Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2016

December 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

Good morning, AmericaIt seems like a very different world from the one we knew when I composed my last post. Then the times seemed dark, even dire, but the election has shifted something fundamental in our lives. More than ever we need to summon our voices to speak our hopes and our fears. Let our collective music rise to meet the times we are in. In the words of Rumi, “Don’t go back to sleep!”

Send Us Your Thoughts

Through these dry, drought years, I invited you to send the Literary Update your poems and prose on living in the drought. I published one of these each month. We’re not out of the drought yet, although some kind hand of nature has brought us much-needed rain.

Now I invite you to send Jo-Anne and me your poems, short prose, photos, and art on these difficult and worrisome times. Perhaps together we will find a way to rekindle the light.

Joining Voices

Much is going on in our literary community and beyond. Some of you are attending meetings, readings, and rallies to voice your concerns. Others are writing letters to the editor, composing petitions, drafting resolutions to create or reaffirm sanctuary in our cities and on our campuses. Many of you are planning to attend the Million Women March in Washington on January 21st. And some have headed to North Dakota to support the Standing Rock opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (

All good work. I thank and bless you for it!

When I launched the writing workshop on political poetry back in September, I chose to call it “Singing in Dark Times,” an homage to Bertholt Brecht, who knew a thing or two about the need for artists to be engaged in their times. The calendar for December is rich with literary events, readings, and workshops to keep us singing in the dark times ahead. I’ve selected a few to highlight.

Susan HagenFriday mornings, December 2, 9 and 16, , 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. “Writing as a Healing Practice” Co-Ed drop-in writing circle with author and writing guide Susan Hagen. This gentle, supportive, earth-based healing circle fosters self-awareness and personal growth. Open to all adults. No reservations needed, no writing experience necessary. DROP IN at Sonoma County Healing Academy (SoCoHA), at Gravenstein Station, 6741 Sebastopol Ave., Suite 120, Sebastopol, across from Coffee Catz patio. Suggested donation $20-$40 per session.

xmas-walesFriday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10, 6:30 p.m. Petaluma Readers Theatre benefit for Petaluma Arts Council. Two Holiday Classics: Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” and “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote. Tickets $10-12. Available at Petaluma Arts Council, 230 Lakeville St., Petaluma.

Dunkle-directoryFriday December 9, 7:30 p.m. The Famous Forgotten Women: A reading with Tamam Kahn and Iris Jamahl Dunkle. Edgehill Mansion, Dominican University.

foust-rebeccaSunday, December 11, 2:30-4:30 p.m. Redwood Writers present Rebecca Foust: How Poetry and Prose Practices Nurture Each Other. Flamingo Hotel, 2777 Fourth St, Santa Rosa. The general public is invited, $10. For details, go to

Clara RosemardaSunday, December 18, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. A WINTER’S TALE: A One-Day Writing & Meditation Workshop with Clara Rosemarda. Fee $120 ($95 if registered by December 12th); $50 deposit holds your space. Workshop is held in a comfortable home near Downtown Santa Rosa. Contact Clara: 707-578-2081 or

Poem for December

In closing, I offer you a poem written by Kaitlin Deasy, one of the participants in the political poetry workshop at the Sitting Room this fall.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor


Kaitlin DeasyKaitlin Deasy grew up in Northern California and attended the University of California at Berkeley where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She currently resides in Sonoma County and works as a massage therapist. Her poems have appeared in the West Marin Review, West Trestle Review and Wild Violet Literary Journal.

Trump Tower, Las Vegas
Genesis 11

Our multilingual anthem
rises 58 floors in hot air
Nothing is impossible! &
clings to the ceilings —-
only those who look can
see they engineered a
tower without windows
they gave us gilded pools
to wade in while we mou
nt our nakedness, they
took the sun as our priso
ner so we can unknow
night, our soothsayer;
they hide the clock, they
wait until the ceilings beg
in to weep & our babble
becomes rain. Security
locks all exits, tower flood
ing. We hear them say
from the other side of the
walls: you are your own
death.This is the only lang
uage you may share.When
they open the doors
our  bodies  fill  the  streets

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2016

November 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

day-of-deadAs I write, the candles in the jack-o-lanterns are sputtering out and a soft drizzle is falling in the dark. Here in Petaluma, the Halloween action is on D Street, so not too many trick-or-treaters at the door. The rain kept many indoors as well. Here in P-town, as in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, and other county venues, we’re also celebrating Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 1 and 2.

Congratulations to Bob Dylan!
bobdylanIn October, we were all surprised, some happily so, to learn that singer-songwriter Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Controversial as that decision was, I’m delighted that the award recognizes the common root of poetry and music, and the powerful transformative effect Dylan’s music has had on a generation and more.
One summer, I visited both Swansea, Wales and in Hibbing, Minnesota: childhood homes of Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan, respectively. Bob Dylan, of course, changed his name from Bobby Zimmerman—a fact I trot out only by way of introducing this month’s poem by Diane Sher Lutovich, called “Dancing at Bobby Zimmerman’s Bar Mitzvah.” Scroll down, and you’ll find this at the end of this month’s post.

Healdsburg’s new Literary Laureate
On Saturday, October 22, the Healdsburg Literary Guild hosted a Night of Laureate Candidate Readings to select a new Healdsburg Literary Laureate. Four candidates vied for the honor of representing the community from Jan. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2018. The authors were Russ Messing, Richard Perce, Ken Dalton, and Arte Whyte. Congratulations to Russ Messing, farmer and owner of Deergnaw Olive Oil. Messing, an evocative poet, has published two volumes of poetry.

Interested in Joining or Starting a Writers’ Group?
Just the other day, someone asked about starting a writers’ group in the county, wondering if there was a way to announce this. Indeed, there is. The Literary Update has a page devoted to writing groups of all sorts, but it hasn’t been updated lately, and so may not have caught your notice. I’m thinking this would be a good time to do so.  If you are looking for a group, or would like to invite others in the literary community to join your writers’ group or network, Check out our Writers’ Connection Page and send us an announcement to If you’d like to help us revise and update this page, send us an e-mail, and we’ll be happy to work with you!

Rivertown Poets
Lucille Lang Day. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2013). Taken Dec 20, 2013.

I’m always happy to plug the Rivertown Poets series at Aqus Café on the first Monday of the month. The November 7th reading features Lucille Lang Day and Casey Fitzsimmons. Each monthly reading includes a very lively open mic. Try to come a little earlier–the open mic list fills early. Signups start at 5:45 p.m. The café is open for food and beverages at 189 H Street in downtown Petaluma. Check the Calendar page for details, or Contact: Sande Anfang,
Lucille Lang Day. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2013)

November is “National Novel Writing Month”
Snoopy’s Writers Presents…”NaNoWriMo Write In” Every Monday in November from 1:00-4:00 pm in the Party Room and Tuesdays thru Sundays 9 am – 5 pm in the Cafe. The Warm Puppy Cafe, Snoopy’s Home Ice, 1667 West Steele Lane, Santa Rosa. Write a 50,000 word Novel in 30 days. Midnight Oct 31 to Midnight Nov 30. ATMOSPHERE – Pleasant, Creative, stimulating, good food, coffee, Friendly Service. WRITERS – Beginner, Advanced, Published Author. Bring computer, pens and notebooks. BYOL – Buy your own lunch. Georgette or Dawn


West Sonoma Book Faire
Do you miss the great years of the Sonoma County Book Festival? Well, Sonoma County is having a book fair again. The first annual West Sonoma Book Faire takes place on November 10, 6:00-9:00 p.m., at the Sebastopol Grange, 6000 Sebastopol Ave. (Hwy 12). Free admission. There will be author’s booths, a poet’s table, readings, a raffle to support the  Sonoma County Library Foundation, food & drink bar, and more.

