Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2018

September 2018

September 1, 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

GoFundMe for the Petaluma Poetry Walk

Petaluma Poetry WalkThe Petaluma Poetry Walk is coming up on Sunday, September 16, but this one-day moveable feast of words needs our help.

In years past, the directors Geri Digiorno and Bill Vartnaw have reached into their own pockets to help cover the costs. Local patrons, businesses, and individuals volunteers and organizers have also made contributions to help the Poetry Walk qualify for Poets & Writers matching funds. Unfortunately, this year the funding from Poets & Writers is not available, which is why we’re reaching out with this GoFundMe campaign.

We’re more than halfway to our goal of $2,000. Please consider making a donation, however small. It only takes a few minutes. Here’s the link to contribute to the Walk’s GoFundMe account:

The Walk will launch this year at 11 AM at a new venue: The Petauma Hotel’s historic ballroom. Readings continue at various downtown venues, with new authors presenting every hour, finishing at Aqus Café. Discover more about the upcoming walk venues and readers at the Poetry Walk website:

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

Petaluma Author Expo Petaluma Author Expo September 8th at the Petaluma Library

On Saturday, September 8, the Petaluma Regional Library will host an afternoon with local writers. Designed as a “Meet and Greet” event, the Author Expo will feature more than 30 writers and will offer readers and new writers a chance to talk with published authors about their work.

I will be giving a short opening presentation about the writing process and publishing options to open the event.

The Author Expo is from 2:00-5:00 p.m. Refreshments will be provided, and the event is absolutely free!

Location: 100 Fairgrounds Drive, Petaluma, CA 94952. For information and details, contact Celma de Faria Luster (707)763-9801 ext. 0714.

Need a Space to Meet for your Book Group? The Sitting Room Welcomes You!
The Sitting Room community library would like Book Groups to know that they would be welcome to hold their meetings here. There is comfortable seating for up to 10 people and parking too. We are open from 9 to 5 Mondays – Saturdays, but are happy to make arrangements for other time slots also. If interested in arranging a trial meeting, please call us at 707 795-9028 or email us at The atmosphere is right (and people won’t have to straighten up their houses for the occasional occasion). We are right next to Sonoma State University at 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove, 94951. Check out our website: for directions and to get a feel for the place.

WordTemple Returns!

Brenda Hillman

Stephen Kessler

David BeckmanSaturday, September 8, 7:00 p.m. Word Temple Reading Series. Featured readers are Brenda Hillman, Stephen Kessler and David Beckman. Free admission (donation suggested). At Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 S. High St., Sebastopol. Contact: Gregory W. Randall, More information at:

T-Bone BurnettT Bone Burnett at the Luther Burbank Center
On Sunday, September 9, 7 PM, accompanied by his guitar, film clips, and decades’ worth of stories, T Bone takes audiences on a tour of his work and collaborations with musicians across all genres, including Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Elton John, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, B.B. King, Tony Bennett, k.d. lang, Elvis Costello, Jack White, Taylor Swift, Leon Russell, and many more. For tickets and information go to:

Ed ColettiCelebrate Ed Coletti’s New Chapbook
Saturday September 29, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Ed Coletti will read from his new chapbook Fire Storm at SoCo Coffee, 1015 4th St Santa Rosa. SoCo now has terrific salads, paninis, falafel, and pastries as well as coffee drinks, soft drinks, and a wide tea selection. anniversary of the fire. 707-291-7801.

“A World of Despair; A World of Hope.”
100 Poets for Change
The 8th annual 100 Thousand Poets for Change will take place on Sunday, September 30, 406 PM at Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County, 467 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa. At this international reading, poets all around the world read their poems for change. This year’s event will be dedicated to the children and young people who will be inheriting this severely damaged world from us. Free. Donations welcome. Refreshments provided.

If you are interested in reading or helping or know a young person who would like to read a poem (theirs or someone else’s), please contact Susan Lamont at

America We Call Your NamePoems of Resistance and Resilience: Sixteen Rivers Press’s New Anthology
Sixteen Rivers Press announces the release of their new anthology on September 4.

To order your copy, go to this link:

Susan Griffin and Dean Rader, two of the poets featured in this collection, will be reading at the annual Sixteen Rivers Benefit on Sunday, October 25, 2-5 PM. Join us for an afternoon of wine, hors d’oeuvres, silent auction, and a reading by these acclaimed poets.

For tickets, go to

Poem for September
Ada LimonI’ve been reading the work of Ada Limon lately, in preparation for the workshop I’ll be leading on Contemporary American Women Poets at the Sitting Room. I also had the chance to hear her read and in conversation with Matthew Zapruder at Readers’ Book in Sonoma. She told the audience that she lived as a teenager in an apartment across the street from the bookstore, where she worked from the age of 15. Sonoma remains her home, and she spends part of every year here; her other home is in Kentucky.

The poem for September is from her new collection, The Carrying, © 2018, Milkweed Editions.

Late Summer after a Panic Attack

By Ada Limón

I can’t undress from the pressure of leaves,
the lobed edges leaning toward the window
like an unwanted male gaze on the backside,
(they wish to bless and bless and hush).
What if I want to go devil instead? Bow
down to the madness that makes me. Drone
of the neighbor’s mowing, a red mailbox flag
erected, a dog bark from three houses over,
and this is what a day is. Beetle on the wainscoting,
dead branch breaking, but not breaking, stones
from the sea next to stones from the river,
unanswered messages like ghosts in the throat,
a siren whining high toward town repeating
that the emergency is not here, repeating
that this loud silence is only where you live.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2018

August 2018

August 1, 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

The Napa Writers’ Conference is already underway this week, running until Friday, and I imagine many of you are attending. If you’re not signed up for the intensive workshops, you should know about the craft lectures and readings, which are open to the public. Some are free; some have an entry fee, usually $25 each. You’ll find full descriptions with times and locations on the calendar page. This is what’s coming up.

Wednesday, August 1 – Brenda Hillman and Lan Samantha Chang
Thursday, August 2 – Student Participant Reading

Craft Lectures
Wednesday, August 1—Camille Dungy, Howard Norman
Thursday, August 2—Carl Phillips, Lauren Groff

Marin Poetry Center Summer Traveling Show

Every summer, the Marin Poetry Center organizes a series of readings throughout the North and East Bay. On Sunday, August 12, at 2:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma will host Traveling Show featured poets Donna Emerson, Gail Entrekin, Dave Seter, Julia Vose and others. For a list of participating poets and venues throughout the Bay Area, visit:

This event is free. The location is Copperfield’s, 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma.

GoFundMe for the Petaluma Poetry Walk

Petaluma Poetry WalkThe Petaluma Poetry Walk needs our help. The Walk is an annual event, taking place this year on September 16, 2018.  This one-day moveable feast of words features poetry readings held at several venues in downtown Petaluma, including a bakery, a gallery, a restaurant, a bookstore and others, all within easy walking distance of one another. Various groups of poets will read their work at each of these venues. This event has been held for the last 22 years and is the premier poetry event in this area.

In years past, the directors Geri Digiorno and Bill Vartnaw have reached into their own pockets to help cover the costs. Local patrons, businesses, and individuals volunteers and organizers have also made contributions to help the Poetry Walk qualify for Poets & Writers matching funds. Unfortunately, this year the funding from Poets & Writers is not available, which is why we’re reaching out with this GoFundMe campaign.

Our goal is $2,000, which will cover this year’s printing costs and can hopefully provide an honorarium for the poets who are reading their work. If we exceed this goal, the Poetry Walk will have a small budget to work with going into next year and beyond.

Please consider making a donation, however small. It only takes a few minutes. Here’s the link to contribute to the Walk’s GoFundMe account:

You can also mail a check or money order to: PO Box 526, Petaluma, CA 94952-0526 . You can make the check out to the Petaluma Poetry Walk. However, if you need a tax deduction for your donation, please make the check out to The Sitting Room, and in the memo space, indicate that the donation is for the Petaluma Poetry Walk.

Discover more about the upcoming walk venues and readers at the Poetry Walk website:

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

Do You Love a Good Mystery?

