday, September 29, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. The Portfolio Album, with Derek Bacchus. If you’d like to make a beautiful book that allows you to showcase individual pieces of art, or a collection of photographs, this portfolio album is the perfect way to instantly assemble your work — the album’s unique spine pockets allow you to slip in your work with ease.

Find out more about these workshops on the calendar page.

GoFundMe for the Petaluma Poetry Walk
Petaluma Poetry WalkThe Annual Petaluma Poetry Walk is coming up on Sunday, September 15 with a great line-up of venues and readers, including many Sonoma County folk: Forrest Gander, Maya Khosla, Iris Dunkle, Bill Greenwood, Barbara Quick, Phyllis Meshulam, Raphael Block, and many more! For the complete list of the day’s readers, times, and locations, visit the Walk’s website

While you’re there, consider making a donation to help support the Poetry Walk by visiting the GoFundMe Campaign or by mailing a check or money order to: P.O. Box 526, Petaluma, CA 94953. 

Special thanks to Kevin Pryne for setting up the GoFundMe account, and to The Sitting Room, which has generously offered to be the nonprofit sponsor for this fundraising campaign.


“Holding Hands in the Dark”: 100 Thousand Poets for Change Reading September 29
(Feature provided by Susan Lamont)

This year is the 9th annual 100 Thousand Poets for Change reading. This year’s theme – my theme, there is no international theme – is “Holding Hands in the Dark” —the value of community and the sharing of our artistic gifts in dark times. As a friend says, we’re active in the struggle to preserve life on Earth, but whether we succeed or fail, let’s rise or fall holding hands. We need each other.

This year’s reading will be on Sunday, September 29th, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Like last year’s reading, it will be held in my backyard (2214 Creekside Rd.) in Santa Rosa with light refreshments (contributions welcome). Last year we had a lovely, relaxed sharing and such an experience feels important in times like these.

If you would like to read (poem, story, nonfiction) — your work or someone else’s — play a piece of music or display a piece of artwork, just let me know. I’ll let folks know what their allotted reading time is once I know how many readers there are. I am hoping to record the event.


Calls for Submission
My co-editor, Jo-Anne Rosen, maintains our “Calls for Submission” page on the Literary Update, which is quite extensive. I encourage you to check it out. If you have a call for submissions or a contest of interest to Sonoma County writers, send it to

Here are three I recommend this month:


Poem for September






September Tomatoes

by Karina Borowicz

The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.
Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.
It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.
My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.

Karina BorowiczKarina Borowicz was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She earned a BA in history and Russian from the University of Massachusetts and an MFA from the University of New Hampshire. Borowicz spent five years teaching English in Russia and Lithuania, and has translated poetry from Russian and French. Her first collection of poetry, The Bees Are Waiting (2012), won the Marick Press Poetry Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Poetry, the First Horizon Award, and was named a Must-Read by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Her second book, Proof (2014), won the Codhill Poetry Award and was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Nightboat Press Poetry Prize. Borowicz lives with her family in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

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