Upcoming  Healdsburg Literary Guild Readings
jeanhegland-smallAuthor Jean Hegland will be in conversation with Ray Holley… Jean’s latest book is Still Time and her novel Into the Forest was asdapted as a film starring Ellen Page that was in theaters in summer 2016 and was released recently on DVD in October 2016. Wines by Bluenose Wines will be featured following the talk. The event will be at SHED on November 10th, 2016 at 7 pm. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Jean, a local and world-renowned author. Get tickets ($15) online at:

The Poetry of Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon
For those of you in the north county who’ve been following the translation project I’ve been working on with John Johnson and Nancy Morales, I’m pleased to announce that the three of us will be presenting our translations of the Mexican poet Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon. The Healdburg Literary Guild will graciously host this reading on Sunday, November 20, at 1:30 at the Bean Affair in downtown Healdsburg, 1270 Healdsburg Avenue. This event is free!

Poem for November

Dancing at Bobby Zimmerman’s Bar Mitzvah
dianelutovichbiophoto-1by Diane Sher Lutovich

What were they thinking
those children in 1954; he,
the blue-eyed son wrapped in
a wrinkled tallis, his yarmulke levitating
on that huge head of curls; the blue-eyed
girl tripping in new high heels,
back and shoulders bare
as an invitation.
Evening shone tender, blue
from inside, lighting up the town
as if the sun had refused to fully set.
The Androy Hotel, perched between
ore dumps and open pit mines, on Hibbing’s
one main street, its Crystal Lounge
Awash with his aunts, uncles—Irenes,
Slyvias, Labels, Mikeys—all congratulating,
guzzling champagne, wrapping their dreams
around the bar mitzvah boy,
all to the beat
of sambas and rumbas
imported from Duluth;
chandeliers reflecting
light in a hundred directions
rousing people who’d been hibernating
for years. His mother beamed
over her blue-eyed boy who’d go far–
medical or law school she predicted.
He looked dazed or
ashamed, kept his feet shuffling, fingers tapping,
eager to leave for somewhere else
I, too, couldn’t wait for those big-city lights,
attentive boys who knew how to dance, kiss.
No one would have guessed
how far we’d run after
the champagne was gone,
the guests coerced to their cars, homes,
and we had licenses of our own. But it was as far
From Hibbing—its open pit mines, its mounds
of red topsoil, winters of icy caves, and
summer nights sweet and fragrant as forget-me-nots–
as we could.

from What I Stole, by Diane Sher Lutovich, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2013.

Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | October 2, 2016

October 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

skeletons-day-of-deadOctober promises to be a great month for remembering our dead, celebrating our local living authors and artists, and stepping into unknown through science/speculative fiction in Sonoma County. We’ve always enjoyed a vibrant literary calendar of short story, novel, and poetry, but I am happy to give a special shout-out this month for the genre that explores what isn’t, but might be—the subjunctive at its most imaginative.

Celebrating the Blended Worlds of Science and Fiction
sci-fi-imageAt the Sitting Room, on Saturday, October 8, Jean Hegland and Susan M. Gaines, founding director of the Fiction Meets Science Program at the University of Bremen, talk together about their common interest in a recent evolution of fiction about science and scientists. The conversation, from 2-4 PM, will be facilitated by Raye Lynn Thomas. Susan and Jean will tell us about some of their favorites of the many novels in that category that are written by women and/or that focus on female scientists. For more information, phone 795-9028, or visit the website:

Mid-October, on Wednesday, October 19, Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma hosts “Brave New Worlds,” emerging and established sci-fi, speculative fiction, horror, and fantasy authors. The debut novella by Portland writer and musician Nathan Carson, Starr Creek, is set in 1986 rural Oregon, where strange occurrences unveil an alien world inhabiting the Oregon woods. The event begins at 7 PM at 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma.

Then, at the end of the month, on Friday, October 28, Copperfield’s Books will host celebrate the book launch of local favorite and award-winning editor/publisher Ross Lockhart’s anthology, Eternal Frankenstein. The event is also at 7 PM, location: 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma.

“Colors of Life”: El Día de los Muertos, Petaluma
day-of-dead-poster-2016This year’s month-long celebration of El Día de los Muertos opens this evening with an artist’s reception at the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum for the exhibition of the work of Carlos Villez. The reception is from 6-8 PM at 20 4th Street in Petaluma.

The opening ceremony will be on Sunday, October 2, 12-4 PM at the St. Vincent de Paul Church Plaza, 35 Liberty Street. There will be music, dance, food and a Health Fair. The celebration closes with a candlelight procession with giant puppets, starting at Water Street Bistro at the Petaluma River footbridge, ending at the Petaluma Historical Museum on Saturday October 29th, 6:00 – 10:00.

For those of you who don’t know about this tradition, El Día de los Muertos is a ritual celebration from México, Latin and South America in which the spirits of dead loved ones are invited to visit the living as honored guests. Observed in Mexico on Nov 1st and 2nd, this tradition reflects the belief that death is part of life, and so, instead of sadness this is a time of remembering and rejoicing. Central to the celebration is the creation of ofrendas or altars, bearing pictures, lighted candles and traditional items including marigolds, bread, water fruit, favorite foods of deceased family members. The ofrenda honors the loved one who has died and welcomes them back for the celebration. As celebrated in Petaluma for the past 9 years, the observance presents an opportunity for cross-cultural sharing and a unique partnership between the Latino and Anglo communities.

For a schedule of the month’s events, visit their website on Facebook:

A Reading from Jean Hegland’s Still Time
Jean Hegland Still TimeLast month, Sonoma County celebrated with Jean Hegland the local premier of the film adaptation of her novel Into the Forest. Last year, Jean debuted her newest novel, Still Time. On Friday, October 7 at 7 PM, the Occidental Center for the Arts will host a special reading from Jean’s moving novel about memory, Shakespeare’s green worlds, and the gift of second chances. Location: 3850 Doris Murphy Way, Occidental.

Ellen Bass and W.S. DiPiero Read for Sixteen Rivers Benefit
Ellen BassSimone DiPieroYou are all cordially invited to join Sixteen Rivers Press at our annual fall benefit, this year featuring Ellen Bass and W.S. DiPiero. The date is Saturday, October 8, 3-6 PM. You’ll enjoy a beautiful fall afternoon at an elegant private home in Berkeley, gourmet refreshments, and the opportunity to hear two extraordinary poets in an intimate setting. Tickets are priced at four levels, beginning at $25. Proceeds will go to the support of Sixteen Rivers Press and the publication of our books. Tickets are available from Brown PaperTickets:

Love On! With 100 Thousand Poets for Change
100 Thousand Poets for Change invites you to be part of a celebration of love, called “Love! Aimer c’est du désordre, alors aimons! (Love is messy, so love on!),” and will take place on Friday, October 28. Susan Lamont, who has been emcee-ing and coordinating the 100 Thousand Poets for Change readings, writes this “featurette” about the event.

Rita HayworthThe next reading is Friday, October 28th and the theme is love. We’re emphasizing the complicated side of love  though you can do hearts and flowers, if you want. The theme is inspired by a mural on a wall in Montmartre, Paris, which features Rita Hayworth saying, “Aimer c’est du désordre, alors aimons!” (Love is messy, so love on!) I took a photo of it when I was there a few years ago. If you’d like to read and see your name on the flyer, just let me know. So far I have Dixon Wragg, Donna Emerson, Connie Madden, Michael Browne, Elaine Holtz and Ken Norton.