Then you’ll want to mark your calendar for Wednesday, August 22, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books’ Midweek Mystery series, featuring Rhys Bowen’s Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding. From the New York Times best-selling author of On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service, Rhys Bowen, comes the next installment of the Royal Spyness Mystery series. This event is at Copperfield’s, Montgomery Village Store, 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa. Details:

America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience

America We Call Your NameSixteen Rivers Press is pleased to announce the publication of our new anthology, America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience.

This anthology, born in response to the 2016 Presidential election, combines the voices of poets from across America—from red states and blue states, high schools and nursing homes, big cities and small towns—with the voices of poets from other countries and other times. From Virgil and Dante to Claudia Rankine and Mai Der Vang, from Milton to Merwin, from Po-Chü-i to Robin Coste Lewis, these voices—now raucous, now muted, now lyric, now plain—join together here in dissent and in praise, in grief and alarm, in vision and hope. The 126 poems in this book call out to America in resistance to threats to our democracy and in the resilient belief that this fragile, imperfect form of government can and must be preserved.

Among the work in this collection is Sonoma County poet David Beckman’s “my soon-to-be written protest poem.” Other local authors are Tom Centolella, Janet Jennings, Kay Ryan, Lucille Lang Day, Jane Hirshfield, Susan Terris, Brenda Hillman, Judy Halebsky, and Robert Hass.

“These poets have an urgent message to share with you,” writes Camille T. Dungy in the foreword. “This message is brand new, and it is also eternal. Read carefully. What you learn here might just save your life.”

We expect books from the printer by September 4. In the meantime, the book is available for pre-order on Amazon. You can use this link:

Scroll down to read a sample poem from America, We Call Your Name.

From the Republic of Conscience


Seamus HeaneyWhen I landed in the republic of conscience
it was so noiseless when the engines stopped
I could hear a curlew high above the runway.

At immigration, the clerk was an old man
who produced a wallet from his homespun coat
and showed me a photograph of my grandfather.

The woman in customs asked me to declare
the words of our traditional cures and charms
to heal dumbness and avert the evil eye.

No porters. No interpreter. No taxi.
You carried your own burden and very soon
your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.


Fog is a dreaded omen there but lightning
spells universal good and parents
hang swaddled infants in trees during thunderstorms.

Salt is their precious mineral. And seashells
are held to the ear during births and funerals.
The base of all inks and pigments is seawater.

Their sacred symbol is a stylised boat.
The sail is an ear, the mast a sloping pen,
the hull a mouth-shape, the keel an open eye.

At their inauguration, public leaders
must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep
to atone for their presumption to hold office-

and to affirm their faith that all life sprang
from salt in tears which the sky god wept
after he dreamt his solitude was endless.


I came back from that frugal republic
with my two arms the one length, the customs woman
having insisted my allowance was myself.

The old man rose and gazed into my face
and said that was official recognition
that I was now a dual citizen.

He therefore desired me when I got home
to consider myself a representative
and to speak on their behalf in my own tongue.

Their embassies, he said, were everywhere
but operated independently
and no ambassador would ever be relieved.

“From the Republic of Conscience,” from 
Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996 by Seamus Heaney. Copyright © 1998 by Seamus Heaney.

Seamus Heaney
April 13, 1939 – August 30, 2013


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2018

July 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

Farewell to Donald Hall

hall2This month, we pay tribute to former U.S. Poet Laureate, Donald Hall, who died on Saturday, June 23, at the age of 89.

Hall was a New England poet, born September 20, 1928, and grew up in Hamden, Connecticut. From the mid 1970’s, he lived with his wife, poet Jane Kenyon, in their rural farmhouse at Eagle Pond Farm in New Hampshire, until her death from leukemia in 1995. Ironically, Hall had not expected to survive his own cancer diagnosis in 1989, but beat the odds to live another 29 years. In his poetry, Hall expressed both his profound gratitude for these years and his grief at losing Kenyon.

Of Hall’s work, Billy Collins writes, “Hall has long been placed in the Frostian tradition of the plainspoken rural poet. His reliance on simple, concrete diction and the no-nonsense sequence of the declarative sentence gives his poems steadiness and imbues them with a tone of sincere authority. It is a kind of simplicity that succeeds in engaging the reader in the first few lines.”

Hall mentored and encouraged many writers, including some from Sonoma County and the Bay Area, among them Al Young, Carolyn Miller, and Lynne Knight, who wrote this response to Hall’s death, published in Rattle’s Poets Respond on June 26:


white apples and the taste of stone
—Donald Hall, “White Apples”

The old master is dead,
his gravestone already marked
with lines from a poem
by his wife, whose peonies
blossomed and toppled outside
while he lay in hospice.
Soon his granddaughter will live
in the ancestral house looking out
at blue Mount Kearsarge.
The curved ribs of old horses
buried in the field will again yield
their crop of goldenrod.
Dark clouds over Eagle Pond
turn white as the taste of stone,
white as white apples.

biolynneknightKnight’s response also includes this personal memory:

“I spent much of Sunday mourning the death of Donald Hall, who taught me much of what I know about poetry when I was his student at the University of Michigan. Much later, we had a correspondence over twenty years that sometimes included the exchange of poems. I’ve been re-reading some of his letters, and I came upon this: ‘I want the poem to be as hard as a piece of sculpture, and as immovable, and as resolute, and as whole. I want every word in it to be absolutely inevitable … but another part of the requirement, by and large, is that it should not seem so.’ Then he quoted Yeats: ‘A line will take us hours maybe; / Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought …’ His letter begins: ‘I love talking about this stuff.’ Donald Hall gave so much to the world of letters that I wanted to mark his death with a small poem that evokes his life and work, borrowing his image in the last two lines (“white apples and the taste of stone”). I don’t know if this poem does evoke him, but among many, many other things, he taught me to be persistent.”

I have selected one of my favorite of Hall’s poems, “The Names of Horses,” featured at the end of this post.

To read more about Hall’s life and work, I recommend checking out this NPR link:

I also recommend the New York Times article, which you can find at this link:


The Cove’s Call for Submissions: “The Art of Resistance”

We’re living in dark times, politically, but as a literary community, we’re also inspired and challenged to raise our voices to address the widening attacks on our civil liberties and our humanity.

Following up on last month’s introduction to Bart Schneider’s new online journal, The Cove, I’m including this reminder of the call for submission for The Cove’s second issue, “The Art of Resistance.”

Bart invites you to submit poems, short shorts, and brief essays that respond to the political and cultural climate of our time. Work need not reference particular individuals. Preference will be given to writing that wrestles with the problems of topical engagement. Please send work by July 15 to editor Bart Schneider at


Here are some events I’d like to highlight for July. For a complete list of all the literary events of the month ahead, check the Calendar Page.

bill-vBill Vartnaw and Julie Rogers at Revertown Poets

On Monday, July 2nd, 6:15 p.m. Rivertown Poets will be holding a reading and open mic at the Aqus Cafe, 189 H Street in Petaluma. Featured poets will be Petaluma poet (and Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emeritus) Bill Vartnaw and East Bay poet Julie Rogers. The reading begins at 6:15 p.m. The open mic signup list will be available by 5:45. Open mic will follow the features. Please time your reading to be three minutes or under.


Rumi’s Caravan: A Poetic Conversation

03rumiRumi’s Caravan returns to Oakland on Saturday, July 14, 7:00 p.m.. For fifteen years Rumi’s Caravan has inspired audiences, weaving together poems by Rumi, Hafez, Machado, Rilke, Yeats, Mary Oliver, Joy Harjo, Naomi Shihab Nye, David Whyte and other poets across the world. Recitation of World Poetry by Doug Von Koss, Barry and Maya Spector, Larry Robinson, Kay Crista, Carol Fitzgerald and Carol Bower Foote. With musicians Christine Tulis, Suellen Primost and Sufi dancer Chelsea Rose.


Unitarian Church, 685 14th Street (doors open at 6:00). $15.00/Advance, $30.00 at the door, Performances benefit local non-profit organizations. More details at:



Poetry in the Redwoods with Dana Gioia and Maya Khosla

danagioia_240-1-240x240  poetry_in_the_redwoods_600  maya_khosla-285_web

California State Parks is partnering with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and the poetry community in Sonoma County to bring Poetry in the Redwoods to the historic Redwood Forest Theater at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.

