Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2022

August 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Two Poems for August

A New National Anthem
by Ada Limón

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2022

July 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

Poet Laureate Reception on Saturday, July 30, 4-6 p.m.
Phyllis Meshulam and Elizabeth HerronLast month’s post introduced you to our new Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Herron. The Sebastopol Center for the Arts invites you all to SebArts for a reception and reading to honor the outgoing PL Phyllis Meshulam for her extraordinary tenure, to introduce you all to Elizabeth, and to welcome her to her new position. We will also acknowledge the three outstanding finalists Sande Anfang, Ed Coletti, and Dave Seter.

Date and Time: Saturday, July 30, 4-6 p.m.
: 282 S. High Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472 (map)
Light refreshments and beverages will be served. Books by past and current poets laureate will be available for sale. The event is free to the public.

To learn more about Elizabeth and her proposed project, check the Poet Laureate News page of the Literary Update.

Petaluma Arts Center Call For Poetry
Petaluma Arts Center logoPetaluma Arts Center is currently seeking poetry by Sonoma County writers on food and memory in tandem with an exhibit opening on August 11 called Agri-CULTURED: Reflections on our Local Food Community by Land and by Hand.

Deadline August 1

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

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

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

“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are” Brillat-Savarin 
Agri-CULTURED explores cross-cultural intersections of food and farming in our region. The project brings together food producers, purveyors, and artists who work locally and align with global concerns of sustainable practice and cultural memory. It not only bridges art, science, and agriculture but also engages the spheres of hospitality, tourism, and the economy of Sonoma County. 
This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and from Creative Sonoma.

Susan Bono at Writers Forum
On Thursday, July 7, 6:00 pm to 8:00 p.m. Writers Forum presents Susan Bono: Ready, Set, Pivot! Free Zoom workshop for anyone who wants to write in a freestyle of writing. For details about registration, click on this link:

Workshop Description: Personal narratives are documents of change. They always contain a “before” and “after.” This is really useful to remember when building our stories. In our time together, we’ll explore this concept and experiment with some structures that create natural pivots or shift points.

Susan brings wry humor, gentle guidance, and ever-evolving wisdom to the teaching of memoir and personal essay. A California-born teacher, freelance editor, and short-form memoirist, Susan has facilitated writing workshops since 1993, helping hundreds of writers find and develop their voices. She often writes about domestic life set in her small town of Petaluma. Susan is the author of What Have We Here: Essays About Keeping House and Finding Home.

San Francisco Writers Conference
Thursday, July 21–Sunday, July 24. The 18th annual San Francisco Writers Conference. 100+ Presenters (including 20 literary agents!), 80+ sessions, lectures and classes over the FOUR day weekend, the SFWC Poetry Summit and the Writing for Hollywood Summit sessions. See Conference page for details or:

Napa Valley Writers’ Conference
When writers local, national, and international gather for the annual Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, the creative energy is electric. Those of us who aren’t able to attend this year are welcome to join the conference attendees and presenters for craft lectures and readings. Here’s the list of these. Events are at Napa Valley College, 2277 Napa-Vallejo Highway, Napa. Most events are $20 or $25 at the door, $15 for students with ID. A few events are free. Details can be found on the calendar page and online at this link:

Monday, July 25, 9:00 a.m. Patricia Smith will give a talk about poetry.
Monday, July 25, 1:30 p.m. Michelle Huneven will give a talk about fiction titled “The Work of Imagination.”
Monday, July 25, 3:00 p.m. Forrest Gander will give a talk about translation titled “The Rich Rewards of Translation.”
Monday, July 25, 4:30 p.m. Author Caroline Goodwin will discuss the works of Jane Hirshfield and Kevin Brockmeier in a free seminar.
Monday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. Poet Jane Hirshfield and fiction writer Kevin Brockmeier will read following a half-hour wine reception.
Tuesday, July 26, 9:00 a.m. Dana Levin will give a talk about poetry titled “House of Feels: Image & Transformation.”
Tuesday, July 26, 1:30 p.m. ZZ Packer will give a talk about writing fiction titled “Advanced Narrative Techniques.”
Tuesday, July 26, 4:30 p.m. Author Caroline Goodwin will discuss the works of Major Jackson and Lan Samantha Chang in a free seminar.
Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. Poet Major Jackson and fiction writer Lan Samantha Chang will read following a half-hour wine reception.
Wednesday, July 27, 9:00 a.m.  Jane Hirshfield will give a talk about poetry.
Wednesday, July 27, 1:30 p.m. Kevin Brockmeier will give a talk about writing fiction titled “An Animal Within to Give Its Blessing: On the Value of Nonhuman Creatures in Fiction.”

Wednesday, July 27, 4:30 p.m. Author Caroline Goodwin will discuss the works of Patricia Smith and Michele Huneven in a free seminar.
Wednesday, July 27, 5:30 p.m. Poet Patricia Smith and fiction writer Michele Huneven will read following a half-hour wine reception.
Thursday, July 28, 9:00 a.m:  Major Jackson will give a talk about poetry titled “Our Disenfranchised Sublime: Symmetry as Aesthetic Value in Poetry.”
Thursday, July 28, 1:30 p.m. Lan Samantha Chang will give a talk about writing fiction titled “The Muddled Middle.”
Thursday, July 28, 4:30 p.m. Special Guest Lynne Thompson will give a talk titled “On Literary Citizenship: Reflections from the Poet Laureate of Los Angeles” in a free seminar.
Thursday, July 28, 6:30 p.m. On the closing night of the conference, Forrest Gander will read poetry and translation and conference participants will present their best works.

The Freedom of New Beginnings Book Launch on Friday, August 26
Mark your calendars for the book launch of Phyllis Meshulam’s Poet Laureate Project: The Freedom of New Beginnings: Poems of Witness and Vision by Poets from Sonoma County. The anthology features poems by 74 poets responding to the three themes: Gratitude, Honoring Our Pain for the World, and Seeing with New Eyes. The title was inspired by a poem by Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine Hastings. Her poem appears at the end of the post.

Here is what Gwynn O’Gara has written about the anthology: “A broken world needs poetry. Phyllis Meshulam, poet laureate of Sonoma County, California, invited poets to map the three stages of reconnection as conceived by Buddhist scholar and Rilke translator Joanna Macy. This anthology is a journey of witness and renewal in uncertain times.

Two Poems for July 2022

the lost baby poem
by Lucille Clifton

the time i dropped your almost body down
down to meet the waters under the city
and run one with the sewage to the sea
what did i know about waters rushing back
what did i know about drowning
or being drowned

you would have been born into winter
in the year of the disconnected gas
and no car       we would have made the thin
walk over genesee hill into the canada wind
to watch you slip like ice into strangers’ hands
you would have fallen naked as snow into winter
if you were here i could tell you these
and some other things

if i am ever less than a mountain
for your definite brothers and sisters
let the rivers pour over my head
let the sea take me for a spiller

of seas        let black men call me stranger
always        for your never named sake

“the lost baby poem” from Good News About the Earth (1972)


Heron, Like Smoke
Katherine Hastings

In the sapphire sky of the valley
over the old arms of oaks
where white feathered clouds float
your blue-grey wings lift you
aloft in flight, appear as 
rising spirits slow-moving
to space. Your euphoric flight
is charged by new daylight
propels us into memory beyond fire
beyond the slog of escape
beyond the catastrophe of ash
throbbing in the glass
of abandoned dreams
Light follows you, cuts a path
equal to the loss of the abandoned nest
equal to the freedom new beginnings bring

“Heron Like Smoke,” from A Different Beauty, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2022).


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2022

June 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

I’m writing this from Burbank, California, where I am visiting my daughter this Memorial Day holiday. And like most of you, the past two weeks have been devastating as we watch our national addiction to firearms repeatedly collapse our sense of a civil society, leaving us questioning our future and our children’s future.