Music at this reading will be provided by Ralph Park, who sings songs of love in Italian, Russian and more. It was hearing him sing at The Redwood Café that inspired this theme.

This will be the last reading of the year. We’re considering switching to the 4th Sunday afternoon of the month beginning next year. January’s theme will be “Working Class Blues.”

And, for those of you who teach poetry, please offer this opportunity to your students and everyone else please share this with your poetry-loving friends.

Poem for October

by Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated by Robert Bly)

Autumn leafThe leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in loneliness.
We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.
And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, are holding all this falling.

Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.
Und in den Nächten fällt die schwereErde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.
Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen.
Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält

Maria Rainer Rilke (September 11, 1902, Paris)


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2016

September 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

Welcome to September, the new-year month for all students and academics, and for those who celebrate Rosh Hoshanna and Yon Kippur. Time to don the straw hats and white dresses one last time before Labor Day. And, of course, time to check the literary calendar. It always feels like the start of a new writing year when the Petaluma Poetry Walk rolls around. More about that below.

First, Jo-Anne and I send our hearty congratulations to local authors who have had their work published recently in books or journals. You can discover more on our Sonoma County in Print page ( Special thanks to Ed Coletti, who keeps our announcements of local writers publishing in literary journals up to date.

A tip of the hat to Charles Markee whose middle grade novel Maria’s Beads just took 2nd place as a junior fiction category book in the prestigious Colorado Independent Publisher’s Association (CIPA), 22nd annual EVVY literary contest.

Another hats-off to the Sitting Room, recently featured in the Argus Courier. If you missed it, here’s the link:

Shakespeare & Stein Walk Into a BarWe also send our congratulations to Sonoma County poet laureate emerita Katherine Hastings whose third collection, Shakespeare & Stein Walk Into a Bar (Spuyten Duyvil, NYC) will debut in a book launch at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. She will be joined by New York poet Lee Slonimsky reading from Consulting with the Swifts — New & Selected Poems and Sonoma County poet Sandra Anfang, author of Looking Glass Heart. The poets will be introduced by Sonoma County poet laureate Iris Jamahl Dunkle. All this happens on Saturday, September 24, 7:00 p.m.

On a sad note, Sonoma County has lost one of its own, poet, short story writer, and teacher Carol Wade Lundberg. Carol taught English and creative writing at Santa Rosa Junior College and in private workshops. She was a talented writer, a kind and thoughtful friend, and an inspiring presence in our literary community. She passed away on August 11 as the Perseid meteors were lighting up the sky. Originally from Wisconsin, Carol lived in Penngrove and authored several books of poetry including Secret Life (1993), Heresies of Love (2000), and most recently, Inciting Riot (2013). One of Carol’s award-winning poems is featured at the end of this post. Scroll down to read that.

In honor of Carol’s life and work, the monthly Rivertown Poets Reading Series in Petaluma will be dedicated to Carol. Series director Sandra Anfang invites us to “bring a poem of Carol’s for open mic, or say a few words about the gifts she leaves behind.” After the open mic, enjoy featured readings by Greg Mahrer and Kathleen Winter. The reading is on Monday, September 5th, 6:15 p.m. at the Aqus Cafe,189 H Street in Petaluma.

Rumi’s Caravan
Sebastopol poet Larry Robinson teams up with fellow poets Doug Von Koss, Barry and Maya Spector, Kay Crista, and Carol Bower Foote for Rumi’s Caravan on Saturday, September 10. Along with a team of musicians, these presenters create “A Poetic Converstion,” by reciting inspirational verse from around the world. Location: 390 27th Street, Oakland, $15 advance/$25 at the door, doors open 6:30 p.m., show 7:00. Details at

Into the Forest by Jean HeglandThe Film Adaptation of Into the Forest makes its Sonoma County Debut
Starting on Friday, September 16 and concluding on Thursday, September 22, there will be daily screenings of Patricia Rozema’s film adaptation of Jean Hegland’s novel, Into the Forest, at the Rialto Cinema, Sebastapol. Q&A conversations with Jean after the Saturday (9/17) 7:10 p.m. and Sunday (9/18) 1:15 p.m. shows.

21st Annual Petaluma Poetry Walk on Its Way
Petalulma Poetry Walk September 18, 2016Once again, downtown Petaluma will be host to a day of poetry readings on Sunday, September 18, starting at the Seed Bank at 11:00 a.m. and ending at Aqus Café from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Here’s a partial list of featured readers: Barbara Brauer, Nina Lindsay, Dave Seter, Ed Mycue, Cathryn Shea, Duane Big Eagle, Kevin Gunn, Juanita Martin, Daniel McKenzie, Al Young, A.D. Winans, Geri Digiorno, Rebecca Foust, Mike Tuggle, Iris Jamahl Dunkle, and more. Emcees include Terry Ehret, Sande Anfang, Carl Macki, Gwynn O’Gara, Phyllis Meshulam and David Magdalene. Venues and reading details at:

Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival
WaterShed.LOGO_21st Annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival features will be on Saturday, October 1, at Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley, one block west from Berkeley BART. Readers include Jane Hirshfield, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Juliana Spahr, Pireeni Sundaralingam, Wes “Scoop” Nisker, and more; California Poets in the Schools students read led by poet-teachers John Oliver Simon and Maureen Hurley; more readings by poet/biologist Maya Khosla, poet Judy Halebsky, former Sonoma County Poet Laureates Katherine Hastings and Bill Vartnaw, and Nevada City eco-poet Chris Olander; We Are Nature Open Mic, (to read, enter lottery on site at noon); with hosts Richard Silberg and Kirk Lumpkin and music by The Barry Finnerty Trio.

Sixteen Rivers Annual Benefit Reading and Anniversary Party
Sixteen Rivers Press is holding its annual benefit on Saturday, October 8, 2016, 3:00-6:00 p.m., featuring poets Ellen Bass and W. S. Di Piero. Tickets are priced at four levels, beginning at $25, and proceeds will go to the support of Sixteen Rivers Press and the publication of our books. Tickets are available from Brown Paper Tickets:

Literary Tour and Writing Retreat in Tuscany, June 1-14
In June of 2017, I will lead a two-week literary travel and writing retreat in Tuscany. We’ll explore the city of Florence, using the art, architecture, landscape, and literary history of the city as an inspiration for writing. I plan to include day trips to Fiesole, Siena, San Gimignano, Assisi, as well as an overnight trip to Ravenna. Most days will begin with a writing exercise or will include plein-air writing out in the Tuscan landscape. Besides writing, travelers may choose from among a variety of activities: bike riding in Chianti, musical concerts, and a 3-day pass to the museums and galleries of Florence.

If you’d like more information, check out the website at


Poem for September

published by Calyx Press, Oregon

Eating History
by Carole Wade Lundberg

We know the stories:
The king is dead; long
live the king. And
farther back in time
—if not in evolution—
sons who slay fathers
feast on their hearts
hoping to ingest some
secret power. Each

woman in her secret
heart acknowledges
the corollary: Daughters
of ancient queens
drinking mother’s
power with her blood.

Tragic tales, stuff of
gothic novels, the worst
sort of magical thinking
but take that gothic shovel
and unearth the allegory:
Find yourself at the kitchen
table with your daughter;
note with sudden clarity
how she probes your thoughts,
your history, your motives
like a sleuth uncovering
the crime that is her

life (and which you
have allowed to occur
without clues)

Think also about those
endless conversations
she has had with her
sisters—out of your
hearing certainly, but
fully transcribed by
your intuition—

those conversations
in which they explore
with urgent cruelty
the separate truths
of their history
dissecting, digesting
with words the Mother,
the Father, Life
before singular
and stellar event
of their own births

feeding each other
bits of information
as if the outcome
of some crucial
epiphany depended
upon their ingesting
each scrap.