This is a FREE, all-ages event open to poetry lovers, nature lovers, community families and friends. The event will be bookended by live music, a silent auction, and include readings by a diverse group of poets, along with youth participants from this year’s Poetry Out Loud competitions. Participating poets include California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla, plus Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Sandra Anfang, Arthur Dawson, K.M. English, Jackie Hallerberg, Richard Loranger, Brian Martens, Phyllis Meshulam, Margo Perin, Pamela Stone Singer and  Amos White.

This event is in conjunction with the Gourmet Walk in the Redwoods on July 21, 12:00-4:30 p.m.The only cost is that of park admission, $8 per vehicle.


Poem for July

The Names of Horses
by Donald Hall

All winter your brute shoulders strained against collars, padding
and steerhide over the ash hames, to haul
sledges of cordwood for drying through spring and summer,
for the Glenwood stove next winter, and for the simmering range.

In April you pulled cartloads of manure to spread on the fields,
dark manure of Holsteins, and knobs of your own clustered with oats.
All summer you mowed the grass in meadow and hayfield, the mowing machine
clacketing beside you, while the sun walked high in the morning;

and after noon’s heat, you pulled a clawed rake through the same acres,
gathering stacks, and dragged the wagon from stack to stack,
and the built hayrack back, uphill to the chaffy barn,
three loads of hay a day from standing grass in the morning.

Sundays you trotted the two miles to church with the light load
a leather quartertop buggy, and grazed in the sound of hymns.
Generation on generation, your neck rubbed the windowsill
of the stall, smoothing the wood as the sea smooths glass.

When you were old and lame, when your shoulders hurt bending to graze,
one October the man, who fed you and kept you, and harnessed you every morning,
led you through corn stubble to sandy ground above Eagle Pond,
and dug a hole beside you where you stood shuddering in your skin,

and lay the shotgun’s muzzle in the boneless hollow behind your ear,
and fired the slug into your brain, and felled you into your grave,
shoveling sand to cover you, setting goldenrod upright above you,
where by next summer a dent in the ground made your monument.

For a hundred and fifty years, in the Pasture of dead horses,
roots of pine trees pushed through the pale curves of your ribs,
yellow blossoms flourished above you in autumn, and in winter
frost heaved your bones in the ground – old toilers, soil makers:

O Roger, Mackerel, Riley, Ned, Nellie, Chester, Lady Ghost.

From The Selected Poems of Donald Hall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2018

June 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

New Online Journal
The CoveI am delighted to welcome a new Northern California online journal and to celebrate its launch (a month late) with all of you in the literary community. Kelly’s Cove Press founder, editor, publisher, poet and novelist Bart Schneider’s new project is The Cove Magazine, The first issue, appeared May 1, with art, poetry, and short fiction on the theme of the Fire. Among the writers and artists included were Katherine Hastings, Gwynn O’Gara, Dan Coshnear, Chester Arnold, Pat Nolan, Susan Griffin, and many more.

For its second issue, “The Art of Resistance,” Bart invites you to submit poems, short shorts, and brief essays that respond to the political and cultural climate of our time. Work need not reference particular individuals. Preference will be given to writing that wrestles with the problems of topical engagement. Please send work by July 15 to editor Bart Schneider at

Bart SchneiderBart Schneider was the founding editor of the Hungry Mind Review and Speakeasy Magazine. He is the author of five novels, including Blue Bossa, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Secret Love, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He lives in Berkeley.

Here are just a few of the many literary events coming up this month. For a full list, check the Calendar page.

Sitting Room’s Birthday Party
Sitting Room birthday cakeThe Sitting Room invites the literary community to celebrate its birthday with a garden party from 2-5 PM on Sunday June 3, featuring an amazing cake and even more amazing company. The day is also the launch of the Sitting Room’s 2018 publication Everyone Likes a Good Fairy Tale, and the readings therefrom. It is bound to be a subversive and even revolutionary reading! The Sitting Room, 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove;

Happy Birthday to Rivertown Poets, Too!
On Monday, June 4, Rivertown Poets will featuring two fabulous Bay Area poets—Alison Luterman and David Beckman—and celebrate five years as a monthly series. The reading begins at 6:15 PM, followed by open mic: three minutes or under. The readings are always on the first Monday of each month at the Aqus Cafe, 189 H Street in Petaluma. If you’d like to sign up to read, get there at 5:45. Enjoy a great meal or beverage while you’re there. The Aqus menu is wonderfully varied.

Maya Khosla to be Honored at the Board of Supervisors
In April, Sonoma County welcomed our new Poet Laureate Maya Khosla in a beautiful reception at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. This month, Maya will be formerly acknowledged by the Board of Supervisors with a resolution chock-full of “whereases” recognizing Maya’s accomplishments. Please join us for this ceremony on Tuesday, June 5 at 1:30 PM. Location is 575 Administration Drive, Room 100 A, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

On a related note, in June, the Store at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts will feature books by Maya and past poets laureate on display and for sale.

Daniel Ellsburg and Peter Coyote in Conversation
As part of series of events benefitting Literacy Works, Daniel Ellsburg and Peter Coyote will be at the Petaluma Veterans Memorial Auditorium on Sunday, June 10, 4:00 p.m. Featured book is The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. When former presidential advisor Daniel Ellsberg famously took the top-secret Pentagon Papers, he also took with him a cache of documents related to America’s nuclear program in the 1960s. The Doomsday Machine reveals the contents of those documents and their relevance for today. Look for details about tickets and location in the Literary Update’s June Calendar of Events.

Looking for a Creative Way to Start Your Week? Try Snoopy’s Writers!
You can meet with serious, good-natured writers weekly at Snoopy’s Warm Puppy Café Party Room. The meetings are free and have an “open library-like” creative atmosphere. You can read/discuss your “Work in Progress,” receive honest, unfiltered feedback from writers. Snoopy’s Home Ice Arena, 1667 West Steele Lane, Santa Rosa. The June meetings are June 4, 11, 18 and 25, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. For more information, contact Georgette,,

Phoenix: Out of Silence...And Then,Phoenix: Out of Silence—Poems of the October Firestorms (and more!)
On Saturday, June 16, 2:30–5:30 p.m. Redwood Writers hosts the 2018 Poetry Anthology launch party. Hear authors read their poems published in Phoenix: Out of Silence…And Then and celebrate the launch of the book. Bring your friends and family. Books will be available for $12. For address and RSVP form go to:

David Sedaris Coming to Copperfield’s
On Tuesday, June 26, 7:00 p.m., Copperfield’s presents David Sedaris, author of Calypso, his most deeply personal and hilarious book yet. This is not a ticketed event. Seating is available on a first come, first served basis and all are welcome. Copperfield’s Books, 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma. Details on the June Calendar of Events.


Poem for June

Goodnight, Great Summer Sky
by Rose Styron

Goodnight, great summer sky
world of my childhood and the star-struck sea.

White chaise from that ancestral southern
porch my raft,
white goose-down quilt my ballast,
under Orion on the green-waved lawn
I float, high—
new moon, old craft
tide strong as ever to the sheer horizon.

Over the seawall, on the dock
Andromeda their strict and jeweled guard
as tall Orion—seas and lawns ago—
chose to be mine,
our children sleep: Alexandra, Tom
under their folded goose-wing sails
true friends in dream,
the folly wrangle of their sibling day
outshone by starlight.

Calm island evening, never-ending sea—
our lovers’ rages, too, are quiet,

Miracle of midsummer, the trust of dark
sails us beyond this harbor.

Copyright © 1995 by Rose Styron. “Goodnight, Great Summer Sky” was originally published in By Vineyard Light (Rizzoli International Publications, 1995).

Rose Styron
Rose Styron is the author of four poetry collections: Fierce Day (Friesen Press, 2015), By Vineyard Light (Rizzoli, 1995), Thieves’ Afternoons (Viking, 1973), and From Summer to Summer (Viking, 1965). She has written introductions to Letters to My Father (Lousiana State University Press, 2009), a collection of letters written by her husband, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer William Styron, to his father, and The Selected Letters of William Styron (Random House, 2012), which she edited.

Enjoy the riches of the summer ahead. And don’t forget to vote on Tuesday!

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2018

May 2018

Congratulations to our New Laureate!

