Poet Laureate’s News

July 2021

Dear Sonomans,
Phyllis Meshulam

One thing I didn’t think to tell you about submissions is that I need to ask that any one poem be no longer than 65 lines, including title, epigram (if any), and any acknowledgement of prior publication.

And I’m very interested in including some poems in Spanish, hopefully with an English version, too.

Let me reiterate what I said in my June posting: If you are a Sonoma County poet, past, present or future, you are welcome to submit to the county-wide anthology. But I am hereby changing the deadline to September 1. Email no more than 3 poems to phyllie@sonic.net.

Again, the three sections I envision for this book are based on Joanna Macy’s “the work that reconnects.” She starts with the concept of “gratitude,” then moves to “honoring our pain for the world,” then “seeing with new eyes,” a part of which, in my thinking, will be “talking back to foundational texts.”  

I definitely don’t expect any one poem to fit all of these. In fact, if you want to give a clue as to what section you think a given poem belongs in, that would simplify the process of review. Previously published work is welcome.

Over the last year I’ve frequently given prompts in this column. All of these would be appropriate for the sections I envision for this book. Look at the archives for 2020-2022 at the bottom of this column. Prompts are found in the 2021 months of May, March, February (though for Feb. you’ll have to watch my videos to find them), January (these are aimed more at school-age students, but could spark you, too), and also December, July and May of 2020.

Here’s some inspiration, if you need it, from the amazing Lucille Clifton. Notice the way she paints the picture of Eden in such homey terms, starting with the grass.


by Lucille Clifton

begin with the pain
of the grass
that bore the weight
of adam,
his broken rib mending into eve,
the original bleeding,
adam moaning
and the lamentation of grass.
from that garden,
through fields of lost
and found, to now, to here,
to grief for the upright
animal, to grief for the
horizontal world.
pause for the human
animal in its coat
of many colors. pause
for the myth of america.
pause for the myth
of america.
and pause for the girl
with twelve fingers
who never learned to cry enough
for anything that mattered,
not enough for the fear,
not enough for the loss,
not enough for the history,
not enough
for the disregarded planet
not enough for the grass
then end in the garden of regret
with time’s bell tolling grief
and pain,
grief for the grass
that is older than adam,
grief for what is born human,
grief for what is not.

And lastly, another take on the Eden story. I like the way Gonzáles imagines farmworkers as the original humans, evicted from their earthly paradise.
From “Unpeopled Eden”
by Rigoberto Gonzáles

1          after the immigration raid
Beneath one apple tree the fruit
lies flung like the beads from
a rosary with a broken string.
Another tree stands amused
over the strangeness of a shoe
that pretends to be an apple
in its redness, though it’ll never be
an apple with that lace stem
and a pit where a core should be.
The tree at the end of the row
will weep over the pillage
all week. Around its trunk, debris:
straw hats, handkerchief, a basket
going hungry for what’s out
of reach. Somewhere in the orchard
a screech goes weaker by the hour.
A radio without paws, it cannot claw
its chords to end its suffering….


Phyllis Meshulem
Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2020-2022


Archives of previous Poet Laureate columns may be found here for 2012,  2013, 2014,  20152016-2017, 2018-2020 and 2020-2022.

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