Remember how even now
when your sisters
come to visit—grey
haired as aging queens
—the litany of succession
begins: “Did you know?”
Did she tell you?”

devouring with each
mouthful of streusel
each bite of tuna
casserole, the particular
rag, bone, hank of hair
that placed us here.


Terry Ehret, co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2016

August 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

Mammoth LakeI had the pleasure and the luxury of spending most of July away in the mountains at our little cabin on Serene Lakes, among the granite heights and lakes of Mammoth, at the fabulous art museums of LA, and messing around at Disneyland, Universal Studios, Griffith Observatory, and La Brea Tar Pits. I followed both conventions when I could, mostly stunned by the repeatedly offensive statements coming from Trump and those who try to sweep up the mess after him. You’d think the Democrats would find this election a cake-walk, and yet—well, we are living through strange times, indeed.

As I mentioned in last month’s post, this may be a good time for us to bring a vision of political consciousness and vigilant witness to what we write. To explore this, I plan to offer a workshop on Mondays this fall at the Sitting Room in Cotati, focusing on political poetry. By studying poems by Shelley, Yeats, Akhmatova, Levertov, Rich, and more, we’ll try to figure out how to speak our truth in a way that isn’t rhetorical and didactic—a difficult needle to thread. And on Fridays, we’ll continue our study of one of the world’s great political poems, La Divina Comedia of Dante, moving from Inferno to Purgatorio. There are still a few seats open in each workshop. You can find details on the workshop page, or you can contact me at if you’d like to get on the e-mail list.

For a preview of what we will be reading in the Political Poetry workshop, scroll down to the poem for August: “I Think It Rains,” by Wole Soyinka.

Grammar Lives!

best-grammar-millerMost of you know I’m a great fan of grammar and the beauty of its invisible architecture of the written and spoken word. I realize diagramming sentences is a long-lost art, and the distinction between lie and lay, who and whom may be hopelessly muddled. Fortunately, Arlene Miller will be offering a grammar workshop on Saturday, August 6, at 1:00 p.m. Miller is the best-selling author of The Best Little Grammar Book Ever! Her witty presentations make grammar and language fun and interesting as you learn to speak and write with confidence and avoid common mistakes. The workshop will be at 1:00 p.m. at Copperfield’s Books on 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma. Details:

Tuggle and Patrascu at Aqus Café

mike-tuggle (1)Rebecca PatrascuOn Tuesday, August 9, 6:15 p.m. Rivertown Poets features Mike Tuggle, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emeritus, and Rebecca Patrascu, past winner of The Pinch Literary Award. Open mic will follow the features, with a limit of three minutes per reader. Try to come a little earlier–the open mic list fills early. Usually the Rivertown Poets present on the first Monday of the month, so please note this chance of schedule. The café is open for food and beverages at 189 H Street in downtown Petaluma. Contact: Sande Anfang, Details:

Two Autumns Haiku Reading

In haiku tradition, autumn is the season of farewells, which is the premise of a poem by Shiki:
yuku ware ni todomaru nare ni aki futatsu

for me going
        for you staying—
        two autumns

At the close of the month, Sunday, August 28, the Haiku Poets of Northern California, will host their 27th Annual Two Autumns Reading, the longest running haiku reading series outside of Japan, featuring readings by four of the best haiku poets writing in English today: Robert Gilliland (Texas), June Hopper Hymas (San Jose), Michele Root-Bernstein (Michigan), and Michael Sheffield (Kentfield). A commemorative chapbook edited by Sebastopol poet Renée Owen, with cover art by Australian poet & sumi-e painter Ron Moss, will be available for purchase. Refreshments, networking & book sales available before and after the reading. The reading will be held from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at Fort Mason (room C-205) in San Francisco. For more information, check out the website:

Featured Writer this Month—Susan Hagen

hagen_susanEvery month, our calendar features writing workshops for women with Susan Hagen, whose focus is on writing as a healing art. One of these workshops caught my attention: “Help! I’ve Got a Book in Me and I Wanna Get it out!”  Susan will offer this practical, hands-on workshop on Saturday, August 13, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. to help writers make progress on their stories or books, or simply to explore their lives through writing. Her goal is to help writers generate new material in a safe, supportive community of soulful, spiritual, like-hearted women. Beginning, experienced, and exploring writers of all genres are welcome. The cost is $57 in advance.

Susan Hagen is co-author of the award-winning post-9/11 book, Women at Ground Zero: Stories of Courage and Compassion. After publication in 2002, many of the women rescue workers featured in the book said that telling their stories was the beginning of their healing from the trauma of 9/11. Since then, Susan has made it her life’s work to help others give voice to the stories of their lives. As a writing mentor and coach, she tends the fire, spirit, and heart of the writer, incorporating meditation and earth-based practices into her workshops, retreats, and coaching services. As a published author, former newspaper reporter, and organizational journalist, Susan also offers editorial services for people, businesses, and organizations doing good work in the world.

If you’re interested in Susan’s workshops, or would like to know how to purchase her book, contact her at; or visit her website at

Poem for August

In this season of drought—both literally and figuratively—I offer you a poem by Wole Soyinka, a contemporary Nigerian writer and the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1986). A selection of his work appears in the anthology Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, edited by Carolyn Forché (Norton 1993).

Forché includes  this information about Soyinka’s life:


Soyinka was arrested in 1967 for attempting to effect a compromise between the Hausa government of Nigeria and the rebelling Ibo leaders of the Biarfa secession movement, and was imprisoned for almost two years, one of which was spent in solitary confinement. As chair of literature at the University of Lagos, he was later accused of trying to seize the radio station and dismissed. He chose political exile from Nigeria, and spent time with the Royal Court Theatre in London and the Yale Repertory Theater in New Haven, Connecticut. He has periodically been visiting professor at the universities of Cambridge, Sheffield, and Yale. A fierce defender of personal freedom, he has written poetry, novels, autobiography, and essays with major themes of exile and return.

I Think It Rains

I think it rains
That tongues may loosen from the parch
Uncleave the roof-tips of the mouth, hang
Heavy with knowledge

I saw it raise
The sudden cloud, from ashes. Settles
They joined in a ring of grey; within,
The circling spirit

Oh, it must rain
These closures on the mind, binding us
In strange despairs, teachingPurity of sadness

And how it beats
Skeined transparencies on wings
Of our desires, searing dark longings
In cruel baptisms

Rain-reeds, practiced in
The grace of yielding, yet unbending
From afar, this your conjugation with my earth
Bares crouching rocks.


Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

Coming Soon Trump Circle in HellIn the past weeks, we’ve lost so many in Orlando, Instanbul, and in places that aren’t highlighted in the headlines. We’ve watched Trump step up as the Republican’s presumptive nominee (God help us!), and the Democrats sitting down in protest on the floor of the House as the NRA continues to dictate our political agenda in Washington.

Now may seem a good time to bring a vision of political consciousness and vigilant witness to what we write. To explore this, I plan to offer a workshop on Mondays this fall at the Sitting Room in Cotati, focusing on political poetry. By studying poems by Shelley, Yeats, Akhmatova, Levertov, Rich, and more, we’ll try to figure out how to speak our truth in a way that isn’t rhetorical and didactic—a difficult needle to thread.

And on Fridays, we’ll continue our study of one of the world’s great political poems, La Divina Comedia of Dante, moving from Inferno to Purgatorio. Sign-ups for both will open later this month, but you can contact me at, if you’d like to get on the e-mail list.

