Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2016

August 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

Grammar Lives!

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

Tuggle and Patrascu at Aqus Café

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

Two Autumns Haiku Reading

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

for me going
        for you staying—
        two autumns

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

Featured Writer this Month—Susan Hagen

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

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

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

Poem for August

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

Forché includes  this information about Soyinka’s life:


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

I Think It Rains

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

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

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

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

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


Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

Remembering Adelle Foley

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

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

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

Missing Gor Yaswen

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

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

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

Some Highlights of Our July Events

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

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

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

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

Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


by Gor Yaswen

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

Posted by: wordrunner | June 2, 2016

June 1, 2016

Dear literary folk,

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

Sitting Room Birthday Party and a Chance to Ride The Waves

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

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

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

Off the Page Readers Theater

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

June Featured Writer: Marlene Cullen

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

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

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

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

Lend Poetry Flash a Hand

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

Here’s the Kickstarter link:

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

Northern California Book Awards

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

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

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

All This Life, Joshua Mohr, Soft Skull Press

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

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

Times Beach, John Shoptaw, University of Notre Dame Press

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

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

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

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

Translation Project Resumes!

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


Foto: Rodulfo Gea

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


Poem for June

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

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

June Light

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

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

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


Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2016

May 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Rebecca Foust

                               letter to my transgender daughter

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

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

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

Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | April 2, 2016

April 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

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

AWP National Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2016

March 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

—Phyllis Meshulam

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

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

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

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc site

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

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

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update



The Larger
by Joanie Mackowski

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

Source: Poetry (October 2003).

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

Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2016

February 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

Poet Laureate News
Dana GioiaIn celebratory news, we have two Poet Laureate announcements. First, Sonoma County poet Dana Gioia was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to serve as California’s State Poet Laureate. In recent interviews, Gioia said, “As a poet and a Californian I’m honored and delighted to represent this beautiful state. It’s very emotional for me. I was born in California. My place has asked me to serve my art.”

Gioia said that he hasn’t decided on a specific project yet, but he’s toying with the idea of visiting the 44 counties that promote the California Poetry Out Loud program, which he spearheaded during his time as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The program encourages high school students to compete in reciting poetry, exposing them both to creative expression as well as public speaking. See the information below about the upcoming Poetry Out Loud Competition on February 15 where Gioia will be one of the special guests.

Dunkle18-photo 2-3Dunkle19-photo 1-2Dunkle1-16-photo 4-3Second, Iris Jamahl Dunkle was formally installed at the ninth Sonoma County Poet Laureate at a reception Sunday at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Katherine Hastings did the honors of crowning Iris with her laurel wreath and giving her a warm, gracious, and insightful introduction; Iris then read from her newest publication, There’s a Ghost in the Machine of Air. Iris will be giving a number of readings locally (check the calendar page for details), including a reading with former Poet Laureate Mike Tuggle at Occidental Center for the Arts on Friday, February 5.

Check the Poet Laureate News page for Iris’s monthly updates, and check out her feature called “Poet’s Corner,” which will appear bi-weekly in the Press Democrat.

Poetry Out Loud
Mark your calendars for Monday, February 15, 6:30-9:00 PM for the annual Poetry Out Loud Competition, featuring winners of Sonoma County high school contests in oral poetry recitation. The event will be held once again at the Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. Dana Gioia will be one of the special guests.

Poetry of Love
The annual Healdsburg Literary Guild-sponsored Poetry Valentine will be held at the Healdsburg Regional Library, Center and Piper Streets, in the Forum Room on Wednesday, February 10, 6:00-8:00 p.m. The event is free, and open to the public. This annual festival of love-poetry and chocolates, the Guild’s literary love-gift to the community, will feature the love-poems of 21 poets, whose poems will appear in a chapbook, Textures of Love, published by the Guild for this occasion, and available for purchase at the event. For more information, see February’s Calendar of Events.

Rumi’s Caravan
For an experience of poetry, passion, live music, and dervish dancing performed in the ecstatic tradition, join Rumi’s Caravan on Saturday, February 6 at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa. The first event is at 2 PM “An Afternoon Delight” (tickets $25); the evening program ,“Rumi by Night ($35) begins at 7 PM. Tickets can be purchased at Many Rivers Books and through Brown Paper Tickets: The event benefits The Center for Climate Protection. For more information, check this link:

Farewell to Two Great Souls!
Last month, we lost two stellar figures in the literary world: CD Wright and Francisco Alarcon.