Maya KhoslaOn Sunday, April 29, our brilliant out-going Poet Laureate, Iris Jamahl Dunkle, crowned our new Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, at an elegant reception at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Maya spoke about her plans for a project combining poetry, film, and her expertise as a naturalist, and she showed a short film with exquisite footage of wildlife regeneration in the aftermath of fire with one of her original poems from her newest collection, Unknown World on Fire.

The SCA and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee were pleased to be able to present Maya with the first Poet Laureate Stipend of $1,000, and to thank Iris for her extended tenure with a gift of $300.

If you’d like to make a donation to the Poet Laureate fund and help support the program, contact Cynthi Stefenoni at

An Announcement and Invitation from Maya
On Tuesday, May 15 at 7:30 PM, Maya will be presenting post-fire photographs of the gorgeous recovering areas and reading poetry and presenting her Gold Spot film at the Luther Burbank Art and Garden Center at 2050 Yulupa Street in Santa Rosa. For details, here’s the link.

Maya will be a regular contributor to the Literary Update. Look for her Poet Laureate’s News page as a monthly feature starting in June. Upcoming in September and October are community readings she’ll be hosting at Pepperwood Preserve.

From Iris Jamahl Dunkle, an Invitation to Young Writers
Thursday, May 3, 3:30-5 p.m. Free writing workshop for pre-teens and teens with Iris Jamahl Dunkle. Teen Authors Program at the Rincon Valley Regional Library 6959 Montecito Blvd, Santa Rosa.

A Sitting Room Conversation with Elizabeth Rosner and Susan Griffin
Survivor Cafe Elizabeth KramerOn Sunday, May 6, 2 to 4 p.m., Sitting Room directors JJ Wilson and Karen Petersen  invite you to join them in welcoming well-known novelists, poets, and essayists Elizabeth Rosner and Susan Griffin. About the event, the directors say, “Non-fiction has been a somewhat neglected genre on our programs and so we are the more delighted to have these two practitioners of that useful and hospitable art visit with us this afternoon.  Elizabeth Rosner’s  2017 Survivor’s Café:  The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory is her first book of non-fiction.  We are fortunate indeed to have her here with her friend Susan Griffin who is a long time friend of The Sitting Room. Susan’s books are everywhere on our shelves, as her A story is told as much by silence as by speech. Susan Griffinsubjects and genres  vary so widely.  For example:  her Tony award winning play, Voices and then the classic study Women and Nature.  On May 3, she has chosen to talk about a book none of us have seen because it is not yet finished!  Its working title is  Strong Man and it is a rare experience to talk with an author about a work in progress.  Susan feels comfortable enough in the Sitting Room to do so. Lucky us.  Please come.  No need for reservations and no fee, of course, and all welcome.  Co-sponsored by the Alliance for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide.”

The Sitting Room is located at 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove, CA 94951. Directions, parking instructions and details about this and other events at

Road Worrier: Poems of the Inner and Outer Landscape—Sande Anfang’s New Chapbook
Road Worrier. Sandra AnfangFinishing Line Press has just released Sandra Anfang’s new chapbook, Road Worrier: Poems of the Inner and Outer Landscape. Most of you know Sandra as the director of the wonderful and always surprising Rivertown Poets at Aqus Café. I hope you’ll consider joining Sandra and me on Monday,  May 7 at 6:15. This will be a special book launch for Sandra, who will perform some improvisational duets with bass player Steve Shain.

This will also be an opportunity for me to share some of my recent translations of Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon, as well as new work from a three-year literary journey through Dante’s Divine Comedy. The reading begins at 6:15. Open mic follows the reading. You can get a lovely meal at Aquus, and if you’d like to join the open mic, be sure to get there to sign up by 5:45.

Celebration of the Life of Penelope La Montagne
Family and friends of Penelope La Montagne will be gathering on Friday, May 11 from 2-5 PM at Villa Chanticleer  in Healdsburg. If you so desire, please bring a favorite pie (sweet or savory) for the Pie Party Table! Penelope LOVED pie and made the most delicious pear pie from her beloved d’anjou pear tree. The location is 900 Chanticleer Way, Healdsburg, CA.

Doriane Laux Reading with Joshua Mensch May 17
Dorianne LauxMarin Poetry Center’s Third Thursdays presents Dorianne Laux, reading from her new and selected poems, Only As the Day is Long, and Joshua Mensch, founding editor of the online literary journal B O D Y, reading from BECAUSE, a lyric memoir. The reading will be at 7:30 PM at Falkirk Center, 1408 Mission St., San Rafael.

Shakespeare Costume Party?! Sounds Like a Hoot!
ShakespeareDress in your finest Shakespearean garb and head down to Copperfield’s Books Sunday, May 20, 2:00 p.m. for a Shakespeare Costume Party with Crispin Clarke, founder of Shakesprints. This Petaluma-based company celebrates Shakespeare by printing beautiful Shakespearean illustrations on all types of materials. At Copperfield’s, 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma. 

Poem for May
When I was a kid in Catholic school, we held a May Day coronation of Mary, with our very own May queen and king— more pagan than Christian, I think. We had a May altar decked with flowers. We also left baskets and bouquets of flowers on our neighbors’ doorsteps. When I was a little older, I got to see the European celebration of May Day as International Worker’s Day. And in honor of that tradition, here is a poem about the dignity of work, by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Naomi Shihab NyeLoving Working

     “We clean to give space for Art.”
        Micaela Miranda, Freedom Theatre, Palestine

Work was a shining refuge when wind sank its tooth
into my mind. Everything we love is going away,
drifting – but you could sweep this stretch of floor,
this patio or porch, gather white stones in a bucket,
rake the patch for future planting, mop the counter
with a rag. Lovely wet gray rag, squeeze it hard
it does so much. Clear the yard of blowing bits of plastic.
The glory in the doing. The breath of the doing.
Sometimes the simplest move kept fear from
fragmenting into no energy at all, or sorrow from
multiplying, or sorrow from being the only person
living in the house.

Copyright © by Naomi Shihab Nye

To hear the author reading her poem, use this link:

Terry Ehret, Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2018

April 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

Here’s the news for April.

Remembering Penelope La Montagne

Jigsaw Heart. Penelope la MontagneOn Friday, March 23, Sonoma County lost one of its brightest literary lights, Penelope La Montagne. Penelope was a poet, essayist, teacher, traveler, small business owner, and real estate agent who came to Healdsburg in 1989, fell in love with the Russian River and the people of Sonoma County, and made this her home. She served as Healdsburg’s Literary Laureate 2003-2005, taught poetry in the schools, volunteered for many years with the Sonoma County Book Festival and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee. The familiar image of Penelope standing in the river, book in hand, brings together the deep loves that stirred and inspired her.

I can’t remember a time since I moved to Sonoma County 28 years ago when I didn’t know Penelope. We worked together and read together on so many occasions, but I didn’t know that in 2011, Penelope joined a humanitarian trip to Pereira, Colombia, with an international nonprofit agency that brings volunteers to South America to perform free reconstructive surgeries for children with cleft palates and other medical needs. Although Penelope had no medical training, she could speak Spanish well, which made her an extremely valuable part of the team.

One of Penelope’s friends, Timothy Williams, remembered another occasion when Penelope’s healing hand touched a need in the community: On that terrible night of September 11, 2001, Penelope hosted an evening of poetry on public access TV in Santa Rosa. Timothy writes, “She held the moment, the evening, with that great empathy and compassion we have grown accustomed to.” Her niece, Patricia Gallagher, says that Penelope taught her “that magic is real and lives inside us all. . . . That’s how she lived, with her heart full of love, life, magic, and a light that was shared with so many.”

Penelope once wrote, “Perhaps the only way to transfer a wee worm of hope to another human being is to go out of your way to do a kindness for another. A split second extension of heart to hand or voice.” We can honor Penelope’s legacy by remembering these words and living by them.

Penelope’s family is planning a celebration of her life, which will be held in May, her birth month. In lieu of flowers, you might consider making a donation to The Russian Riverkeeper or signing up to help with fire recovery at this link:

I have included one of Penelope’s poems at the end of this post.

Sonoma County’s 10th Poet Laureate
Congratulations to Maya Khosla who was selected as Sonoma County’s newest Poet Laureate.