Remembering Adelle Foley

AdelleFoleyTop of my news this month is the recent passing of Adelle Foley on June 27. Adelle was a poet, a social, neighborhood and arts activist, and, for the past twenty years, a member of the administration of AC Transit. She was half of a performance-poetry team, along with her husband Jack Foley; together they performed duets of Jack’s poems and Adelle’s haiku.

In 1989, she began to write poetry. Her chosen form was haiku, which she wrote in the traditional 5-7-5 syllables. One of her most memorable, “Learning to Shave: Father Teaching Son,” concerned her son, Sean, born in 1974: “A nick on the jaw / The razor’s edge of manhood / Along the bloodline.” Her books include Along the Bloodline and Fennel in the Rain—a collaboration with Jack. A final collection is forthcoming in 2016. Beat poet Michael McClure wrote, “Adelle Foley’s haikus show us humanity. Their vitality and imagination shine from her compassion; from seeing things as they truly are.”

In the eighties and nineties, I was experimenting with composing and performing poems for multiple voices, along with creative partners Susan Sibbet and Steve Gilmartin. This is how I came to know Adele and Jack. Adelle’s warmth, humor, and engaging smile made us feel like fellow conspirators in the art of the collaborative poem, and I will always be grateful for her inspiration.

Missing Gor Yaswen

gor-yaswenMany of you know that our literary community lost Gor Yaswen in March, and may have participated in the tributes to his life an work at Gaia’s Garden, where he had read just days before his death, at a memorial held in May in Petaluma, and most recently at Off the Page Readers Theater, where one of his poems was performed.

Gor died in a motorcycle crash on March 2 at the age of 78. “He was a poet, writer, artist, teacher, dancer, and lover of nature’s beauty. His prolific art reflected a deep study of his own life, unique vision of Spirit in nature and among people, and hopes for human possibility. RenewalHe leaves a multi-faceted community of writers, performers, students, and friends, who mourn the loss of his singular presence.”

I knew Gor initially from his monthly notices in the Literary Update. Later, I realized that he and I were colleagues at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he was an adjunct faculty member in the college’s Industrial and Trade Technology Program, and where we worked on union issues for adjuncts. He published many books and chapbooks over the years. You can find a sample of Gor’s prose, poems and drawings, at his blog: His art is available on

Some Highlights of Our July Events

In “Mining Metaphors,” you can explore the physical and psychological experience of writer’s block and other body-related metaphors in a writing and movement workshop facilitated by local writer and educator Sharon Bard. This will take place on Saturday, July 9, 10:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m., at The Sitting Room, 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove. Details on Workshops page.

Founder of Rivertown Poets, Sande Anfang is celebrating the publication of Looking Glass Heart at Aqus Cafe in Petaluma. Tuesday, July 12, 6:15 p.m. Sande will be reading from her book, along with Poet Laureate Emeritus Bill Vartnaw. Location: 189 H Street in downtown Petaluma. Details:

Two workshops explore the intersection of writing, psychology, character, and symbols. The first is on Saturday July 16, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.: A Study of Character Through the Enneagram of Personality for Writers & NonWriters with Clara Rosemarda.. See Workshops page for more details. The second is on Saturday, July 23, 9:00 a.m. -4:30 p.m. “Women Writing around the Medicine Wheel” with author & writing guide Susan Hagen. This is the first of a four-part series exploring the south/summer/child within us all. For more information, check out the website at

I’m heading off for a couple of weeks in the mountains where I’ll be out of cell phone and Internet access. Alas, I won’t be here to enjoy many of the July literary events. But I will leave you with a poem for the summer by Gor Yaswen.

Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


by Gor Yaswen

This is what is,
for the artists
in greatest numbers:
we work on “air”,
as angels do,
and air must sustain us.
More fine than that;
we labor on
the very matrix
air but fills.
What we do
is invisible to most,
and unprovable to any.
We perform works
with no rewards
of outer nature;
go unthanked by those
whose “air” we charge
and are treated
as the angels;
un-seen nor believed.
Our lives may seem shambles,
as we shift about
in constant struggle
to maintain ourselves,
but once-a-while
we’re transcendent;
loft from the labor
of our living
toward Enormity,
and are brought back
with nothing won,
but all changed,
and as we thus dance
upon the horizon
of hills which confine
usual living,
we sometimes strike
noble silhouettes
of inspiration to others
against the fervent flush
of an awesome sky,
and cause some
to look up,
where they can see it:
this “air” we’ve altered.

Posted by: wordrunner | June 2, 2016

June 1, 2016

Dear literary folk,

June is the month of weddings, graduations, promotions, retirements, as well as the happy segue into summer. Time to read, relax, attend writing conferences and workshops, dust off that languishing manuscript. And, of course, what would summer be without the annual Sitting Room birthday party?

Sitting Room Birthday Party and a Chance to Ride The Waves

Each year, the Sitting Room invites writers to contribute to their annual publication, which is a collection of poems, stories, and essays on a designated theme. This year, the theme was “ Marriage in Literature and Life.” Part of the birthday celebration is a chance to hear selections from the publication shared in the delightful garden setting. A beautiful cake and other refreshments will be provided.

The birthday celebration is this Sunday, June 5, from 2-5 PM. The Sitting Room is located at 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove. If you’re coming, JJ Wilson and Karen Petersen ask that you park in the Church of Christ Church parking lot on the corner of Petaluma Hill Road and Curtis Drive.

The Sitting Room also hosts book discussion groups and writing workshops through the summer. On June 15 the discussion will be on Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. And then on June 25, starting at 9:30 AM, JJ Wilson will lead a day-long program called “How to Read The Waves.” For the full summer schedule and details on the “teasers” here, check the website link:

Off the Page Readers Theater

On Friday, June 3, Off the Page Readers Theater presents its new show, “Lost and Found,” featuring work by eleven local writers: Sandra Anfang, Susan Bono, Robert Feuer, Jodi Hottel, Jo-Anne Rosen, Jeff Savage, Susanna Solomon, Susan Starbird, Michelle Wing, Gor Yaswen, and Amanda Yskamp. At Mockingbird Books, 6932 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol. $10 at the door. Additional performances on June 10 in Sebastapol and June 11 in Cotati. See our calendar listings and Facebook page: Off the Page Readers Theater

June Featured Writer: Marlene Cullen

Last month, Jo-Anne and I included in our monthly post a book review of Iris Dunkle, our new poet laureate’s, recent publication. We don’t have a book review page, though the idea is intriguing. This prompted an e-mail from Marlene Cullen, letting us know that she has a column for book reviews on The Write Spot Blog. She says she is always looking for book reviews: “I’m not looking for summaries, rather why the person liked the book,” Marlene says. For more information, check out Marlene’s website at

Marlene was instrumental in getting the Sonoma County Literary Update launched, back in the early days of my term as poet laureate, and I’m always grateful for her ongoing contributions to our literary community.

Cullen-MarleneFor those of you who don’t know Marlene, here’s a snippet from her Wikipedia entry:

Marlene Cullen is a writing workshop facilitator, writing coach, editor and producer of Writers Forum, a monthly literary program. She is a writer of short stories, memoir, poetry and creative non-fiction. Her writing workshops provide essential elements for successful writing. Fulfilling her passion for writing and sharing with others, she has created unique writing environments such as Jumpstart, Writing and Art Collage Workshops and Revision Workshops, where participants often experience transformational changes. Marlene has led workshop discussions, edited anthologies, and has worked as conference supervisor.

Lend Poetry Flash a Hand

I’m not sure you know about Poetry Flash’s Kickstarter campaign, which was organized to overhaul the custom-built software supporting the website. If you can help out, any donation will be much appreciated by Joyce Jenkins, Richard Silberg, and all the dedicated staff and volunteers who keep the Flash flashing.