Friday June 3rd Is National Gun Violence Day. This seems a good opportunity to reflect on how we can be the change we need in these violent times. Perhaps you can take an hour of that day to write down your thoughts, share a poem with a friend, ask a young person how they are feeling, and what their hopes, dreams, and fears are.

One Poet-teacher’s Memorial Day Response
Dante Di Stephano is a poet and high school teacher in Endicott, NY. A few years ago, when Sixteen Rivers Press was putting together an anthology of poems called America, We Call Your Name, Dante was a contributor. When the anthology was published, he participated in a reading at St. Marks in New York, and has been a consultant to the press in organizing the anthology-in-the-schools project. This was a way to get teachers to introduce their students to the poems and poets in the anthology, and to respond with their own poetic visions and voices. Every participating teacher received a class set of the anthology, and students were encouraged to submit their poems to a national youth poetry contest that Sixteen Rivers sponsored.

Sixteen Rivers will bring out a chapbook of these youth poets in the fall. We recently asked Dante to compose an afterword to the book, and this he composed this very Memorial Day weekend, following the massacre of nineteen children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Dante lives in upstate New York, just ten miles from the hometown of the Buffalo shooter who, driven by racist conspiracy theories, murdered ten people at a grocery store. On the day of the shootings in Texas, the high school where he teaches was under threat of an attack that had gone viral on social media. Dante sat with his students, those who had risked attending school that day, while an armed security guard stood outside his classroom door. Together they read poems from America, We Call Your Name, as well as poems by the youth poetry finalists. The next day he wrote about this, reflecting on his fourteen years of teaching, and how traumatized his current students are by two years of the pandemic and these horrific mass-shootings. “They appear, as a group, more anxiety-filled and lonelier than they should be,” Dante writes. “Thinking of those nineteen dead children in Texas almost paralyzes me, but then I listen to my students reading poems from today, and from hundreds, or thousands of years ago, and I’m gratefully jolted into hope.”

Our finalists in this competition participated in an online reading of their poems in February. You can read the poems of the finalists at this link:

One of Dante Di Stefano’s own poems, “Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry),” was selected by Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco for the 2019 On Teaching Poem Prize, which is given to honor the best unpublished poem written about K–12 teaching and/or teachers. I have included this at the end of this post. Scroll down to read.

Music and Poetry:
A Healing and Uplifting Community Event in Response to Buffalo and Uvalde

Community Market in Sebastopol is hosting a community reading and benefit on Sunday afternoon on June 12th, 3 pm to 4:30 pm. Poets and musicians will come together to express their support for the people of Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, and all who have suffered from gun violence in their communities. Raphael Block has organized this special event, and readers will include our Sonoma County poet laureate Phyllis Meshulam, Doug Von Koss, Kay Crista, as well as musicians Hoytus Rolen, I-Ray, Zoe Sameth, David Field, and Bonnie Brooks.

The event will take place outside the Community Market in Sebastopol, located at 6762 Sebastopol Avenue.

If you would like to share poetry that is linked in some way to these two recent terrible tragedies, please contact

The community reading will be followed by the Community Market’s weekly open mic that starts at 5 pm.

The event will benefit the Sandy Hook Promise: Protecting Children from Gun Violence. The Sandy Hook Promise envisions a future where children are free from shootings and acts of violence in their schools, homes, and communities.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Herron, Sonoma County’s New Poet Laureate!

Elizabeth was one many nominees and four distinguished finalists the selection committee considered. The other outstanding finalists were Sande Anfang, Ed Coletti, and Dave Seter. Each finalist presented a plan for a literary project, a selection of poems, and a summary of their publishing history and their activities in our literary community. How lucky we are to have so many amazing poets ready to serve!

Next month’s post will feature our current poet laureate, Phyllis Meshulam, and our newest poet laureate, highlighting the projects of both, and including more details about the events the Sebastopol Center for the Arts will be hosting to celebrate these two fine poets.

Here’s a little background on Elizabeth: After attending the University of Hawaii, Elizabeth earned a Masters in Counseling at San Francisco State University. She studied the origin of aesthetic behavior, and received a PhD in Psychology from the University for Integrative Learning, a fleeting distance-learning program founded by graduates of the Harvard School of Education. She joined the Counseling Center at Sonoma State University and subsequently moved to a faculty position, teaching Creative Writing, Creativity and Contemplative Practice, and Ecological Identity. “Whether facilitating dream groups, studying, teaching, or gathering hawthorn berries and windfall apples, writing has always been my life.”

Born in Illinois and raised in Hawaii, Elizabeth settled in the Atascadero Watershed, west of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, and south of the Russian River, in 1991, the year of the Dunsmuir Spill. After traveling north to bear witness to the aftermath of the spill, she committed a decade of her work to the study of wild trout and salmon and threats to their survival. That work led her to the climate crisis, and her recent writing includes a manuscript of poems centered on climate as well as a chapbook of “poems from the post-post world.”

For more information about Elizabeth, her publications, and her ecopoetics, check her website:

Two June Events Back-to-back
(They’re both zoom events, so you can actually manage both!)
A Creative Writing Lecture and Reading on Ecopoetics with Lynn Keller and Forrest Gander
Dominican University of California presents “Writing in the Self-Conscious Anthropocene,” a Creative Writing Lecture and Reading with Lynn Keller and Forrest Gander, Monday, June 6, 4:30-6:00 p.m. This event brings together scholarly and creative perspectives on urgent environmental concerns. Free, but pre-register using the link on the calendar page

Rivertown Poets Celebrates its Ninth Anniversary!
Rivertown Poets features a ninth anniversary reading on Monday, June 6, 6:15-8:15 p.m. with Terry Ehret and Nancy Morales, translators (with John Johnson) of Ulalume González de León’s Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two, along with Abby Bogomolnyreading her own poems. Open mic follows the feature. Details in the calendar.


Poem for June

Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry)
by Dante Di Stefano

Write about walking into the building
as a new teacher. Write yourself hopeful.
Write a row of empty desks. Write the face
of a student you’ve almost forgotten;
he’s worn a Derek Jeter jersey all year.
Do not conjecture about the adults
he goes home to, or the place he calls home.
Write about how he came to you for help
each October morning his sophomore year.
Write about teaching Othello to him;
write Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
Write about reading his obituary
five years after he graduated. Write
a poem containing the words “common”
“core,” “differentiate,” and “overdose.”
Write the names of the ones you will never
forget: “Jenna,” “Tiberious,” “Heaven,”
“Megan,” “Tanya,” “Kingsley” “Ashley,” “David.”
Write Mari with “Nobody’s Baby” tattooed
in cursive on her neck, spitting sixteen bars
in the backrow, as little white Mike beatboxed
“Candy Shop” and the whole class exploded.
Write about Zuly and Nely, sisters
from Guatemala, upon whom a thousand
strange new English words rained down on like hail
each period, and who wrote the story
of their long journey on la bestia
through Mexico, for you, in handwriting
made heavy by the aquís and ayers
ached in their knuckles, hidden by their smiles.
Write an ode to loose-leaf. Write elegies
on the nub nose of a pink eraser.
Carve your devotion from a no. 2
pencil. Write the uncounted hours you spent
fretting about the ones who cursed you out
for keeping order, who slammed classroom doors,
who screamed “you are not my father,” whose pain
unraveled and broke you, whose pain you knew.
Write how all this added up to a life.

About This Poem
“I’ve taught tenth and twelfth grade English for the past eleven years at Union-Endicott High School in upstate New York. This poem attempts to catch some of the heartbreak and some of the vibrancy from the first-third of my teaching life. The architecture of the poem was suggested by Adam Gellings’s poem ‘Prompt,’ and by Elaina Ellis’s poem ‘Write About an Empty Birdcage.’”