C.D. Wright was born in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, the daughter of a judge and a court reporter. She published over a dozen books, most recently ShallCross (2016). Wright’s writing has been described as experimental, Southern, socially conscious, and elliptical. Though her work is deeply connected to the Ozarks, Wright spent significant periods in New York and San Francisco before moving in 1983 to Rhode Island, where she taught at Brown University. With her husband, poet Forrest Gander, she founded and ran Lost Roads Press for over 20 years.

A prolific writer for adults and children, Francisco X. Alarcón was born in California and grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico. Alarcón returned to the United States to attend California State University at Long Beach, and he earned his MA from Stanford University. His most recent collection is Canto hondo/Deep Song (2015). Latino and gay identity, mythology, the Nahuatl language, Mesoamerican history, and American culture are all portrayed in Alarcón’s writing. Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation became a source for many of my own lessons, especially for the California Poets in the Schools. Suzanne Matson, reviewing the book in the Harvard Review, commented: “Alarcón foretells a new American poetics—an all-encompassing ‘eco-poetics’ in which a common language of the elements, plants, and animals is recited and celebrated.” Alarcon taught for many years at UC Davis, and was a special guest at Petaluma’s El Dia de los Muertos Poetry of Remembrance Community reading. He was also a generous supporter of writers and, among his many volunteer services, he was an advisor to Sixteen Rivers Press. He will be greatly missed.

On the subject of love, and in tribute to CD Wright and Francisco Alarcon, here are poems by each.

from Of Dark Love
By Francisco X. Alarcón
Translated By Francisco Aragón

there has never been sunlight for this love,
like a crazed flower it buds in the dark,
is at once a crown of thorns and
a spring garland around the temples

a fire, a wound, the bitterest of fruit,
but a breeze as well, a source of water,
your breath—a bite to the soul,
your chest—a tree trunk in the current

make me walk on the turbid waters,
be the ax that breaks this lock,
the dew that weeps from trees

if I become mute kissing your thighs,
it’s that my heart eagerly
searches your flesh for a new dawn

Francisco X. Alarcón, from “Of Dark Love” from From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche. Copyright © 2002 by Francisco X. Alarcón. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche? (University of Arizona Press, 2002)


Everything Good between Men and Women
By C. D. Wright

has been written in mud and butter
and barbecue sauce. The walls and
the floors used to be gorgeous.
The socks off-white and a near match.
The quince with fire blight
but we get two pints of jelly
in the end. Long walks strengthen
the back. You with a fever blister
and myself with a sty. Eyes
have we and we are forever prey
to each other’s teeth. The torrents
go over us. Thunder has not harmed
anyone we know. The river coursing
through us is dirty and deep. The left
hand protects the rhythm. Watch
your head. No fires should be
unattended. Especially when wind. Each
receives a free swiss army knife.
The first few tongues are clearly
preparatory. The impression
made by yours I carry to my grave. It is
just so sad so creepy so beautiful.
Bless it. We have so little time
to learn, so much… The river
courses dirty and deep. Cover the lettuce.
Call it a night. O soul. Flow on. Instead.

C. D. Wright, “Everything Good between Men and Women” from Steal Away: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by C. D. Wright. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271,
Source: Steal Away: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2002)


Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2016

January 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

As we begin another year together, Jo-Anne Rosen, co-editor, and I wish you a happy, healthy, creative 2016, and we invite you to consider the Literary Update as your vehicle for promoting the shared literary life in your circle and beyond.

We’d especially like to encourage short features by our readers, highlighting the groups or events you know of. Just send a short article (150 words or so) and a photo, if you have a relevant one, to the SoCo Literary Update by the end of each calendar month. Use the key word “featurette” in the subject line.