Here’s the Kickstarter link:

And if you haven’t visited the Poetry Flash website in a while, it’s definitely worth a look:

Northern California Book Awards

Top of the news you’ll find there are the winners of this year’s Northern California Book Awards. Essayist, novelist, poet, and playwright Susan Griffin received this year’s Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Achievement Often called an eco-feminist author, her time spent as a child in the High Sierras and along the coast of the Pacific Ocean shaped her awareness of the earth and ecology. Here are the winners in other categories:

NCBR Recognition Award
California’s Wild Edge: The Coast in Poetry, Prints, and History, Tom Killion with Gary Snyder, Heyday

NCBR Groundbreaker Award
The Dying Grass: A Novel of the Nez Perce War, William T. Vollmann, Viking

All This Life, Joshua Mohr, Soft Skull Press

General Nonfiction
The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, David Talbot, Harper

Creative Nonfiction
Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World, Jane Hirshfield, Alfred A. Knopf

Times Beach, John Shoptaw, University of Notre Dame Press

Translation in Fiction
The Complete Stories, Clarice Lispector, translated from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson, New Directions

Translation in Poetry
Marie de France, Marie de France, translated and edited from the Medieval French by Dorothy Gilbert, Norton Critical Editions

Children’s Literature, Younger Readers
In a Village By the Sea, Muon Van, illustrator April Chu, Creston Books

Children’s Literature, Older Readers
Delicate Monsters, Stephanie Kuehn, St. Martin’s Griffin

Translation Project Resumes!

translation-project-EhretMany of you know that Nancy Morales, John Johnson and I have been translating the poems of Mexican poet Ulalume Gonzales de Leon for about two years. We have presented our collaborative work at the Petaluma Poetry Walk, the Petaluma Arts Center, and the Sitting Room, so some of you have heard us read her enigmatic, playful poetry—her aerial dance of words. Last October, it looked as if we’d lost the translation rights, which set us back in our bid for translation grants, as well as our ongoing publications in journals and online.


Foto: Rodulfo Gea

But, miracle of miracles, Ulalume’s daughter contacted us, and last Saturday, we met her and her brother, along with other family members at Nicholson Ranch Winery. The winery’s owner, Deepak Gulrajani, graciously hosted the meeting. With the family’s support and enthusiasm, we’re back on the project! For the three of us, this is a dream come true. We look forward to bringing her poetry, short stories, and essays to you in a bilingual editions in the years ahead.


Poem for June

Richard WilburI’m fond of sonnets and the extraordinary variations poets can bring to this traditional 14-line poetic form. Here’s on I recently discovered, by the great Richard Wilbur.

Born in New York City in 1921, Richard Wilbur is the author of numerous books of poetry and the recipient of the Wallace Stevens Award.

June Light

Your voice, with clear location of June days,
Called me outside the window. You were there,
Light yet composed, as in the just soft stare
Of uncontested summer all things raise
Plainly their seeming into seamless air.

Then your love looked as simple and entire
As that picked pear you tossed me, and your face
As legible as pearskin’s fleck and trace,
Which promise always wine, by mottled fire
More fatal fleshed than ever human grace.

And your gay gift—Oh when I saw it fall
Into my hands, through all that naïve light,
It seemed as blessed with truth and new delight
As must have been the first great gift of all.


Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2016

May 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

Still Time to Catch the Bard!
Shakespeare's Twelfth NightI hope you had a chance this past month to enjoy the many local readings, workshops, and performances in our literary community. It was quite a feast of riches! My own personal favorite was SRJC Theater Arts Production of Twelfth Night with an all-male cast. The transformation of Burbank Auditorium into the Black Friar’s Theater, the young men in corsets, Elizabethan dress, and make-up, the jugglers and musicians, and the double-mind bending experience of watching a young man pretend to be a woman pretending to be a man—all of this was delightfully executed. I’ve seen many productions of Shakespeare, but never with an all-male cast, and this production is a hoot! Twelfth Night plays for one more weekend, May 5, 6, 7 at 8:00 PM;  May 7, 8 at 2:00 PM. And here’s the link to order tickets online:

Spotlight on Gaia’s Garden
Gaia's Garden interiorLocated at 1899 Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa, bordering the SRJC campus, Gaia’s Garden (formerly Govinda’s) is an international vegetarian buffet that has become one of our liveliest venues for musical and literary events. If you’ve followed the Update’s posts and calendar, you know that Gaia’s Garden has hosted the 100 Thousand Poets for Change readings, coordinated by Susan Lamont and friends. Many of you have participated in these. Last March, following the death of Pete Seeger, the venue hosted a tribute sing-along with Dan Imhoff and Cahoots, which was lots of fun.

What you may not know are the many other ways Gaia’s Garden supports local authors and our literary community. For example, the Garden display and sells signed copies of books which appeal to a range of interests – fiction, non-fiction, technical, memoirs, fantasy, children’s books, etc. The collection is organized and distributed by Jeane Slone.

Every other month, Gaia’s Garden offers a “Dine With the Authors Night.” Five or six different authors attend for conversation over a meal, then each reads briefly (5 minutes).  In this salon setting, you can find out more about a specific writer and his or her process and become inspired by the cumulative creativity of the group. Reservations are suggested (with dinner purchase only), and you may request a specific author’s table if you wish.

The Very Veggie Book Club meets at Gaia’s Garden every Tuesday evening from 6-7 for a discussion and social hour with co-hosts Sheryl L. and Paul S. You can just show up—no reservations needed. For more information, you can call Paul at (707) 535-6539.

If you’ve never been, treat yourself to an evening at one of the upcoming May events. On Monday, May 9, 6:00-8:00 p.m. you can dine with local authors Lenore Hirsch, My Leash On Life (pet memoir); Sandra Lee Dennis, PhD, Love And The Mystery of Betrayal (psychology); Inga Aksamit, Highs And Lows On The John Muir Trail (non-fiction memoir); Dan Murdock, Mini Storage Stories (short stories); Arletta Dawdy, Rose of Sharon (historical fiction). For reservations: or 544-2491. Minimum $5.00 food purchase. Or, if you can’t make that event, on Saturday, May 28, 2:00-4:00 p.m., the Redwood Writers hosts an Open Mic as well as featured author readings with Juanita Martin and Mary Lynn Archibald.

May’s Literary Calendar is brimming with events. Here are two others that caught my attention:

Saturday, May 14, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s presents local journalist and Pulitzer Prize Finalist William Carlsen, whose book Jungle of Stone: The True Story of Two Men, Their Extraordinary Journey, and the Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya recounts the arduous journeys of lawyer John Lloyd Stephens and architect/artist Frederick Catherwood into the jungles of Central America on a quest to uncover and understand the lost history of the Maya. At Copperfield’s, 138 N. Main Street, Sebastopol.

Sunday, May 22, 2:00-4:30 p.m. Flight of Poets: Wine and poetry have always made a delicious duet. At this special Sonoma edition of Flight of Poets, happening in the Old Redwood Barn at the Gunlach Bundschu Winery, 2000 Denmark St. Sonoma, internationally renowned sommelier Christopher Sawyer pairs four talented poets with four exquisite wines, carefully selected to illuminate their work. Readings by: Hollie Hardy, Ada Limón, Dean Rader, and Tess Taylor. $20 entry fee includes reading and a flight of four tastes. Must be 21+.

Celebrating Local Author’s Books
The Literary Update has a directory of Sonoma County authors, and when a writer has a new book out, the directory provides a great place to feature that, along with a link to where the book can be purchased. But we don’t do book reviews. It might be interesting to add that as a special feature or blog, and if any of you are interested in this, please contact me or Jo-Anne Rosen at

Recently, we received a review of our new Poet Laureate Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s collection, There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air, written by Juanita J. Martin. Jo-Anne and I thought we’d present Juanita’s review as a guest writer’s “featurette” on this post, recognizing Iris’s poetry and her work in the community.