Terry Ehret, Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2022

May 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

(Note: With kind regards to the Literary Update’s technical creator and co-editor Jo-Anne Rosen, today’s Literary Update post will have no images/graphics. Our platform is WordPress, and they have made inserting images more difficult. We hope to resolve this problem in the future, but thank you for bearing with the text-only Update today).

Fishing for Fallen Light
I recently came across this beautiful verse by Pablo Neruda, from The Sea and the Bells, translated by poet William O’Daly:

We need to sit on the rim
of the well of darkness
and fish for fallen light
with patience.

In these times, that act of faith and trust in the “fallen light” of hope seems essential, though often unacknowledged. I think one could end each day by taking inventory, however slim it might be, of the “fallen light” we’ve found in the darkness. Maybe it’s a line or two from a favorite poem, a moment of beauty, a kindness directed our way. Rereading Dylan Thomas’s “In My Craft and Sullen Art” from April’s Update, every line seems to ring with a different clarity and truth, as if I’d never read it before, though I know the poem by heart. Finding this Neruda quote led me to the source and to William O’Daly, who is a new acquaintance and friend. Such serendipity! The poem in which this verse can be found is included at the end of today’s Update, along with the Spanish.

My husband Don and I have been involved the past few months in a program called Cool Blocks Challenge. Petaluma was one of three cities in California to receive a grant to organize and execute the program, which is aimed at reducing our carbon footprint, one neighborhood at a time. It’s a grassroots response to climate change, which gives us something concrete to do with our anxiety and distress. It is fueled by hope—a sustainable resource. As author Grace Paley often said, “Hope is action.” If you live in Petaluma, you should check out this website to see how you can get involved: And if you live anywhere else, you can see about starting such a program in your town.

One of the big take-aways from this program is how little we really know our immediate neighbors, and what a difference it makes to come together over our shared concerns. Another take-away is that we really aren’t as prepared for disaster as we think we are, and we could all be doing so much more to reduce consumption in general. Though not directly related to our writing and literary lives, this is what’s on my mind today. I think of all of you as my literary neighbors, and Sonoma County as my literary neighborhood. I’m proud of how we’ve always come together to support and celebrate each other in times of disaster and in times of success. Thank you all for being such an amazing community!

Phyllis Meshulam’s Poet Laureate Project The Freedom of New Beginnings
The past few months, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with our poet laureate Phyllis Meshulam on her project to produce an anthology of poems by Sonoma County poets. Through that, I’ve gotten to know many poets who are new to me, and familiar poets in new ways. If you’ve been following Phyllis’s Poet Laureate page on the Update, you know that the anthology revolves around three themes: “Gratitude,” “Honoring Our Pain for the World,” and “Seeing with New Eyes.” Its title, The Freedom of New Beginnings, was inspired by a poem by Katherine Hastings, which ends with these inspirational lines: “beyond the catastrophe of ash/ throbbing in the glass/of abandoned dreams/Light follows you, cuts a path//equal to the loss of the abandoned nest/equal to the freedom new beginnings bring.”

For me, the overarching emotional impact of reading the poems in this anthology many times over is hope. Here’s what Gwynn O’Gara wrote about this amazing book: A broken world needs poetry. Phyllis Meshulam, poet laureate of Sonoma County, California, invited poets to map the three stages of reconnection as conceived by Buddhist scholar and Rilke translator Joanna Macy. This anthology is a journey of witness and renewal in uncertain times.”

Huge thanks to Phyllis for her vision, and to those 74 poets who contributed their work! We hope to have the anthology available in July, so keep an eye on the Update, especially the Poet Laureate’s page, for news of the book launch and readings across the county.

National Recognition for Petaluma playwright David Templeton’s Galatea
Congratulations to local author and playwright David Templeton for Galatea, which has recently won a number of prestigious awards. Galatea is a four-actor play set in the distant future that centers on the relationship between a synthetic human named Seventy-One and her therapist, Dr. Mailer (Sindu Singh). When the play begins, Seventy-One has been found floating in deep space in a decaying space craft, the lone surviving crew member of the Galatea, a large human-transport ship that disappeared without a trace more than 100 years earlier.

Galatea debuted at Spreckels Theater in Rohnert Park in September 2021 and recently received an astonishing bevy of awards, including the 2022 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) New Play Award and Citations, and the following Excellence in Theatre Awards, just announced by the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle:

Overall Production for the entire Bay Area
Overall Production for the North Bay
Original Script
Director — Marty Pistone
Principle Actor — Abbey Lee
Projection design — Chris Schloemp
Set Design — Eddy Hansen, Elizabeth Bazzano

There are two great features on David’s accomplishments, one in Petaluma 360, and the other in the Bohemian. Check out these links:

Napa Valley Writers’ Conference
Deadline to apply to the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference is Monday, May 2. Click here to apply to the Conference! The 2022 conference will take place from Sunday, July 24, to Friday, July 29, on the Napa campus of Napa Valley College. We offer workshops in poetry, fiction and translation. For more information about this years’ phenomenal faculty visit:

Three Reading Invitations
As you all know, I’ve been focusing much of my creative energy over the past decade on translating and publishing the poetry of Ulalume González de León. And I’m so pleased that I can celebrate the publication of volume two of Plagios/Plagiarisms this month with a reading with Ukiah Library’s Loba Series, which is now a virtual series, which makes getting to beautiful Ukiah easier. This will be on Thursday, May 26, at 7 PM. Here’s the link for details:

A second celebratory reading will be on Monday, June 6 at 6:15 PM, as part of Sande Anfang’s delightful Rivertown Poets Series. Whether this will be live or online is still up in the air. Location will be announced in June’s Literary Update, and by Sande as well.

The third invitation is to a reading of my own poetry, Tuesday, May 24, 7 PM, on the theme of relationships. The reading is hosted by Poetic License Sonoma and includes guest student poet from SRJC: Joan Osterman. Registration is required to receive the Zoom link which will be emailed to you prior to event. Please note, there is a nominal charge of $5.00. Details and registration:

Other May Events Coming Up
(Note: Be sure to check the April Calendar of Events for the full list of readings, performances, workshops, and open mics across Sonoma County and beyond. The following are just a tasty sample.)

Nature and Writing Walk with Patti Trimble: Sunday, May 15
, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Summer Writing Walk on Sonoma State University’s Galbreath Wildlands Preserve in southern Mendocino County, just twenty miles northwest of Cloverdale. Use your sensory perception in this natural environment and translating those experiences to the page through poetry. Details and registration:

Haiku in Ukiah:
Calling all haiku (and palindrome) enthusiasts! Mark your calendars for Sunday, May 15, 2:00-4:00 PM, for the Ukiah Haiku Festival, a 20th Anniversary Retrospective, hosted by poet laureate Melissa Eleftherion Carr and past poet laureate Michael Riedell. Open mic follows readings selected by the laureates (signups at 2 p.m.). At Grace Hudson Museum Wild Gardens, Ukiah:

Jonah Raskin’a New Novel Beat Blues, San Francisco, 1955 : Sunday May 15, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
at Readers Books, 130 E. Napa Street, Sonoma. Contact Readers Books, 707.939.1779,

Sonoma County Poets at Café Frida Gallery:
With thanks to Ed Coletti, another wonderful array of Sonoma County poets will present on Sunday, May 29, 3:00-5:00 p.m. Café Friday is located at 300 A St. Participants include Phyllis Meshalum, Larry Robinson, Vilma Ginzberg, David Seter, Marvin Hiemstra, Brian Martens, Ed Coletti, and Steve Shain on bass. ​Attendees are encouraged to arrive early to get parked, seated, coffeed and snacked, and out of respect for the poets who are reading. We are all hungry to share our work in public once again! Come one, Come all, and bring guests!