Do you have a new book coming out this year? Let us help you celebrate! Your publication will be included on the Sonoma County in Print page of the website. While you’re at it, you can add yourself to our growing directory of writers. You can send a short bio, photo, a description of the book and an image of the cover to us at

If you have a publication in a literary journal or anthology (within the last 30 days) you’d like to announce, send the following information to Ed Coletti at Your name, title of the piece, name of the journal and date of publication (issue/volume), link to journal’s or publisher’s website (if available). This list of journal publications will be posted monthly and archived. Ed would appreciate receiving submissions prior to the final week of the month.

Thank you to Katherine Hastings!
Katherine HastingsFor two years, our literary community has been very fortunate to have poet, publisher, and WordTemple’s founding director Katherine Hastings leading us in her role as Sonoma County Poet Laureate. Her project “Digging Our Poetic Roots” culminated in the publication of a wonderful anthology of poems featuring writers across the county and across generations. We thank Katherine for her continued and profound inspiration, and for her dedication to bringing poetry to life through her reading series, her radio interviews and broadcasts, her support of fellow writers, and most of all for the lyrical vision of her poetry.

We honor all past Poets Laureates, along with this year’s nominees and finalists for their achievements and for their commitment to the literary arts in the county.

Poet Laureate Selection for 2016-17
In October, Katherine joined the Sonoma County Poet Laureate Selection Committee to consider nominees for the new SCPL for 2016-17. The Committee narrowed the field to five outstanding finalists: Ed Coletti, Nancy Dougherty, Iris Dunkle, Crystal Ockenfuss, and Larry Robinson. As you can imagine, with such a talented group, the selection was very difficult.

Iris Dunkle

Congratulations to our newest Poet Laureate, Iris Dunkle! Some of you are familiar with Iris’s book discussions and writing workshops at Jack London State Historic Park. Others may know her from her work with young writers as a poet-teacher with California Poets in the Schools and the Poetry Out Loud Program. Or you may know her through the Napa Valley Writer’s Conference and her many public reading throughout the county. Iris’s latest poetry book, There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air, about the untold history of Sonoma County, comes out this month. Her debut poetry collection, Gold Passage, won the 2012 Trio Award, and her chapbooks Inheritance and The Flying Trolley were published by Finishing Line Press in 2010 and 2013.

Iris gave her first unofficial reading in her new role at the New Year’s Poetry Brunch my husband and I host each year at our home in Petaluma. She will be formally introduced, first at the Sonoma County Board of Supervisor’s meeting, and then at a gala reception and reading, to which you are all invited.

Please join us in honoring Iris on Sunday, January 31, from 3:00-5:00 p.m. at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.

Upcoming January Literary Events
For a complete list of January events, along with a peek at February listings, visit the calendar page: Here are a few to whet your appetite.

Rivertown Poets: A Muse-ing presents Bay Area poets Peter Carroll and former Sonoma County Poet Laureate Gwynn O’Gara, followed by our usual open mic. The reading is on Monday, January 4, 6:30 p.m. Details:

The Sitting Room in Cotati hosts a Read Aloud Evening on Saturday, January 9 at 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove. Join the Roberts Road Readers for a pot luck and evening of shared literary favorites. Bring up to ten minutes of your own writing, others’ writing, fiction or non-fiction, serious or humorous. Questions? E-mail Clarice Stasz:

Off the Page Readers Theater presents “Turning Points.” 10 local writers’ works: short plays, stories and poems that connect to the theme. Featuring: Sandra Anfang, Sheila Bender, Susan Bono, Sher Christian, Robert Feuer, Craig Harris, Lynn Millar,Susanna Solomon, Susan Starbird, Michelle Wing. The performance-readings begin at 7:30 PM and will be held two consecutive weekends: January 22 and 23 (at Mockingbird Books, Sebastapol) and again on January 29 and 30 (Church of the Oaks, Cotati). See facebook: Off the Page Readers Theater for more info.

Poem for January
LongfellowFor the new year, I offer this beautiful poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, composed in Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet form. Longfellow lived from 1807-1882. “He was a traveler, a linguist, and a romantic who identified with the great traditions of European literature and thought. At the same time, he was rooted in American life and history, which charged his imagination with untried themes and made him ambitious for success.” For more information, on his life and work, visit the website of the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow project:


The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows;—
The happy days unclouded to their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;— a fairy tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream.