You can hear Iris Dunkle read her work, along with Patti Trimble, on Monday, May 2, 6:15 p.m. at the Aqus Café in Petaluma, and again on Saturday, May 7, 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the Sitting Room, 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove. Details about both these events are on our calendar page.

There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air
—A Book Review by Juanita J. Martin

There's a Ghost in This Machine of Air. Iris Jamahl DunkleI am haunted, elevated, and enriched by the historical tapestry woven by Sonoma County native, Iris Jamahl Dunkle. She brings the past of Sonoma County alive to this non-native. I can appreciate its weightiness.

In her poetry book, There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air, she melds historical facts with wet and raw piercings of detailed language and imagery. Such a poem is “A language is a Map of our Failures,” where she talks about the change of the landscape by time and the advancement of society. The first line reads: “At first, the land was covered in thick redwoods, their dizzying tops spindled the wool of low fog.” In the third stanza, line three reads: “No fear drifted on the slack winds, even though this was the day when change would begin to rise, ash-like, into the air, catching and burning in the branches of the tall trees.”

In the poem “The Lesson of Mud and Potatoes,” Iris talks about the stage coach rides from the docks of Petaluma River to the potato mines of Bodega. She speaks of potato blight, winter runs, a barge too full that sunk and where her rusty hull might lie on the muddy roads of history.

In the first stanza, Iris wrote: “What a citizen wants is to peel back history that shields a place: a single story that survives record. Time offers its own flood—washes out roads of thought no matter how deep the ruts run.”

In “Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Sebastopol, CA,” Iris writes about the soil that houses the dead famers is the soil the farmers used to plant and plow. I like how Iris compares and contrast the living with the dead. She describes the “arthritic trees” which are almost dead, bring joy to the living and the dead by bearing fruit after years of neglect. She writes in the last two lines: “The air pulses with the pink confetti of apple blossoms and joy rains down onto graves.”

In “Air,” Iris’ sense of place flows with conviction, depth, and power like a punch. As you absorb the nuances, you move with her through each period of time, holding onto each moment with curiosity, tissue for the tears, and the aftermath of brilliant poetic dissection.

Poem for May
Rebecca FoustIn honor of Mother’s Day, here is a poem by Marin poet, Rebecca Foust, author of Paradise Drive (Press 53, 2015).

by Rebecca Foust

                               letter to my transgender daughter

I made soup tonight, with cabbage, chard
and thyme picked outside our back door.
For this moment the room is warm and light,
and I can presume you safe somewhere.
I know the night lives inside you. I know grave,
sad errors were made, dividing you, and hiding
you from you inside. I know a girl like you
was knifed last week, another set aflame.
I know I lack the words, or all the words I say
are wrong. I know I’ll call and you won’t answer,
and still I’ll call. I want to tell you
you were loved with all I had, recklessly,
and with abandon, loved the way the cabbage
in my garden near-inverts itself, splayed
to catch each last ray of sun. And how
the feeling furling-in only makes the heart
more dense and green. Tonight it seems like
something one could bear.

Guess what, Dad and I finally figured out Pandora,
and after all those years of silence, our old music
fills the air. It fills the air, and somehow, here,
at this instant and for this instant only
—perhaps three bars—what I recall
equals all I feel, and I remember all the words.

Copyright © 2015 by Rebecca Foust.
Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 25, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | April 2, 2016

April 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

It’s April, and our recent bounty of rain has blessed Sonoma County with a green and blossoming spring. The hills, vineyards, orchards, creeks and rivers are all brimming with color, water, and frog choruses.

AWP National Conference

Once again, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference coincides with the first-of-the-month post for the Literary Update. Among the many featured presenters are Claudia Rankine, Elizabeth Alexander, W.S. Di Piero, Naomi Shihab Nye, Judy Grahn, Juan Felipe Herrera, Joyce Carol Oates, and D.A. Powell. Since the conference this year is in LA, lots of local folk will be attending, and I hope to see many of you there. I’ll send an addendum to the post once I’m there, and Jo-Anne will bring you up to date with her announcements before this post finds its way to you.

More News from Terry at the AWP conference:
2016-04AWPphotoThe 17th annual gathering of the writers is underway in downtown LA. Sonoma and Marin counties are well-represented with Dana Gioia, Greg Mahrer, Iris Dunkle, Gwynn O’Gara, Kathleen Winter, Patti Trimble, Jodi Hottel, Phyllis Meshulam, Jean Heglund, Erin Rodoni, John Johnson and myself (Terry Ehret). There may be more locals I haven’t yet run into, but with 12,000+ poets, novelists, memoirists, playwrights, translators, publishers, academics and wandering bards, we may only have time to wave across the convention lobby or the book fair aisles.

As one presenter reminded us, April is not only National Poetry Month,but also Alcohol Awareness Month, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month. Any connection may be purely coincidental.

April is National Poetry Month
Keep an eye out for ways to celebrate this. Here are a few of these from our calendar page, where you’ll find more details and many more events throughout the month.

Saturday, April 2, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Second Annual Sonoma County Local Author Showcase and Symposium at the Rohnert Park-Cotati Regional Library, co-sponsored by Creative Sonoma.

Thursday, April 7, 7:00-9:30 p.m. California Quarterly is sponsoring an evening of poetry, featuring readings by poets whose poems have appeared in recent CQs. The public is invited. Sausalito City Hall/Library, 420 Litho Street, Sausalito.

Sunday, April 10, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Salon on Adrienne Rich at the Sitting Room in Penngrove. Barbara McCaffry and Susan Miller lead a session on Adrienne Rich in honor of National Poetry Month.

Thursday, April  14, 7:00 – 9:30 p.m. Why There Are Words Literary Reading Series presents “Rhyme or Reason,” featuring the following acclaimed authors: Amanda Conran, Stefan Kiesbye, Allie Marini, Nayomi Munaweera, Barbara Roether, Kathleen Winter, Katie M. Zeigler. Doors open at 7:00 p.m.; readings begin at 7:15. $10.

Sunday, April 24, 2:00 p.m. Fourteenth Annual ukiaHaiku Festival. At SPACE Theatre, Ukiah.

Saturday, April 30, 1:30-3:30 p.m. On Independent Bookstore Day, Meet & Greet Jo-Anne Rosen, author of What They Don’t Know: Selected Fiction. At Copperfields Books, 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma. More information on the book:

NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month, is an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April. Learn more at:

April Celebration of Shakespeare
twelfth-nightApril 23, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. To honor him, SRJC’s Theater Arts Department is presenting a saucy “Shakespeare Cabaret” and one of his most popular comedies, Twelfth Night. You will be transported back to Elizabethan England with this traditionally-staged production—re-creating the custom of male actors playing women. Huzzah!

“Shakespeare Cabaret” will be performed at Newman Auditorium on Mon April 4, 2016 at 5:30 and 8 PM General $15. Students & Seniors $10. Recommended for ages 10 and above.

Twelfth Night performances: April 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, May 5, 6, 7 at 8:00 PM; April 24, 30, May 7, 8 at 2:00 PM. A special 3:00 PM performance is scheduled for Sunday, May 1 as part of SRJC’s Day Under the Oaks.

This production features professional musicians playing Elizabethan music on period instruments, including the lute, hurdygurdy, krumhorn and sackbut.