Reverberations Two: A Visual Conversation Exhibition runs through May 15:
Ekphrastic poetry is poetry inspired by a work of art. In 2018, Sebastopol Center for the Arts premiered “Reverberations: A Visual Conversation,” an exhibition in which poetry was written in response to pieces of artwork. ReverberationsTwo: A Visual Conversation reverses this dynamic, asking artists to create a piece of artwork in response to poems. Each artist in the exhibit was given a different poem to respond to. The exhibition is really stunning. I hope you’ll get a chance to drop by the gallery at SCA in the next two weeks. Check here for gallery hours: Thursday – Sunday, 10 am – 4 PM. Check this link for details:


Poem for May: “Here/Aquí”
by Pablo Neruda, translated by William O’Daly


I came here to count the bells
that live upon the surface of the sea,
that sound over the sea,
within the sea.
So, here I live.

If each day falls
inside each night,
there exists a well
where clarity is imprisoned.

We need to sit on the rim
of the well of darkness
and fish for fallen light
with patience.


Me vine aquí a contar las campanas
que viven en el mar,
que suenan en el mar,
dentro del mar.
Por eso vivo aquí.

Si cade día cae
dentro de cade noche
hay un pozo
donde la claridad está encerrada.

Hay que sentarse a la orilla
del pozo de la sombra
y pescar de la sombra
y pescar luz caída
con paciencia.

From The Sea and the Bells, Copper Canyon Press, 1988


Terry Ehret, Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2022

April 2022

Dear literary folk,

In March, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I spotlighted the work of Ukranian-American poet Ilya Kaminski and Ukranian Yulia Musakovska, an award winning poet from Lviv. Looking back to my post from a year ago, April, 2021, I see I devoted a section of the Literary Update to the great Ukranian poet, Adam Zagajewsky, who passed away in March of that year. Given the continuing crisis for the Ukranian people in their struggle against Russian aggression, this seems an appropriate time to remember Zagajewsky’s life and work.

Adam ZagajewskiZagajewski was born in 1945 in Lwów, Soviet Union (now Lviv, Ukraine). He lived in Paris from 1982 to 2002 when he moved to Kraków. Zagajewski’s books of poetry in English include Tremor (1985), Canvas (1991), Mysticism for Beginners (1997); and Without End: New and Selected Poems (2002).He is also the author of a memoir, Another Beauty (2000) and the prose collections, Two Cities (1995) and Solitude and Solidarity (1990).

The reviewer Joachim T. Baer noted in World Literature Today that Zagajewski’s themes “are the night, dreams, history and time, infinity and eternity, silence and death.” About his own poetry, Zagajewski said this:

“I will never be someone who writes only about bird song, although I admire birdsong highly – but not enough to withdraw from the historical world, for the historical world is fascinating. What really interests me is the interweaving of the historical and cosmic world. The cosmic world is unmoving – or rather, it moves to a completely different rhythm. I shall never know how these worlds coexist. They are in conflict yet they complement each other – and that merits our reflection.”
In September 2001, his response to the tragedies of 9/11, “Try To Praise the Mutilated World,” became for many of us an anthem for the work of our lives. The poem was written on September 17 and first published in the New Yorker on September 24, 2001.

Try To Praise the Mutilated World
by Adam Zagajewski

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes

and returns.

April is National Poetry Month
. . . and the Academy of American Poets has some terrific suggestions for how to celebrate.

Thirty Ways to Celebrate National Poetry MonthCheck out 30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month online and at home, including 30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month in the classroom, find online poetry events on our Poetry Near You calendar, add your own, and more. 

Thanks to Ed Coletti and Café Frida Gallery
It’s been a long time since the Sonoma County literary community came together for a live event. If we don’t get hit by another surge, we may begin to see more live events on the literary calendar as we move into spring and summer. On a windy, overcast Sunday, Sonoma County poet Ed Coletti gathered 9 poets to read at Café Frida Gallery in Santa Rosa. Bass player Steve Shain provided accompaniment, and miraculously the predicted rain waited until the reading was over. It was such fun! Café Frida Gallery is a wonderful reading space with outdoor stage and covered seating. Ed plans another reading in two months on May 29th.

Poetry in Action 2022:

A Youth Poetry Reading and Conversation on Equity and Compassion
We’re ready to start “recruiting” teens to read at the open mic! We need your help to spread the word to teens!!
Please forward, post, and share widely announcement with any youth you think would be interested in participating, with schools, teachers, poets, and/or anyone who will help us spread the word. A snapshot of the information is included below. Poets do not need to live in Sonoma County to participate.
This is a Sonoma County United In Kindness event, in cooperation with AAPI Coalition of the North Bay.
AAPI Coalition of the North Bay – Home | Facebook
Ella WenHosted by: Ella Wen, 2021 – 2022 Sonoma County Youth Poet Laureate
When: Saturday, April 23, 5:00 – 6:00pm – a Zoom event
Who: Teens, age 13 – 19
What: This event will include a live open mic; providing an opportunity to read an original poem, or one written by any poet of choice. Limited to two poems or up to two minutes. “Family friendly” language poems please. Closed video will be an option; signed parent authorization required for ages 13 – 17 (the form is attached)
Topic/Suggested prompts: What do you want to say about equity and compassion? What do equity and compassion mean to you? How have you experienced them in your life? How do you practice them in your life? What power do they have in our world? How do they relate to tolerance, diversity, unity, social justice, kindness, and equality? Say it through the power of poetry!!
Email to sign up. A practice session will be scheduled prior to the event – date to be announced.
Incentives: A cash/gift card prize and Certificate of Participation for anyone who reads during open mic.
Why: United In Kindness hopes to provide a supportive forum and public platform, designed and hosted by and for Sonoma County youth, ages 13–19, to write, present, and have conversation about the topics of equity and compassion, through the art of poetry, with a focus on the practice, experience, meaning of, reflection upon, and/or power of equity and compassion — on a human scale, in the US, and in their day-to-day lives. To include the topics of inclusion, tolerance, unity, social justice, kindness, and equality. To engage youth in a conversation of equity and compassion…through the power of poetry. In celebration of April – National Poetry month.
Thank you again for helping us spread the word! Remember…deadline to sign up for open mic is MONDAY, APRIL 4.
On behalf of the United in Kindness Poetry in Action committee,
Liz Larew
Reverberations Two: A Visual Conversation
April 9 to May 15
Ekphrastic poetry is poetry inspired by a work of art. In 2018, Sebastopol Center for the Arts premiered “Reverberations: A Visual Conversation,” an exhibition in which poetry was written in response to pieces of artwork.

Reverberations:two A Visual Conversation reverses this dynamic, asking artists to create a piece of artwork in response to poems. Each artist in the exhibit was given a different poem to respond to.

To be honest, we weren’t quite sure it was going to work. Would it be possible for artists to work with a never-before-seen poem and create new work in the limited time of few months? To our astonishment, more than 200 visual artists responded to our open call, from which 50 were selected. The poets were selected by poet Charlie Pendergast, who encouraged us to do this second Reverberations show.

The resulting collaboration between poetry and visual arts is the focus of Reverberations:two, which will be showing at Sebastopol Center for the Arts from April 9 to May 15.

You are invited to the opening reception: April 9, 2-4 p.m.

We have created a beautiful companion book (above, right) for the exhibition, which will be available at the SebARTS gallery shop.


Diane FrankPoetry, Music, and the Language of the Spirit with Diane Frank
Saturday, April 16, 1:00 p.m. Redwood Writers Club presents Diane Frank on “Poetry, Music, and the Language of Spirit.” Author and poet Diane Frank will share ideas about poetry as the language of the soul, virtuoso editing techniques, and how to write poems inspired by music. This speaker event is part of Redwood Writers monthly general meeting, and will be held in person at the Finley Center in Santa Rosa or online via Zoom. Register at

Last Call for Nominations for the Next Sonoma County Poet Laureate
Deadline: April 15, 2022
Nominations are open for Sonoma County’s 12th Poet Laureate. 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 $2,000 stipend payable in yearly $1,000 increments.