Blessings and New Year’s Wishes,
Terry Ehret and Jo-Anne Rosen, co-editors

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2015

December 1, 2015

Dear Literary Folk,

There’s a chill in the air and frost in the morning. After what seemed like an endless summer, the leaves of the apple, cherry, maple, and plum have turned and are falling with the quiet grace of snow. Thankful for the richness of this literary community, I am pleased to highlight some of the December events coming up.

Literary Events for the Holiday Season

Iota Press Open House
Iota letterpress shopOne of Sonoma County’s creative hives is Iota Press and Printshop, tucked away in Sebastopol, but humming and buzzing with activity. Iota Press is an authentic letterpress printery which makes poetry chapbooks, broadsides and graphic Although it is a private press it is also the site of a co-operative of printers and artists who share the type and presses. Eric Johnson offers classes in printing at the shop, and it is possible to commission work such as chapbooks, posters or business cards. Iota-logo2If you’re looking for a unique holiday gift, you may want to mark your calendar for Sunday, December 13, 2:00-6:00 p.m. for the seventh annual December Open House.There will be unique letterpress gifts for sale, many new things to see… and a chance to meet the printers and talk about their work. In addition you can tour the shop and take part in demonstrations of the old printing presses. Wine & food… and a rare moment of solemnity as we celebrate the art of the typo with the winterprinter rite of Elddim. Iota, 925d Gravenstein Hwy. S., Sebastopol.

Healdsburg Reading and Book Open House
For those in the north county, the Headsburg Center for the Arts invites you to a reading and book open house on Sunday, December 20, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Reading & Book Open House at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts, Holiday Gift Gallery. Stop in, meet the authors, hear readings, do some shopping, share the season’s joy with us. Books for all ages and on many topics. Author list: Sandy Baker, Camille Picott, Jo-Anne Rosen, Penelope La Montagne, Susan Bono, Jeanne Jusaitis, Shonnie Brown, Cynthia Helen Beecher, Marie Butler, Arlene Miller, Sherrie Lovler, Billie Payton-Settles, Bonnie ZoBell, M. M. Allen, Tiana Krahn, Phyllis Meshulam, Dr. Patrick Taylor. Healdsburg Center for the Arts, 130 Plaza Street, Healdsburg,

100 Years in the Life of an American Girl
Come dine with local authors while you hear about chasing horse-drawn fire engines in New York City, riding to school on horseback in Montana in the 1930s, going to Woodstock at 12, and much more. On Monday, December 14, Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa hosts a reading by women featured in 100 Years in the Life of an American Girl. Location: Gaia’s Garden International Vegetarian Buffet, 1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.

More Inclined to a Quiet Writing Retreat?
If you are looking for a winter writing retreat, join poet Patti Trimble for a weekend of writing new poems, story, and short prose at Point Reyes Field Institute. The retreat begins on Friday, December 11, 6:00 p.m. and runs through Sunday, December 13, 2:00 p.m. More details on Conferences/Retreats page or at

Invitation to Coffee Catz Open Mic
Perhaps instead it’s a literary audience you crave. Consider joining the supportive group of friendly and witty writers on Sunday, December 20, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. for the third Sunday Literary Open Mic at Coffee Catz in Sebastopol. Grab a refreshing drink and tasty treat and enjoy the cozy comfort of the back room or patio, depending on weather. Round robin open mic: share a poem or short story by you or someone else. Listeners welcome. Donation: $5 to $10. Scent free event.

Two holiday classics: A Christmas Memory and A Child's Christmas in WalesPetaluma Readers’ Theater
Treat yourself to a delightful and heartwarming pair of Christmas stories to get you in the mood for the holidays. The performances are on Friday, December 11 & Saturday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m. Location: Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville, Petaluma. To order tickets, use this link:

Eugene Ruggles Memorial Reading
GeneRugglesMany of you remember Petaluma poet Eugene Ruggles, whose poetry struck the deepest chord of humanity. After the recent attacks in Paris, I thought about how Gene would have been on the phone to all the writers he knew as soon as he heard the news, creating an event that would give support to our friends, solace to the grieving, and the music of words to lift us out of our fear. For fans of Gene’s poetry, and especially for those who don’t know his work, this coming Sunday, December 6, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., the Redwood Café in Cotati hosts the Eugene Ruggles Memorial Reading; poets TBA, emcee Carl Macki. Location: 8240 Old Redwood Highway. Here’s a sample of his work.