Maya KhoslaMaya is a poet and film maker whose efforts to film and create awareness about the high value of post-fire forests can be viewed at: Her field efforts have been supported by Patagonia and the Sacramento Audubon Society. She has written Web of Water: Life in Redwood Creek; Tapping the Fire, Turning the Steam: Securing the Future with Geothermal Energy; and Keel Bone (Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize from Bear Star Press) and has received writing awards from Flyway Journal, and Headlands Center for the Arts. Maya is one of the newest members of Sixteen Rivers Press. Her manuscript Unknown World on Fire was selected for publication in 2019.

In a time of recovery from the devastating October firestorms, Maya’s proposal to lead a poet-laureate “Natural Legacy” project is particularly timely. The project has three aspects: “Local Legacy,” creating a series of readings in open spaces; “Global Legacy,: creating an exchange program between local writers and Nagaland, India; and a film bringing these two legacies together.

Congratulations to the Outstanding Finalists and Candidates

Fran ClaggettPhyllis Meshulam

Donna EmersonOn behalf of the Poet Laureate Selection Committee, I also want to extend our heartfelt congratulations to the finalists, Fran Claggett, Phyllis Meshulam, and Donna Emerson, as well as to candidates Julia Park Tracey and Jessica Malone Latham. Sonoma County is indeed fortunate to have so many qualified and talented poets step forward for this important role in our literary community.

Poet Laureate Reception on April 29
The Poet Laureate Selection Committee will honor Maya at a reception at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts on Sunday, April 29 at 3-5 PM. Maya will be formally recognized by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, May 8, at 1:30 PM. The literary community is invited to join us for both of these events.

We will also be honoring our outgoing Laureate, Iris Dunkle, whose remarkable literary leadership and passion for local history have inispired us for more than two years. Past poet laureate Mike Tuggle and selection committee member Penelope La Montage will also be remembered at the reception.

Celebrate National Poetry Month: WordTemple and Favorite Poem Readings
On the weekend of April 14/15, Sebastopol Center for the Arts will be the site for two literary events: Wordtemple reading hosted by Gregg Randall, and featuring Jodi Hottell, Rosa Lane, and Sharon Doubiago on Saturday, April 14 at 7 PM; and the Favorite Poem reading, hosted by Jodi Hottel, on Sunday, April 15 at 2 PM. See the April calendar of events for details.

Thank You and Bon Voyage to Katherine Hastings
As many of you already know, Katherine Hastings and her partner Kathy moved last month from Santa Rosa to Grand Island, New York. I know many of us feel deeply indebted to Katherine for her many years of hosting the WordTemple Reading Series and radio program on KRCB. Katherine’s genius was to bring together writers both local and national and to create a special place in the North Bay where readers and writers could come together in celebration of the word. Katherine also brought writers together in her anthologies What Redwoods Know, Digging Our Poetic Roots, and Know Me Here, and served as Sonoma County’s Poet Laureate from 2014-15. We will miss you, Katherine, and wish you all the best in your new home!

Aquainted with the Night
Kate Willens
Sebastopol poet and musician Kate Magdalena Willens has just released a new CD called Acquainted With the Night, with 13 original songs, 5 of them poems. About the music CD, Willens writes , “This is really two interwoven albums, each touching upon the theme of ‘night.’ There is evocative poetry set to music, and there are songs of political, environmental, and personal darkness. There are three Yeats poems, one Frost poem, and a poem by John Masefield set to music. The title song is from Frost’s “Acquainted With the Night.” There are also some songs protesting the state of the natural world, calling for its protection, and for the protection of our bodies from GMOs.”

The album is available on Spotify. You can also visit where the songs are available or the website

Kate will be performing in a Peacetown Concert at the Community Center Annex on May 25 at 7 pm.

Poem for April
You can listen to Penelope read her poem at this link:

by Penelope La Montagne

When people ask me what’s new, I tell them
I have a hummingbird nest in my pear tree.
My theory of everything defines this as perfection,
a reward
for good living, the ultimate gift
where nature chooses you back, makes your
yard the home place of the tiniest New World bird.
The little
who crowns the lichen ball
senses the nectar in me and does a wing ballet
inches from my face as I sit on the
slider and rock.
My heart quickens so as to true up to that racing beat.
There is a kind of
in this.
Only straight on can I see the ruby drop on her throat.
All the love inside me is well met
in the whir and thrum of that manic little heart.


Terry Ehret,
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2018

March 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

Here’s the news for March!


Poetry Out Loud in Sonoma County

by Phyllis Meshulam

I know I said this last year, but this year actually was the 11th annual Poetry Out Loud (POL) Sonoma county-wide competition. If you’re not familiar with it, POL is a nationwide poetry recitation program for high school students. It starts in the classroom when students choose poems from an online anthology to memorize. It proceeds all the way to nationwide contests in Washington D.C. in April each year. The idea for the program came from Sonoma County’s Dana Gioia during his time as head of the National Endowment for the Arts. For the first time this year, our event took place at the Sonoma County Central Library, a very welcoming and upbeat venue. It happened on the evening of February 12.

Sarah ConcelloSarah Condello has represented Analy High School for three years in the county-wide Poetry Out Loud competition. This year she took away top honors at our local contest and she will represent Sonoma County on March 18 at the Crest Theater in Sacramento (4 pm) and on March 19 in the State Capitol Assembly Chamber where rounds 2 and 3 will take place, starting at 8:30 that morning. Sarah’s selected poems are “The Mortician in San Fancisco” by Randall Mann, “Where the Wild Things Go,” by D. Gilson, and “Epitaph” by Katherine Philips.

Diana Macias of Casa Grande High School was our runner-up, Mia Fleisher-de-Kozan of Santa Rosa High School came in 3rd, and Nayelli Rios of Roseland University Prep was 4th. There were twelve high schools participating.

Sarah writes of her experience, “Poetry Out Loud has fostered my growth from a shy, frightened Freshman to the confident person who I am today. I have vastly improved my speaking skills and read some beautiful poetry along the way.”


Watch for These March Calendar Events

There are several readings coming up this month I’d like to give a special shout-out for.

Ed CollettiDonna EmersonEd Colletti and Donna Emerson will be reading on Saturday, March 10, 1:30-3:30 p.m. at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma. The reading will celebrate Ed’s new poems and Donna’s first full-length poetry book, The Place of Our Meeting. Hosted by Susan Bono. At 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma. For more details, see:

Abigail Samoun Children’s Book Publishing Process Revealed on Thursday, March 15, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Writers Forum presents Abigail Samoun at Copperfield’s, 140 Kentucky St. Free. Details:

Kathleen WinterDean Radar



Poets Kathleen Winter, Dean Rader, and Phyllis Meshulam will be reading on Saturday, March 17, 7:00 p.m. as part of WordTemple Poetry Series at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 S. High St., Sebastopol. Santa Rosa poet Greg Randall hostsDetails forthcoming at:

Know Me HereReading for the anthology Know Me Here on Saturday, March 24, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books in Novato The evening will be emceed by Terry Ehret. For those anthology poets who would like to participate in the reading, please contact Terry at Copperfield’s is located at 999 Grant Avenue in Novato.

Local Summer Writing Conferences

March is a great time to be thinking about attending a writing conference this summer. Luckily, we have two in neighboring Mendocino and Napa Counties that are terrific. I’ve attended both multiple times, both as a participant and a presenter, and can highly recommend the experience for writers at all stages in their careers.

Napa Valley Writers Conference facultyJuly 29-August 3 Napa Valley Writers Conference. Applications are open now through April 1, 2018.

Faculty for the 2018 conference include Camille Dungy, Brenda Hillman, Jane Mead, and Carl Phillips, and fiction writers Lan Samantha Chang, Lauren Groff, Mat Johnson, and Howard Norman. For application information and details, visit the website at

August 2-4  Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference. This is a vibrant gathering that offers morning workshops in a wide range of genres, relevant to differing experience levels—from a dedicated emerging writers’ workshop to a juried-in master class. Afternoons are packed with craft seminars, pitch panels, one-on-one consultations, and open mics; and every evening offers an opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie and connection that make this conference, in the words of a 2016 participant, “life changing.” An add-on or stand-alone publishing bootcamp is offered the day after the conference for all those interested in learning more about the business-end of writing.

A range of scholarships are available to make the conference accessible to writers from diverse backgrounds and to reward writing of outstanding merit. Each scholarship is awarded on the basis of merit to a recipient who meets the eligibility criteria of that scholarship.