Nominations for Poet Laureate require that the poet be a resident of Sonoma County whose poetry manifests a high degree of excellence and who has produced a critically acclaimed body of work. The nominee must also have demonstrated an active commitment to the literary arts in Sonoma County, must propose and perform a project of their own creation, and must agree to participate in official ceremonies and poetry events.

Please direct any questions to

Sixteen Rivers Press Announces its 2022 Publications

Beyond the Time of Words Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume TwoBeyond the Time of Words / Más allá del tiempo de las palabras, poems by Marjorie Agosín, with translations and foreword by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman

Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume II, poems by Ulalume González de León, a bilingual edition, with a foreword by Mary Crow. Translated by Terry Ehret, John Johnson, and Nancy J. Morales

Subscribers who order our April releases each year are given a special subscription rate, which includes shipping, handling, and tax. The 2022 subscription rate for both books is $38 (a savings of more than $10). Books will be shipped after the April 2 publication date.

The first reading from Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two, will be on Tuesday, April 12 @ 7:00 p. m. PDT via ZOOM. The reading is hosted by Stella Beratlis and the Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center. It will feature the poetry of Mexican poet Ulalume González de León read by translators Terry Ehret & Nancy J. Morales with guest poet-translator William O’Daly
RSVP required: 

An Evening with Andrei Codrescu, Thursday, May 5th, 2022 
Andrei CodrescuOccidental Center for the Arts’ Literary Series is thrilled to present star of page, screen, and NPR, Andre Codrescu on Thursday, May 5th, 2022 @ 7:00 p.m. Location: 3850 Doris Murphy Way, Occidental, CA.

A poem by Andrei Codrescu in a limited handset letterpress broadside edition of 100, designed and printed at Sonoma County’s own North Bay Letterpress Arts will be available to ticketholders at the event.(an exclusive signed & letter A-Z letterpress edition will also be available)
Tickets $25 GA/ $20 for OCA Members

Two Poems for National Poetry Month

In my craft or sullen art
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

from The Poems of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1939 by New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Marjorie AgostinMás allá del tiempo de las palabras
by Marjorie Agosín

Más allá del tiempo y las palabras
La bruma disipando las formas,
Crepitando entre los umbrales,
Siempre la niebla hechicera,
Invitada inoportuna y a destiempo.
El pasar de un tiempo sin tiempo,
Un silencio sin ecos.
El terror a los espejos y a nosotros,
Viajamos entre las sombras
Y la confianza de lo conocido
Que es lo desconocido.
Más allá del tiempo y las palabras
En el reverso de la escritura muda,
Asombros. La vida en sí.
En la claridad fugitiva del ocaso:
Una mujer dando a luz.

Beyond the Time of Words
Translated by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman

Beyond the time of words
The mist dissolves forms,
Curling between the thresholds
Like an ill-timed and
Unwelcome sorceress.
The passage of time without time,
A silence without echoes.
Dreading mirrors and ourselves,
We travel among the shadows
And a trust of the known
That is unknown.
Beyond time and words
On the other side of silence,
A universe of astonishment. Life itself.
In the fugitive clarity of twilight:
A woman giving birth.

From Beyond the Time of Words / Más allá del tiempo de las palabras.
Copyright © 2022 by Sixteen Rivers Press.


Terry Ehret, Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2022

March 2022

Thinking about Ukraine

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ilya KamiskyIn a Time of Peace
by Ilya Kamisky

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

From Deaf Republic. Copyright © 2019 by Ilya Kaminsky.


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2022

February 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

Happy Lunar New Year, February 1, 2022! We’re entering the year of the tiger. In Chinese culture, the tiger is the symbol of bravery, wisdom and strength, much like the lion in Western tradition. Celebrations of the Lunar New Year often start the weekend before and continue for weeks after. The Lantern Festival symbolizes the end of the New Year season and is marked by the flying of paper lanterns and eating of turnip cakes and tangyuan, a Chinese dessert of sweet rice-ball dumplings. This year, it lands on Feb. 15.

Chinese New Year lanternsLantern Festival
by Cigeng Zhang

Red lanterns
Shine in the sky
The moon smiles
So many tiny new stars
Drift out of the night
Really busy!
Amber eyes
Warm and sweet
Make a wish, please
At the special night
Make a wish, please
What’s the best wish?
Let the real spring
Come, come, quickly
Come, the real spring
Come, the vernal light

Last year’s February post focused on the transition from the Trump presidency to the Biden inauguration, featuring the poetry of Amanda Gorman with her stellar recital of “The Hill We Climb.” One year later, we’re still climbing that hill, still hunkered down to protect ourselves and our communities from the overload of Covid surges, and still vigilant about protecting voting rights and the fundamentals of our democratic elections.
What can we as a writing/literary community do to engage these times we’re living? Stay vigilant. Stay involved. Support one another as writers and artists. Write from the heart and witness your truth.

We can begin by looking to our young writers for their voices and vision.

Poetry Out Loud Competition Celebrates Youth Voices
On Sunday, January 30, seven gifted high school students competed in an online version of the Poetry Out Loud competition. The Sonoma County winner is Chelle Servais, a student at Santa Rosa High. The runner-up is Ella Wen from Maria Carillo, and third place is Cris Nunez from Roseland University Prep.

Congratulations to all the participants, and thanks to the teachers and coaches who worked to help the students prepare and video-record their recitations. The evening’s online event was coordinated by Sonoma County poet Jodi Hotel, who was able to help all the participants and judges pivot from the planned in-person event to an online format. No easy task, that!

Chelle Servais will go on to the California state level of competition. We wish them all the best!

Interested in Working With Young Writers?
Poet wanted to facilitate a teen poetry group, once a week for about an hour and a half. Looking for someone who loves teenagers to facilitate a poetry circle (not a study group), someone who can create a safe space for teens who want to explore creativity, self-expression, and find a voice through poetry. Many will be musicians; all are artistic in one way or another. Most, if not all, will be homeschoolers and/or unschoolers. It will likely be a Zoom/in-person (in nature?) hybrid. Pay will be fair. For more information contact Soneile Hymn at If possible, send a short summary of your vision for the group you would like to facilitate and why you are interested. 

Teen Poets Write on the Themes of Resistance and Resilience

America, We Call Your Name: Youth Poetry ReadingOn Sunday, February 20, at 4 PM PST, Sixteen Rivers Presents hosts a unique poetry reading and chance to hear new poems of resistance and resilience by the six winners of the Sixteen Rivers Youth Poetry Contest.

Young poets from all across the country were invited to participate. They each selected a poem from the anthology America, We Call Your Name, then composed an original poem in response. Finally, the poets videotaped themselves reciting their poems and submitted them to Sixteen Rivers Press.

Six grand-prize winners of this national contest for teen poets will read their poems, plus the poems from our anthology, America, We Call Your Name, that inspired their work.

To attend, please register in advance with this link:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing a link to join the reading.

Nominations for Sonoma County Poet Laureate Open February 10, 2022
Nominations will be opening soon for Sonoma County’s 12th Poet Laureate. 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 $2,000 stipend payable in yearly $1,000 increments.

The Sonoma County Poet Laureate is chosen by a distinguished panel with a profound knowledge of, and an active dedication to, the life of poetry in Sonoma County. Members of the Selection Panel represent the five Sonoma County Supervisory Districts, Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, and Sonoma County Library. Each member of this panel has a proven passion for poetry and a history of enriching the life of poetry in our community.

Nominations for Poet Laureate require that the poet be a resident of Sonoma County whose poetry manifests a high degree of excellence and who has produced a critically acclaimed body of work. The nominee must also have demonstrated an active commitment to the literary arts in Sonoma County, must propose and perform a project of their own creation, and must agree to participate in official ceremonies and poetry events.