For Glenn Ruggles

My dear children,
I address this to both of you.
It is not how much you own or
but how much you
that will say
if you were here or not.
So, when a grief comes to you
do not ask, why me
instead of someone else,
rather ask, why not me
instead of someone else—
And when a blessing comes to you
break it into pieces
to give more of it to those
who have never had one. Be here.

Eugene Ruggles, 10/12/89
Travers City, Michigan

For more information about the life and work of Eugene Ruggles, visit the website at

Blessings to you all,
Terry Ehret, Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2015

November 1, 2015

Dear Literary Folk,

What a beautiful rainy day, this Day of the Dead, following one of those wild Petaluma-style Hallowe’ens and an extra hour to sleep or dream … or crank out the monthly Literary Update. Terry is away in some blissfully non-cyber woodsy space celebrating her 60th birthday and, no doubt, the rain. It’s a fitting salvo for the winter season. All is relatively quiet on the Sonoma literary front in November, unless you are a novelist participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), in which case we can only hope it will be quiet for you. Here are some highlights of upcoming events.

Of note on the poetry scene: Tonight and tomorrow, poetry readings at Redwood Cafe and Aqus. First Sunday Poetry & Music, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Redwood Cafe in Cotati, features Renée Owen, accompanied by musician Brian Foster on shakuhachi, mandolin & harmonica. Iris Jamahl Dunkle and Rebecca Foust will also be reading. The Rivertown Poets: A Muse-ing Mondays (Monday, November 2, 6:30 p.m. at Aqus in Petaluma) reading features Bay Area poets Joel Fallon and Clara Hsu, followed by an open mic.

On Friday, November 6, 7:00 p.m., there are readings in Sebastapol and Santa Rosa:  Pat Nolan will read from his new book Poetry For Sale, a selection of linked poetry written over thirty years with a variety of poets including Keith Abbott, Gloria Frym, and Maureen Owen. Many Rivers Book & Tea, 130 S. Main Street, Sebastopol. And in Santa Rosa, 7:00-8:00 p.m., a reading features writers from Cry of the Nightbird: Writers Against Domestic Violence. At Stepping Stones Books & Gifts, 2075 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa.

Thursday, November 12, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Cloverdale Performing Arts Center presents Books on Stage with poet Rebecca Foust, author of Paradise Drive, and essayist writer Dani Burlison, author of Dendrophila and Other Social Taboos: True Stories. Free. At the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center, 209 North Cloverdale Boulevard, Cloverdale.

There are two readings to choose from on Sunday, November 15: 1:30-3:30 p.m. Healdsburg Literary Guild Third Sunday Salon, featuring novelists JC Miller & Marsh Rose. The Bean Affair, 1270 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg. An open mic follows. And at 2:00 p.m.  an Occidental Center for the Arts book launch for A Poetry Crossing: Celebrating California Poets in the Schools with Editor, Phyllis Meshulam. Students and adults read their poems.

Saturday, November 28, 5:00 p.m. Opening Reception for Healdsburg Center for the Arts’ holiday show/gift gallery, which, in addition to art and crafts, will include books by more than a dozen Sonoma County authors.  To name but a few: Sandy Baker, Susan Bono, Anne Chadwick, Jeanne Jusaitis, Phyllis Meshulam, Camille Picott, Jo-Anne Rosen, Patrick Taylor. Authors will be at the opening reception to meet and greet and sign books. Location: 130 Plaza St, Healdsburg. The show is open until December 31.

For a list of all the calendar events across the county and beyond, visit the calendar page, which is updated every few days:

Last but not least: Authors, consider submitting your poems, stories or memoir to the Sonoma County online lit journal, Wordrunner eChapbooks. OK, I’m the publisher and am making a pitch! We publish collections by one author at a time and once a year, a themed anthology by multiple authors. Submissions open on November 15 for the next anthology, whose theme is “Devices.” Read about it in the Calls for Submissions section or here: Do check out the current issue, Family Ties by Ellyn Bache and mid-November, look for the latest echapbook fiction collection, The Marriage Bed by Elaine Ford.

That’s it for November,

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

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