Conference faculty include Elizabeth Rosner, Susan Bono, Indigo Moor, Linda Joy Meyers, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Vanessa Hua, Shanthi Shekaran, Elizabeth McKenzie, and others. Registration opens March 1: For details, check out the website:

Poem for March

Lucille CliftonMarch is Women’s History Month and February was Black History Month. As I write this, straddling the two occasions, I offer this short poem by Lucille Clifton. To hear it in the poet’s own voice, click here:

Let there be new flowering

let there be new flowering
in the fields let the fields
turn mellow for the men
let the men keep tender
through the time let the time
be wrested from the war
let the war be won
let love be
at the end

* * *
“Let there be new flowering” from good woman: poems and a memoir 1969-1980 by Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1987. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2018

February 2018

Dear literary folk,

Poetry Out Loud Returns
Poetry Out LoudThe annual Poetry Out Loud County-wide competition returns this month on Monday, February 12 from 6-9 PM. The event this year will be in a new location: Forum Room, Central Library, 211 E. St., Santa Rosa. As in years past, the evening will feature high school students from across the county, and promises an engaging evening of timeless poetry and inspiring recitations. Check the County News page for details.

Fire-Relief Fundraiser at Bird and Beckett
Poet laureates at Bird and BeckettOn January 14, California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia joined four Sonoma County Poets Laureate—Gwynn O’Gara, Iris Dunkle, Bill Vartnaw, and myself—for a reading at Bird and Beckett Bookstore in San Francisco to raise funds for writers in our county who lost their homes in the October fires. The first money raised at last month’s event will go to Ed Colletti, Sally and Shane Weare, Lynne Trombetta, Karl Frederick, and Arthur Dawson. The laureate team is planning future readings, and we’d like to know of any writers we can add to our list. Please send their names and contact information to

The Super-Blood-Blue-Moon
blood moonI hope you all were able to catch the “Lunar Trifecta” yesterday morning. If January’s moon inspired you to write, please send us your poems, stories, or essays to include in next month’s update.

Remembering Three Great Writers
This past month we have lost three writers whose work has had a profound influence on the literary world, albeit in different ways: John Oliver Simon, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Nicanor Parra. It’s likely you’ve heard of LeGuin and may be familiar with her work. On the days following her death, there were many tributes to her life on air and in print, but quite possibly you aren’t as familiar with Simon and Parra. I’ll provide a brief (and somewhat personal) introduction to each, with links to discover more.

John Oliver SimonJohn Oliver Simon was one of the legendary poets of the Berkeley Sixties. A fifth-generation Californian born in New York City in 1942, he wrote his first poem under a full moon in 1956. While at Cal and after, he was active in the Free Speech Movement and in the famous struggle to liberate Berkeley’s People’s Park. As an educator, Simon has devoted himself to teaching children to write poetry. He was a teacher and board member with California Poets in the Schools, and in 2013, he was named the River of Words Teacher of the Year by former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass. Simon was also a noted translator specializing in contemporary Latin American poetry.

I knew John as a colleague in the California Poets in the Schools Program, and found his passion for translation a source of admiration and inspiration, especially since he came to this aspect of his poetic work at age 40. It reminds us all not to set aside what we love. Nurture it, and it will find a way into our lives at the right time.

John passed away on January 16 at the age of 75. His life and work will be celebrated in a memorial this Saturday, February 3, at 2 p.m. Location: Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oarkland. To learn more about John Oliver Simon, check this link:

Ursula LaGuinAt the moment I learned about Ursula K. LeGuin’s death, I had just left my classroom where I’d been telling my students about her visionary writing and my great pleasure in having the chance to study with her. Like many of LeGuin’s readers and students, I felt the loss personally and deeply. Some of us who met her at Flight of the Mind on the banks of the wild MacKenzie in the Oregon Cascades remembered her whimsical humor, her measured wisdom, and her inspiration. But most of all, we felt a shared gratitude for the way she made us feel the work we were doing was important. LeGuin passed away on January 22. She was 88.

When JJ Wilson and Karen Petersen offered me the chance to present a one-day workshop on LeGuin last year, I couldn’t have been more delighted. Among the examples of her work I shared last March were her 2014 speech for the National Book Awards and her haunting short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” You can hear these in audio/videofiles at these links:

You can browse LeGuin’s website for samples of her novels, stories, essays, and poems, as well as links a host of other resources:

Nicanor Segundo Parra SandovalThough perhaps lesser known in the U.S., the third writer we have lost is the Chilean poet, mathematician, and physicist Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval. Parra, a contemporary of Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo, and Gabriella Mistral, was the son of a schoolteacher and came from a family of performers, musicians, artists and writers. He taught theoretical physics and published dozens of books.  He described himself as an “anti-poet,” due to his distaste for standard poetic pomp, his colloquial style and tone, and his controversial political stance: he was disillusioned with Chile’s socialist president, Salvador Allende, but also took aim at the human rights abuses carried out by the rightist regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. His first collection, Poemas y Antipoemas (1954), written while he was studying cosmology at Oxford University, is now a classic of Latin American literature, one of the most influential Spanish poetry collections of the twentieth century. Last week, the New York Times posted an excellent article on Parra, which you can find at this link:

My own acquaintance with Parra’s work came indirectly from a poem by Carolyn Kizer, “October 1973,” which begins, “Last night I dreamed I ran through the streets of New York/Looking for you, Nicanor,” and concludes with these lines:

And the connection is broken, because I wake up,
in this white room, in this white silence,
in this backwater of silence
on this Isla Blanca:
Nicanor, Nicanor,
are you, too, silent under the earth,
Bother? Brother?

When I read this at the annual Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading a few years ago, confessing I couldn’t identify the person invoked by name, “Nicanor,” local poet Beatrice Lagos told me about this great writer whom she had known. Parra died on January 23 in Santiago de Chile, at the age of 103.

On that day, friend and poet Peggy Shumaker responded on her Facebook page with these simple words: “We lived in the time of Ursula LeGuin and Nicanor Parra.” I would add John Oliver Simon’s name to that list of great writers we were privileged to know in our time.

Poem for February
In memory of Ursula K. LeGuin, I’ve chosen this poem from her collection Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems 1960-2010 (Houghlin Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), and her essay “The Election, Lao Tsu, a Cup of Water,” posted on her website in the days after the 2016 election.

American Wars
By Ursula K. LeGuin

Like the topaz in the toad’s head
the comfort in the terrible histories
was up front, easy to find:
Once upon a time in a kingdom far away.

Even to the dreadful now of news
we listened comforted
by far time-zones, languages we didn’t speak,
the wide, forgetful oceans.

Today, no comfort but the jewel courage.
The war is ours, now, here, it is our republic
facing its own betraying terror.
And how we tell the story is forever after.

The Election, Lao Tzu, a Cup of Water

Americans have voted for a politics of fear, anger, and hatred, and those of us who oppose this politics are now trying to figure out how we can oppose it usefully. I want to defend my country, my republic. In the atmosphere of fear, anger, and hatred, opposition too easily becomes division, fixed enmity. I’m looking for a place to stand, or a way to go, where the behavior of those I oppose will not control my behavior.

Americans are given to naming enemies and declaring righteous war against them. Indians are the enemy, socialism is the enemy, cancer is the enemy, Jews are the enemy, Muslims are the enemy, sugar is the enemy. We don’t support education, we declare a war on illiteracy. We make war on drugs, war on Viet Nam, war on Iraq, war on obesity, war on terror, war on poverty. We see death, the terms on which we have life, as an enemy that must be defeated at all costs.

Defeat for the enemy, victory for us, aggression as the means to that end: this obsessive metaphor is used even by those who know that aggressive war offers no solution, and has no end but desolation.

The election of 2016 was one of the battles of the American Civil War. The Trump voters knew it, if we didn’t, and they won it. Their victory helps me see where my own thinking has been at fault.

I will try never to use the metaphor of war where it doesn’t belong, because I think it has come to shape our thinking and dominate our minds so that we tend to see the destructive force of aggression as the only way to meet any challenge. I want to find a better way.


My song for many years was We Shall Overcome. I will always love that song, what it says and the people who have sung it, with whom I marched singing. But I can’t march now, and I can’t sing it any longer.