Consistent with tradition, the Sonoma County Poet Laureate will not have a formal job description but will be encouraged to develop an agenda promoting poetry and the literary arts in Sonoma County.

The public is invited to nominate qualified poets. Information about requirements and application instructions can be found on the Sebastopol Center for the Arts website at

Remembering Kate Willens
Kate WillensEarlier this week, The Press Democrat ran an obituary I didn’t expect to read. It was for a friend (and sometime student) Kate Willens. Kate was a spiritual seeker whose heart soared through her music. She had an extraordinary voice, and when she accompanied herself on guitar or harp, it was a gift. To say we didn’t agree politically is putting it mildly, especially since the 2016 election and recent COVID controversies. But I appreciated her many gifts.

In 2011, Kate was one of seven poet-travelers who went with me on a journey through West Ireland. One memory of that trip stands out for me today.

Kate Willens with harpOn our first outing on a windy, rainy morning, we visited Poulnabrone Dolmen in County Clare. Kate insisted on bringing her traveling harp wherever we went, and she would improvise songs for the landscape as she was inspired. At one point, she held the harp up in front of the dolmen’s gate (it is an ancient burial portal), and let the wind blowing through the dolmen play the harp strings, like an Aeolian harp, conjuring a haunting music. Stranger still, when Kate held the harp up for the wind to play, but away from the dolmen’s gate, the music we heard was different. These photos capture that moment.

News from the Redwood Writers Club
Author Launch: On Saturday, February 19, 1:00-4:00 p.m. Celebrate the success of 16 Bay Area authors at the annual Redwood Writers Author Launch event. Moderated by Jeane Slone, authors will share excerpts from their recently published books at this free online event. To learn more about our featured authors and their books, plus register and receive a Zoom link, visit

Call for Members’ Submissions: Redwood Writers Poetry Anthology: Are you a member of Redwood Writers? Have you submitted your poem to the 2022 poetry anthology yet? Redwood Writers are invited to submit up to 5 poem of any topic. Deadline is Feb. 28. See the guidelines and how to submit at

Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two Special Pre-Pubication Offer
Plagios PlagarismsPlagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two is now available from Sixteen Rivers Press. You can order on our website, using this link:

Many of you have been following the translation project I’ve been working on for nearly a decade now. Along with John Johnson and Nancy J. Morales, we’ve been translating the complete published poems of Mexican poet Ulalume González de León. The first volume came out in 2020, just in time for the Covid lock-down, which prevented the kind of book launch/celebrations we’re used to. Now the second volume is about to be released, and still it seems we’ll have to wait until summer to properly launch. We do have an outdoor reading planned at the beautiful Nicholson Ranch Winery in Sonoma, and we’ll keep you all posted about when that will be.

But in the meantime, we’re setting up online readings, and as we get closer to April 2, our official publication date, I’ll make sure these virtual events make it onto our Literary Update Calendar Page.

Online Creative Writing Workshop with Eliot Schain
Elliot SchainOn Saturday, February 26, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Dominican University presents “Writing to Restore the Self.” This free workshop, presented by psychotherapist, teacher, and poet Eliot Schain, will feature writing and discussion about imagery that can help process both positive and negative experience and unite disparate parts of the self.

Schain’s own books include American Romance and Westering Angels, both available from Zeitgeist Press and a newer collection, The Distant Sound, published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2020. He has served as program director for the Poetry Society of America, taught high school, and now works as a psychotherapist in Berkeley, California.

Register here. Details on Workshops page. You can discover more Dominican University online workshops at this link:

Poetic License Sonoma — “Love and Loss” with special guest poet, Maya Khosla
Maya KhosloPoetic License Sonoma, a group of 8 poets read each month at Sebastopol Center for the Arts Fourth Tuesday Zoom Poetry Series. Though often a solitary pursuit, the writing of poetry, like all artistic forms of communication, is nurtured through the collaboration and support of others. They encourage and celebrate this form of artistry in our region, and beyond, through poetry readings, like this one; the publication of their work; and a steady stream of new writing.

This month PLS explores the theme of “Love and Loss” in Poetry and are joined by special guest poet Maya Khosla. Kusum Irene Jain will be acting MC; Guest Student poet from SRJC will be Dee Jaehrling.

Poem for February
February 14, Valentine’s Day, is traditionally the celebration of romantic love, though it can be extended to include friendships, family relationships, animals we love, or nature itself. Since the theme of Poetic License Sonoma this month is “Love and Loss,” here is a poem that speaks to that theme, by Linda Gregg. Gregg found inspiration for her poems in nature, in urban settings, and in broken relationships.

Surviving Love
by Linda Gregg (1942–2019)

I work hard at managing, grateful
and spare. I try to forgive all trespasses
and give thanks for the desert. Rejoice
in being alive here in my simple world.
Each evening I walk for an hour, paying
attention to real things. The plover
sweeping at my face to get me away from
its ground nest. An ant carrying the wing
of a butterfly like a flag in the wind.
A grasshopper eating a dead grasshopper.
The antelope close up, just staring at me.
Back in the house, I lie down in the heat
for a nap, realizing forgiveness is hard
for the wounded. Near the border,
between this country and the next one.

Linda Gregg, “Surviving Love” from In the Middle Distance. Copyright © 2006 by Linda Gregg.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2022

January 2022

Happy New Year to all our literary folk!

I hope you are managing to stay healthy in this next twist of the pandemic. As 2022 begins, I hope our friendships will thrive, our creativity flourish, and our democracy survive the challenges to its integrity.

cabinThis is the second New Year’s Day without the annual gathering of writers at my home in Petaluma. It’s always been a highlight of my holiday season, and I miss hosting the potluck of poems and good food. I have felt the absence of such gatherings these past two years, and imagine most of you do, too.

If we can catch a break between storms, this New Year’s, my husband Don and I will be up at our cabin in the Sierra, digging out from the plentiful December snowfall. We’ve hired a crew to help us find the steps and the front door. More snow is in the forecast, of course, but we’ll work on keeping that path to the front door clear.

Call for Submission for Women Artists Datebook
The Syracuse Cultural Workers is one of my favorite organizations. I’ve featured them here before because I admire the work they do to support art as a form of cultural activism: Founded in 1982, SCW is a progressive publisher committed to peace, sustainability, social justice, feminism and multiculturalism. In addition to posters and calendars, cards, and t-shirts, they publish each year a Women Artists Datebook, which couples poetry and visual art. Here in Sonoma County, we have some mighty fine women artists and poets. I’ve had the honor and the pleasure of seeing several of my poems in the Datebook over the years, and I hope you’ll consider submitting your work. The deadline for the 2023 Datebook is January 15, 2022. Here’s the link to learn more about SCW: And here’s the link for the submission guidelines:

Jordan RosenfeldJordan Rosenfeld on Writing Emotional Scenes
Former Sonoma County author and writing teacher Jordan Rosenfeld will present a workshop on “How to Evoke Emotion in Every Scene on Saturday, January 15, 1:00-2:45 p.m. The Workshop is sponsored by the Redwood Branch of the California Writers Club. Presentation will be virtual only, via
Zoom. For details, costs, and registration, visit

Book Launch for Dan Coshnear’s Separation Anxiety
In December’s post, I gave a shout-out to Dan Coshnear’s new collection of short stories. If you missed his reading last month, you have another chance to hear him read on Sunday, February 27, 3:00-4:30 p.m. Occidental Center for the Arts (rescheduled from January 16, due to Covid restrictions). Details:

Online Creative Writing Workshop with Raina León
Raina LeonThe Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing program at Dominican University of California is hosting an online creative writing workshop — “On Future Worlds”— presented by educator/writer/coach Raina León, professor of English Education at St. Mary’s College, on Tuesday, January 25, from 6-8 p.m. via Zoom. To register for the event, which is free and open to the public, follow this link:

In this workshop, presenters will read news articles that explore potential crises and imagine what inner and outer worlds might emerge, ones that are about flourishing and collective organizing and possibility. The workshop will study science fiction (in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual arts) alongside the news to inspire generative writing from a place of artivism for preservation and action.

es Bernstein’s New Book Loose Magic
Loose Magic / Les BernsteinMany of you from the Sitting Room workshops and from the Redwood Writers know the potent, enigmatic, minimalist jewels of Les Bernstein’s poetry. In November, Finishing Line published her latest collection, Loose Magic. About these poems, Rebecca Foust says, “How to chronicle a lifetime? If it can be done at all, it must be in poems like this, written straight from the heart and spanning a decade, plainspoken, and lyrical with authentic and earned emotion. You can read more about Loose Magic and order your own copy at this link:

Les is a winner of the 6th annual Nazim Hikmet Festival and a Pushcart Prize Nominee for 2015. Her poems have appeared in journals, presses and anthology in the U.S.A. and internationally and her chapbooks Borderland, Naked Little Creatures and Amid the Din were published by Finishing Line Press. She has been the editor of Redwood Writer’s anthologies for the last five years and was also the editor of the Marin High School Anthology 2018.

If you’d like to hear Les reading her poems, tune in on Tuesday, January 25, 7-8:30 pm, when she will be the special guest poet with Poetic License Sonoma. Registration is required to receive the
zoom link. Fee: $5 Details and registration:

Nominations for the next Sonoma County Poet Laureate Opening Soon
The Sebastopol Center for the Arts and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee will be accepting nominations this spring for Sonoma County’s 12th Poet Laureate. 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, check with the Sebastopol Center for the Arts website at Nomination forms and guidelines will be available soon.

Two New Book Stores on the Russian River
Russian River Books & Letters is a newly opened bookstore in Guerneville (next to Coffee Bazaar) on Armstrong Woods Rd. Pat Nolan reports it’s a terrific “well-lighted” space with plenty of new titles in all genres. Stay tuned for special events including music, readings, open mics, book clubs, and writing workshops. The proprietor, Michael, is very interested in promoting local authors. He can be reached at or 707-604-7197 Details:

Poet’s Corner Book Store in Duncans Mills, a “charming curated book shop,” is the smallest bookstore in the county. Open since November 2020. Details:

Notable Writers We Have Lost in 2021
We’ve been blessed to be alive during such a great era of writing. So many writers with their unique and diverse voices have found their home in print. This year, many of our literary heroes passed away, and their voices will be sorely missed. But their influences live on in us and in the poems, stories, novels, memoirs, and essays we are inspired by them to write. Here’s a short list of authors who left us in 2021. For a more comprehensive list, here’s a link to the NYT article.

Poet, publisher, at Beat-era legend Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who opened the famous San Francisco bookstore City Lights in 1953, died on February 22 at the age of 101.

Polish poet and dissident Adam Zagajewski died on March 21 at the age of 75.

Children’s literature legend Beverly Cleary died on March 25th at the very impressive age of 104.

Larry McMurtry, the storyteller and subversive mythmaker of the American west who was best known as the author of Lonesome Dove, died on March 25 at the age of 84.

Al Young, American poet, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and professor, died on April 17 at the age of 81.

Pulitzer prize winning poet Stephen Dunn
died on June 24, which was his 82nd birthday.

The Italian novelist, critic, scholar, and legendary publisher Roberto Calasso, whom The Paris Review once described as “a literary institution of one,” died on July 28. He was 80 years old.

Poet, translator, antiwar activist, and
Minnesota cultural icon Robert Bly died on November 21 at the age of 94.

Anne Rice, the prolific and beloved author of gothic novels, most famous for her 1976 debut Interview with the Vampire and its sequels, died on December 12 at the age of 80.

bell hooks, essential feminist thinker, died on December 15 at the age of 69.

Joan Didion, iconic essayist who explored culture and chaos, died on December 23 at the age of 87.

Donations to the Sonoma County Literary Update always Welcome!

Most of you know that the SCLU began during my tenure as Sonoma County Poet Laureate, 2004-2006. It has continued largely through the behind-the-scenes efforts of Jo-Anne Rosen. We volunteer our time, happily so, but there are some expenses to keep the website going, most recently an update that keeps the Update free of advertisements.

For those who regularly announce their workshops, readings, or services here, a donation of $10 to $20/year is requested to keep the update and its website going. Donations from regular readers are welcome, too. For details contact the editor Jo-Anne Rosen at

Poem for the New Year

For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet

by Joy Harjo

Put down that bag of potato chips, that white bread, that bottle of pop.
Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control.
Open the door, then close it behind you.
Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel the earth gathering essences of plants to clean.
Give it back with gratitude.
If you sing it will give your spirit lift to fly to the stars’ ears and back.
Acknowledge this earth who has cared for you since you were a dream planting itself precisely within your parents’ desire.
Let your moccasin feet take you to the encampment of the guardians who have known you before time, who will be there after time. They sit before the fire that has been there without time.
Let the earth stabilize your postcolonial insecure jitters.
Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people who accompany you.
Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought down upon them.
Don’t worry.
The heart knows the way though there may be high-rises, interstates, checkpoints, armed soldiers, massacres, wars, and those who will despise you because they despise themselves.
The journey might take you a few hours, a day, a year, a few years, a hundred, a thousand or even more.
Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and leave your heart for the immense human feast set by the thieves of time.
Do not hold regrets.
When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning by the keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.
You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.
Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.
Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders, your heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your ancestors to make way for those who are heading in our direction.
Ask for forgiveness.
Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.
Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.
You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return.
Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.
Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long.
Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and given clean clothes.
Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no place else to go.
Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.
Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark. 

Reprinted from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2021

December 2021

Dear Literary Folk,

Phyllis Meshulam Will Be Recognized
by Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
In ordinary times, our new Poet Laureate is recognized at a Board of Supervisors meeting within the first month or two of their term. When Phyllis became our Poet Laureate in April of 2020, the formal recognition fell off the agenda, as so many things did in the early days of COVID-19.

But I’m pleased to announce that Phyllis will finally have her moment of recognition. At December’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting on Tuesday, December 7, at 8:30 AM, a resolution will be read proclaiming that Phyllis is the Sonoma County Poet Laureate. There will be an opportunity for public comment.

Phyllis and others can speak on behalf of the resolution during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting. Details for doing so are noted in the agenda at the link below

Members of the public can watch or join the meeting using one of the following methods.

Watch Livestream:
Once the meeting has started, click the “In Progress” hyperlink to begin viewing.

Join the Zoom Meeting:
Participate by computer, tablet, or smartphone application:

Go to:
Enter meeting ID: 984 8770 0261
Enter Password: 919371

Public Comment:
Public Comment may be made live during the zoom meeting or live, in person, in the Board Chambers. Available time for comments is determined by the Board Chair based on agenda scheduling demands and total number of speakers. Public comment during the meeting can be made live by joining the Zoom meeting using the above provided information.

Upcoming Literary Events
We’re heading into the holiday season with yet another COVID variant keeping us cautious about indoor gatherings, including literary events. But a quick scan of the December calendar shows quite an array of virtual events or hybrid events scheduled for the month, even a few live events for the vaccinated. Here are four that caught my attention.

Dan Coshnear and Richard Krause
Wednesday, December 1,
5:45-6:45 p.m. Unsolicited Press invites you to an online reading with short story authors Daniel Coshnear and Richard Krause.

Dan Coshnear, Separation AnxietySonoma County author Coshnear will be reading from his newest collection, Separation Anxiety, eighteen stories that explore how pervasive the disorder can be in everyday lives. Coshnear paints separation anxiety as an engine of change while being careful to tend to the delicateness of the disorder’s consequences. Dan is the author of a previous collection of stories, Jobs & Other Preoccupations (Helicon Nine Editions), which was awarded the Willa Cather Prize in Fiction. In 2003, Coshnear was awarded the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award, and in 2005 the Christopher Isherwood Foundation Fellowship. He teaches in a variety of university extension programs, including University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco State University. Coshnear works at a group home for homeless men and women with mental illness. He lives in Guerneville, California with his wife Susan and their children Circe and Daedalus.