There will also be an after-play discussion on Sunday, April 24th. Members of the artistic staff and cast will be hosting the discussion surrounding the play, Shakespeare’s world and this “original practices” production. To order tickets online, here’s the link:

Poem for April
IrishRepublic1916-2016April 2016 is also the 100th anniversary of the Irish Easter Uprising. Thousands of soldiers marched solemnly through the crowded streets of Dublin on Sunday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the fateful rebellion that reduced parts of the capital to ruins and fired the country’s flame of independence. The uprising was commemorated in poetry by W.B. Yeats, whose “Easter 1916” is our poem for April.

Easter 1916
wb-yeats-gettyW. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wingèd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute to minute they live;
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse —
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2016

March 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

I’m taking advantage of “leap day” to prepare this post for March, wishing that this were a National Holiday—one when everyone, even those in retail, would have the day off to do whatever joyful thing they wanted. Like the old April Fool’s tradition, or the notion of Sabbath, it seems a very useful concept: a day when we take a break from our own restless pursuits to pause and delight in this miracle of creation, of which we are each a part.

Hattie McDanielIf you were watching on Sunday, you know that this year’s Academy Awards ceremony was marked by many speeches acknowledging the absence of black actors/actresses in the running for top awards. In light of this, it’s interesting to note that on leap day in 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Academy Award for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. When she arrived at the hotel where the ceremony was held, McDaniel was escorted, not to the table where Selznick sat with the Gone with the Wind contingent, but to a small table set against a far wall, where she took a seat with her escort and her agent. With the hotel’s strict no-blacks policy, Selznick had to call in a special favor just to have McDaniel allowed into the building. Some progress. Not enough. Check out this link to a video of the presentation of the award and McDaniel’s acceptance speech:

Poetry Out Loud participants 2016Leap Day, 2016 is also the date for the California State Poetry Out Loud Competition, held in Sacramento. As I write this, we don’t know the results yet, but Phyllis Meshulam has sent us her feature about the Poetry Out Loud competition and the results of the 2016 Sonoma County competition. Phyllis is a poet-teacher and area co-ordinator with California Poets in the School Program, and has been shepherding this annual event for ten years. Many thanks to her and all the classroom teachers, poet-mentors, fellow judges, emcee Larry Robinson, and to many the volunteers who make this possible. Thanks also to Jerry Meshulam for the photos. And, of course, kudos to all the high school students who participated!

I have included one of the poems recited this year, “The Larger,” by Joanie Mackowski, as our poem-for-the-month at the end of this post.


On February 15, 2016, at the elegant Glaser Center in Santa Rosa, we held the 10th annual Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud competition. POL is a nationwide poetry recitation program for high school students. It’s implemented first at the classroom level, then school-wide, county-wide, state-wide contests take place. It works much like a spelling bee, and winners eventually progress to the Nationals and compete with other champions from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Melissa Lozano of Rancho Cotate HighEvery year our county-wide contest becomes more expert and competitive. This year’s winner is Melissa Lozano of Rancho Cotate High. There was actually a tie for first place in terms of raw scores. When that occurs, we look at the “overall performance” score. Shea Dorrell of Piner High School came in just one point behind, using that metric. Our third place winner was Arthur Timpe of El Molino and fourth was Victoria Ward of Maria Carrillo.

By the time this goes to press, the statewide competition will have already taken place. But if you would like a taste of this rich experience, consider coming to Word Temple on March 26. Dana Gioia, our new California Poet Laureate and founder of POL during his leadership of the National Endowment for the Arts, will be presenting, accompanied by two of our county finalists!

—Phyllis Meshulam

heglandJeanOn Monday, March 7, Sonoma County poet, memoirist, novelist, and teacher Jean Heglund will be launching a three-part series through Santa Rosa Junior College’s Community Education Program calledBringing Fiction to Life.” In addition to exploring important elements of fiction such as character, conflict, plot, and point of view, both beginning and experienced writers can expect to discover inspiration for new stories and/or learn more about stories they are currently working on.  Class fee: $146. You can register at (707) 527-4372 or

Jean Hegland’s most recent novel is Still Time (Arcade/Skyhorse, 2015). A film version of her first novel, Into the Forest, premiered at the 2015 Toronto international Film Festival.

Sons of NoirOn Sunday, March 20, 2:00 to 4:00 pm.  Occidental Center for the Arts Book Launch: Sons of Noir: Murder and Mayhem by San Francisco North Bay Writers. Edited by Ed Coletti and David Madgalene, readings from the short story anthology by contributing writers, Jonah Raskin, Pat Nolan, Ed Coletti, David Madgalene, Gary Brandt, and Waights Taylor Jr. Q&A, book sales and signing. Refreshments served. Free admission, donations gratefully invited. OCA: 3850 Doris Murphy Way, Occidental, CA. For more info: or 707-874-9392.

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc site

Private Lives Private LiesLooking ahead to April, mark your calendars for the upcoming performances of  “Private Lives Private Lies,” an original play by Sonoma County author Dianna L. Grayer about the struggles and joys from the perspective of eight LGBTQ characters. The show will take place during the weekend of April 1 – April 3, 2016, at the Graton Community Club, Main & N Edison, Graton, CA. Friday and Saturday performances are 7 PM, Sunday matinee at 2 PM. Tickets are $20 and are available online at Brown Paper Tickets – – and at the door.

And on Saturday, April 2, plan to drop by an all-day literary event (10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.), the Second Annual Sonoma County Local Author Showcase and Symposium at the Rohnert Park-Cotati Regional Library, featuring a wide variety of local authors who work in many genres, ranging from romance to investigative reporting, poetry to fiction, children’s literature to local history, plus a panel on The Business of Writing, hosted by Creative Sonoma. A list of authors (speakers and exhibitors) and more details are at:

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update



The Larger
by Joanie Mackowski

I don’t know how it happened, but I fell—
and I was immense, one dislocated arm
wedged between two buildings. I felt some ribs
had broken, perhaps a broken neck, too;
I couldn’t speak. My dress caught bunched
about my thighs, and where my glasses shattered
there’d spread something like a seacoast, or maybe
it was a port. Where my hair tangled with power lines
I felt a hot puddle of blood.
I must have passed out,
but when I woke, a crew of about fifty
was building a winding stairway beside my breast
and buttressing a platform on my sternum.
I heard, as through cotton, the noise of hammers,
circular saws, laughter, and some radio
droning songs about love. Out the corner
of one eye (I could open one eye a bit) I saw
my pocketbook, its contents scattered, my lipstick’s
toppled silo glinting out of reach.
And then, waving a tiny flashlight, a man
entered my ear. I felt his boots sloshing
the blood trickling there. He never came out.
So some went looking, with flares, dogs, dynamite
even: they burst my middle ear and found
my skull, its cavern crammed with dark matter
like a cross between a fungus and a cloud.
They never found his body, though. And they never
found or tried to find an explanation,
I think, for me; they didn’t seem to need one.
Even now my legs subdue that dangerous
sea, the water bright enough to cut
the skin, where a lighthouse, perched on the tip
of my great toe, each eight seconds rolls
another flawless pearl across the waves.
It keeps most ships from wrecking against my feet.
On clear days, people stand beside the light;
they watch the waves’ blue heads slip up and down
and scan for landmarks on the facing shore.

Source: Poetry (October 2003).

Joanie MackowskiJoanie Mackowski’s (b. 1963 ) collections of poems are The Zoo (2002) and View from a Temporary Window (2010). A teacher at the university level for many years, she has worked as a French translator, a journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a juggler. She currently teaches at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Her poetry is marked by precise details and attention to the sounds of language; the lines of her poems echo with slant and internal rhymes. Sometimes eerie and often grounded in scientific facts, her poetry scrutinizes insects, plants, animals, and the self.

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