My song is Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.

Though we’ve had some great scholars of peace, such as Martin Luther King, studying it is something Americans have done very little of.

The way of the warrior admits no positive alternatives to fighting, only negatives — inertia, passivity, surrender. Talk of “waging peace” is mere glibness, you can’t be aggressively peaceful. Reducing positive action to fighting against or fighting for, we have not looked at the possibility of other forms of action.

Like the people who marched to Selma, the people who are standing their ground at Standing Rock study, learn, and teach us the hard lessons of peace. They are not making war. They are resolutely non-violent. They are seeking a way out of the traps of anger, hatred, enmity. They are actively trying to get free, to be free, and by their freedom, free others as well.

Studying peace means in the first place unlearning the vocabulary of war, and that’s very difficult indeed. Isn’t it right to fight against injustice? Isn’t that what Selma and Standing Rock are — brave battles for justice?

I think not. Brave yes; battles no. Refusing to engage an aggressor on his terms, standing ground, holding firm, is not aggression — though the aggressive opponent will always declare that it is. Refusing to meet violence with violence is a powerful, positive act.

But that is paradoxical. It’s hard to see how not doing something can be more positive than doing something. When all the words we have to use are negative — inaction, nonviolence, refusal, resistance, evasion — it’s hard to see and keep in mind that the outcome of these so-called negatives is positive, while the outcome of the apparently positive act of making war is negative.

We confuse self-defense, the reaction to aggression, with aggression itself. Self-defense is a necessary and morally defensible reaction.

But defending a cause without fighting, without attacking, without aggression, is not a reaction. It is an action. It is an expression of power. It takes control.

Reaction is controlled by the power it reacts against. The people who at present claim to be conservatives aren’t conservatives at all, they are radical reactionaries. The position of the reactionary is not that of the agent, but that of the victim. The reactionary tends always toward paranoia, seeing himself as the obsessive object of vast malevolent forces and entities, fearing enemies everywhere, in anyone he doesn’t understand and can’t control, in every foreigner, in his own government.

Many contemporary Republicans have permanently assumed the position of victim, which is why their party has no positive agenda, and why they whine so much.

The choice to act, rather than react, breaks the paralysis of fear and the vicious circle of aggression, frees us go forward, onward.


We have glamorized the way of the warrior for millennia. We have identified it as the supreme test and example of courage, strength, duty, generosity, and manhood. If I turn from the way of the warrior, where am I to seek those qualities? What way have I to go?

Lao Tzu says: the way of water.

The weakest, most yielding thing in the world, as he calls it, water chooses the lowest path, not the high road. It gives way to anything harder than itself, offers no resistance, flows around obstacles, accepts whatever comes to it, lets itself be used and divided and defiled, yet continues to be itself and to go always in the direction it must go. The tides of the oceans obey the moon while the great currents of the open sea keep on their ways beneath. Water deeply at rest is yet always in motion; the stillest lake is constantly, invisibly transformed into vapor, rising in the air. A river can be dammed and diverted, yet its water is incompressible: it will not go where there is not room for it. A river can be so drained for human uses that it never reaches the sea, yet in all those bypaths and usages its water remains itself and pursues its course, flowing down and on, above ground or underground, breathing itself out into the air in evaporation, rising in mist, fog, cloud, returning to earth as rain, refilling the sea. Water doesn’t have only one way. It has infinite ways, it takes whatever way it can, it is utterly opportunistic, and all life on earth depends on this passive, yielding, uncertain, adaptable, changeable element.

The death way or the life way? The high road of the warrior, or the river road?


I know what I want. I want to live with courage, with compassion, in patience, in peace.

The way of the warrior fully admits only the first of these, and wholly denies the last.

The way of the water admits them all.

The flow of a river is a model for me of courage that can keep me going — carry me through the bad places, the bad times. A courage that is compliant by choice and uses force only when compelled, always seeking the best way, the easiest way, but if not finding any easy way still, always, going on.

The cup of water that gives itself to thirst is a model for me of the compassion that gives itself freely. Water is generous, tolerant, does not hold itself apart, lets itself be used by any need. Water goes, as Lao Tzu says, to the lowest places, vile places, accepts contamination, accepts foulness, and yet comes through again always as itself, pure, cleansed, and cleansing.

Running water and the sea are models for me of patience: their easy, steady obedience to necessity, to the pull of the moon in the sea-tides and the pull of the earth always downward; the immense power of that obedience.

I have no model for peace, only glimpses of it, metaphors for it, similes to what I cannot fully grasp and hold. Among them: a bowl of clear water. A boat drifting on a slow river. A lake among hills. The vast depths of the sea. A drop of water at the tip of a leaf. The sound of rain. The sound of a fountain. The bright dance of the water-spray from a garden hose, the scent of wet earth.

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


P.S. A special request from Jo-Anne Rosen:
I plan to be away twice this year on month-long travels and am hoping someone in the literary community might volunteer to update the WordPress blog site and monthly MailChimp newsletter in my absence. This would include monitoring our email account (it’s on gmail) and posting announcements on the blog site. I’ll be glad to train some computer-savvy writer in your home or at an Internet cafe. I’ll likely be gone from last week in April to last week in May, and again in September/October. So there’s time to learn the process. And possibly share tasks in the future. Write to me at, if interested.

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2018

January 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

Help Us Choose Who Will Be Sonoma County’s 10th Poet Laureate.
Our first task for the new year will be to resume the search for a new Poet Laureate of Sonoma County. As a result of the October fires, the deadline for has been extended to January 15, 2018. You can nominate a fellow Sonoma County poet, and self-nominate, if you’d like the opportunity to serve. Check the County News Page for details about the nomination process. All nominations are welcome, and those the Poet Laureate Selection Committee received back in October and November will be considered equally with those that come in this month.

You can download the submission requirements and application form from the Center for the Arts’ website at 

New Year’s Poetry Brunch
New Year's Day brunchNew Year's Day brunch, ElenaAs in years past, about 40 friends and writers gathered at our home on New Year’s Day to welcome the new year with conversation, a pot-luck brunch, and a sharing of poems. Some have been coming to this gathering for years, like young Elena, who has grown up with the tradition; others were new to the event. It’s always an inspiring mix.

Carol Hoorn, who’s been a regular at the event for years, shared these thoughts: Listening to words that spoke of New Year's Day brunch (Carol Hoorn)pain, sorrow, loss, courage, integrity, awareness of Nature’s beauty and its ability to both threaten, and at times destroy lives, as well as to heal and bring joy, acknowledgement that human kind holds these same elements. Words that motivate and inspire each of us to live fully and completely, each on our own journey, each desiring a kinder, gentler, compassionate world, ever increasing civility and caring that all lives, world wide, human, animal, plants and the inanimate, receive nourishment and encouragement.

If you’d like to receive an e-mail announcement of this next year, let me know, and I’ll add you to the list. You can contact me at

January is a Month for Celebrating the Spoken/Performed Word
This month, several events focus on the many fine storytellers in our community, in the oral, dramatic, and written traditions. You’ll find details about these and more on the Calendar Page.

Books on Stage at Cloverdale PAC
Cloverdale Performing Arts Center launches an expanded “Books on Stage” event, “Telling the Story,” as a part of its 2018 “Building the Community through the Arts” season. The event is Wednesday, January 10, 7:00 p.m. “Telling the Story” brings the ages-old tradition of oral story-telling, currently undergoing resurgence and re-invention, to the stage.

“Connections” by Off the Page Readers Theater
We’re all connected by blood, friendship, location, history or just plain curiosity. Why do we need the connections? What do they mean? We have no idea…. but we’re here to show you what 12 local writers have to say about the theme. Featuring the work of: Sandra Anfang, Robin Beeman, Susan Bono, John Christian, Sher Lianne Christian, Chuck Kensler, Susanna Solomon, Elizabeth Stark, Michelle Wing [now in New Mexico], Rebecca Young Winslow, Brooke Harris Wolff [now in Los Angeles], Natasha Yim. Music by Hank Levine. Friday, January 19 and Saturday, January 20, 7:00 p.m. At Copperfield’s Sebastopol. On Friday, January 26 and Saturday, January 27 at Copperfield’s Santa Rosa, musician Pi Jacobs opens the show.