Richard Krause grew up in the Bronx and on farms in Pennsylvania. He drove a taxi in NYC for five years and taught English for nine years in Japan. Oddly, those disparate occupations forge a finely hammered toughness into this collection, giving the reader plenty of quirky, desperate characters presented in a melodious, poetic fashion. Currently, he teaches at a community college in Kentucky. Krause’s collection, Studies in Insignificance, was published by Livingston Press.
Zoom link:

Artist as HealerWriting and Healing
Sunday, December 5,
1:00-2:30 p.m. Book launch for Nina Ayin Reimer’s Artist as Healer: Stories of Transformation and Healing. At Coffee & Moore, 6761 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol. Book sale and signing. Indoor event. Please wear masks when not eating or drinking.

Tuesday, December 7, 4:00 p.m. Book Passages presents Michael J. Fox in conversation with Willie Giest. In No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, Michael shares personal stories and observations about illness and health, aging, the strength of family and friends, and how our perceptions about time affect the way we approach mortality. Live, online, ticketed event. Buy book and receive email ticket, $18. Shipping of book not included. Details and registration:

The Egg ManLocal History/Family Saga
Sunday, December 19
, at 4:00 p.m. Sonoma County author Chris Riebli’s novel The Egg Man will be launched at Occidental Center for the Arts. Set in the North Bay region of California in the late 19th and early decades of the 20th century, The Egg Man is the story of Arnold Bert Miller—poacher, teamster, drinker, dreamer—an Everyman of his day, “nose to nose with the hard truths about himself.” This novel is a prequel to The Body’s Perfect, (2012) and traces two earlier generations of the Miller family. Proof of vaccination and indoor masking required.

Poem for December

A House Called Tomorrow
by Alberto Rios

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.

You can find more poems by Alberto Ríos and many others on the theme of generosity and hope.

Be Kind” by Michael Blumenthal
Go Give the World” by Otto Leland Bohanan
Hope is the thing with feathers (254)” by Emily Dickinson
On Giving” by Kahlil Gibran
May Perpetual Light Shine” by Patricia Spears Jones
To Rebuild” by Hallie Knight
A House Called Tomorrow” by Alberto Ríos
The Silver Thread” by Afaa Michael Weaver

I wish you all a healthy, civil, and creative holiday season, however you celebrate.
Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Joyous Kwaanza,
Glad Yule, Happy New Year, and many illuminating Epiphanies ahead.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2021

November 2021

Dear literary folk,

Since last month’s post, we’ve had rain, glorious rain! As I write this, the wind is whipping the rainy air, stripping the trees of their autumn leaves. I’m so grateful for this weather and for the new growth of grass on our hillsides—something I don’t remember seeing this early in the year.

Poetry of Remembrance/Poesia del Recuerdo Community Reading
Day of the DeadThanks to those of you who were able to join us on zoom for our virtual Poetry of Remembrance/Poesia del Requerdo Community Reading last Thursday. It was surprisingly moving and intimate, despite the zoom format and the tendency of the new version to mute everyone. We had 45 attending.

In addition to the twenty poets and hosts who read their remembrances of the dead, the program included a traditional call to the directions and virtual smudging by co-host Jabez Churchill; poems by children read by co-hosts Phyllis Meshulam and Sande Anfang; Jabez’s telling of the story of “La Llarona” and his performance of the song; and a musical performance by Revolt. Midway through the event, we had a slideshow of altars and celebrations of Day of the Dead, put together by co-host John Johnson and narrated by Margaret Tilden, who joined us from Mexico.

Though we celebrate Día de los Muertos during the month of October, traditionally, the celebrations are held on November 1 and 2. You can still participate in this by sending a poem, photograph, or video to our Poetry of Remembrance/Poesia del Requerdo website:

The Petaluma Arts Center is currently curating an exhibit on the theme Amor Nunca Muere/Love Never Dies, and they will be hosting a special closing celebration on Tuesday, November 2, 3-7 PM.

NaMoWriMo: November is National Novel Writing Month.
If you’ve been thinking about starting a novel or getting back to work on a novel you’ve shelved, consider connecting with NaNoWriMo. This is a nonprofit organization which believes in the transformational power of creativity, providing the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page. It’s a teaching tool and curriculum taught in 5,920 classrooms. This month not the right time for you? No problem! NaNoWriMo’s programs run year-round. More information at:

Ella WenCongratulations to Sonoma County’s New Youth Poet Laureate!
Ella Wen, a sophomore at Maria Carillo High School, was recently selected to be Sonoma County’s next Youth Poet Laureate. Check out Phyllis Meshulam’s Poet Laureate News for details about Ella:

Sixteen Rivers Reading, Fall Benefit, and Call for Manuscripts
Dane Cervine and Stella BeratlisTwo events are coming up this week featuring past and present member-authors of Sixteen Rivers Press. The first of these is on Monday, November 1, 6:15-8:15 p.m. Rivertown Poets features Dane Cervine and Stella Beratlis, followed by open mic (3 minutes per reader, 20 readers max). Sign up at Choose “Aqus Poetry Open Mic” and fill in the form. Join directly at:

The second event is on Sunday, November 7th, 3:00 PST, when Sixteen Rivers Press will host its Annual Benefit Reading on ZOOM. This year we will do another version of the very successful event two years ago, in which Sixteen Rivers poets each read a selection from their work published by the Press. This gives a rich sense of what Sixteen Rivers has accomplished over two decades, and more confirmation of the diversity of poetic voices here in Northern California. Among the many readers are several from Sonoma County: Lynn Trombetta, Maya Khosla, and Terry Ehret. Please join us if you can. Registration is through Eventbrite: or you can access it via our website:

November 1 is also the official opening of Sixteen Rivers’ manuscript submission period, which continues until February 1.We especially encourage poets of color, young poets, and LGBTQ writers to submit. If you have a book-length manuscript and are interested in a cooperatively run publishing company, check out our submission guidelines on our website:


Poem for November

Mark DotyThe Owner of the Night
by Mark Doty

interrogates whoever walks
this shadow-lane, this hour
not reserved for you: who

are you to enter it?
Orion’s head over heels
above the road, jewel-belt

flinting starlight
to fuel two eyes looking
down from the air:

beacons in reverse,
since light pours in
toward her appetite

until she wings her noiseless outline
between our rooftop and the stars,
over this door and all the doors

hidden in the grass:
dreaming voles,

firefly province,

wasps in the palace
they’ve hollowed under the hill.

Mole resting his face against his splayed hands.

Perch, blink. Pose
the evening’s question
to the sleepless

while the moon if there is one
scatters islands
on a field of ink. Who

maps this? The owner
of the night looks down
to mirror and admit the hours

before the upper vaults
begin to lighten and recede.
Did you hear what I said,

a face looks down from the night?
Did who hear me? Who
reads this page, who writes it?

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Doty. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About This Poem
“I spend about half my time in the city, in a built landscape where one knows the name of just about everything; in this way it’s a city of language, a world mediated by words. The rest of the time I live in a place where sky and weather, plants and animals are as present as sidewalks and vehicles are in town. My inner process of narrating experience in words slows down there, even vanishes for moments at a time; then I’m just raking, or weeding, or looking at the sky not supplying words for what I see. Thus it’s startling, at twilight, or deep in the night, when the dark itself seems to say a word: who. It seems the right question, the one the owl asks; as Stevens said of the harbor lights in Key West, that sound arranges, deepens, and enchants the night.”
—Mark Doty


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

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