Read Aloud! at the Sitting Room
The Sitting Room invites you to a special event at 7 PM on January 20. Roberts Road Readers is an informal group that has met for over 25 years to share the Spoken Word. They invite you to come and read, or just listen, and become a regular participant. The program is unplanned. People may bring a poem or two, a morsel from a novel or nonfiction essay, a private rant, or some original writing. There may even be a short play. Try to keep your selection at 10 minutes or less. Otherwise, no rules. It’s a great way to enjoy language and learn about new writers and books. Or do your knitting while being entertained in a new way. We start with a potluck at 7, and break for dessert. Questions? E-mail Clarice Stasz.

Wolf Moon, Blue Moon, Blood Moon
super moonThe first full moon of the year is named after howling wolves. In some cultures, it is known as the Old Moon, Ice Moon, and Snow Moon. Last night’s Wolf Moon (on the night between 1 and 2) was a supermoon, and the closest the moon will come to the earth in 2018. Another lunar event will come on January 31, the second full moon in the one month, referred to as a Blue Moon. This blue moon will actually be blood-red in color, since there will be a lunar eclipse that night when the moon passes through the shadow cast by the earth. If this month’s moons inspire you to write, please send us your poems, stories, or essays to include in next month’s update. Your solar eclipse and fire poems can be perused on the update archives, as can your drought poems from years past.

Poem for January
Because January is bringing us a lunar show, and because we’re all experiencing a profound cultural shift in awareness about the treatment of women, for January’s poem, I’ve selected “Moon for Our Daughters,” by Annie Finch.


Moon for Our Daughters

Moon that is linking our daughters’
Choices, and still more beginnings,
Threaded alive with our shadows,

These are our bodies’ own voices,
Powers of each of our bodies,
Threading, unbroken, begetting

Flowers from each of our bodies.
These are our spiraling borders
Carrying on your beginnings,

Chaining through shadows to daughters,
Moving beyond our beginnings,
Moon of our daughters, and mothers.

Copyright © 2016 by Annie Finch. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.


A fulfilling and creative new year to all of you,
Terry Ehret,
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2017

December 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

Sonoma County’s Revolution of Compassion
Rebecca Solnit and Peter CoyoteLast Wednesday evening, November 29, Copperfield’s in Petaluma hosted a reading and conversation with Rebecca Solnit and Peter Coyote, which was also a fund-raiser for, a nonprofit assisting undocumented victims of the recent fires.

Solnit read from her 2010 book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, and Peter Coyote, now a resident of Sebastopol, spoke of his experiences in the 1960’s with The Diggers, an anarchist activist group in the Haight-Ashbury.

The focus of the evening was the spontaneous altruism and activism that arises from disaster: people coming together to help in ways that circumvent the red-tape of government or institutions. Coyote exhorted Sonoma County to look at the devastation of the fires as an opportunity to radically redefine our relationship to community, to government, and to each other. Solnit and Coyote invited those in the audience who experienced first-hand this revolution of compassion to share their stories, suggestions, and questions about how to move forward without losing the vision of community forged by the fires.

Solnit spent some time in Sonoma County in the aftermath of the fires, and wrote a piece for the New Yorker , which not only brought the scope of the fires to the nation’s attention, but also spotlighted Sonoma County’s remarkable community of kindness. Here’s the link, if you’d like to read it:

In the Wake of the Firestorm
Arch in Tubbs Fire burn areaI want to extend my personal thanks to all who helped organize the “Rising from the Ashes” community poetry reading last month; to the members of our literary community who read their poems and shared their experience of exile and loss; to Jean Wong and Marc Helfman for their moving rendition of Mozart; and to the standing-room-only crowd that came together on November 12 to hold a space of comfort and shared strength.

Deadline for Sonoma County Poet Laureate Nominations Extended
NEW DEADLINE for nominations: January 15, 2018

Due to the destruction and disruption of the fires which recently ravaged Sonoma County, the nomination period for Sonoma County’s 10th Poet Laureate has been extended to January 15, 2018.  This change was made after serious deliberation by the Poet Laureate Selection Committee out of concern for those in the literary community still dealing with the impact of the firestorm.  Nominations already received will be considered equally with those to come. The 10th Poet Laureate will be presented to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in March and to the public at the beginning of April, 2018. The position includes a stipend of $1,000.

Please download the submission requirements and application form from the Center for the Arts website at

For more information contact Cynthi Stefenoni at or call the Sebastopol Center for the Arts at 707-829-4797.

Iris Dunkle’s Project and Reading: Documenting the Stories from the Fire
Because of the April date for the installation of the new Poet Laureate, whoever that may be, in the months ahead, Iris Jamahl Dunkle will be partnering with the Sonoma Historical Society, the Sebastopol Center for the Arts and other partners to collect stories about the fire and write poems based on the stories.  If you have a story you would like to share, or, if you are interested in participating in this project, please email:

Sonoma County Wildfires Anthology – Call for Submissions
This call for poetry and photography is from haiku poet Jessica Malone Latham and community activist and environmental advocate Kristin Maharg Suarez. The anthology aims to give Sonoma County residents a forum to share their voice and create a breathing piece of history. Deadline for submissions is December 31, 2017. Please see Calls for Submissions page for details.

Upcoming Literary Events
Check out our calendar page for listings of literary events for December and January. Here are two I’d like to give a special shout-out to.

On Saturday, December 9, 2:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 10, 6:00 p.m., The Vocal Conspiracy, an older adult readers theatre company, presents its premiere show, A Vocal Conspiracy Holiday, at the 6th Street Playhouse Studio Theatre. Tickets $10.00. See details on the calendar page for purchasing tickets.

And on Monday, December 11, 6:00-8:30 p.m., you’ll have a chance to dine with local authors at Gaia’s Garden, 1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. Come join us to hear six authors read from their latest books. For reservations: or 544-2491 minimum $5.00 food purchase.

And don’t forget the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, running weekends through December 17, an annual event at the Cow Palace in Brisbane, where you can enjoy the literary characters from Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” and other Victorian figures in live, interactive performances. My own personal favorite activity at the fair is to listen to Charles Dickens reading from his classic Christmas tale in various locations throughout the recreated London. This year, he was introduced by Lewis Carol, reciting “The Walrus and the Carpenter. It’s great fun! Here’s the link for upcoming dates and tickets:

NEA Translation Grant
Earlier this year, Trump’s proposed budget left the NEA with only enough funds to close up shop. Fortunately, our Congress pushed back and restored funds for the NEA to award fellowships grants for creative writing and for translation.

I’m pleased and honored to announce that the project I submitted for translating Plagios, the poems of Mexican poet Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon, has been awarded a grant. I’ll share this honor and the $12,500 award with my co-editors, Nancy J. Morales and John Johnson.

These funds will help support our translation work. We aim to publish the first volume of Plagios in 2020.

Writer’s Almanac Comes to an End
An unfortunate fallout from the astonishing shift in consciousness regarding sexual harassment of women is that we’ve lost one of the shining beacons of literacy in our county: The Writer’s Almanac, hosted by Garrison Keillor.

For years, I’ve started my day with poetry posts from the Almanac, along with the “Poem a Day” from, and Larry Robinson’s inspirational poetry selection of the day—which always seems to touch some nerve inside I didn’t even know I was feeling. My diet will be thinner now. The poem I’ve selected to end this month’s post appeared on the Writer’s Almanac on October 23.

When I read Paul Zimmer’s poem, the images called to mind the miracle of spontaneous kindness Solnit documents in A Paradise Built in Hell, as well as the vision of Paradise as a realm of light which Dante offer us. I salute our community for rising so selflessly and generously to meet the needs of others during the fires and in all the weeks since. Here’s to holding that vision of the revolution of compassion in our days, weeks, years ahead.

Poem for December

The Place
by Paul Zimmer

Once in your life you pass
Through a place so pure
It becomes tainted even
By your regard, a space
Of trees and air where
Dusk comes as perfect ripeness.
Here the only sounds are
Sighs of rain and snow,
Small rustlings of plants
As they unwrap in twilight.
This is where you will go
At last when coldness comes.
It is something you realize
When you first see it,
But instantly forget.
At the end of your life
You remember and dwell in
Its faultless light forever.

“The Place” by Paul Zimmer from Crossing to Sunlight Revisited. © The University of Georgia Press, 2007.

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »