Laureate Archive 2018-2019

April 2019

Grandmother Oak’s Daughter

Maya Khosla

“Why do you think people call this Grandmother Oak?” I asked 30 sixth-grade students from James Monroe Elementary School. We were standing under a dome of dark leaves, the 700 square-foot canopy of a coast live oak, by the side of a sloping trail in Pepperwood Preserve. The entire hillside burned during the 2017 fires; many of the oaks are alive.

“Because she’s old.” “Huge…” “Like – really old!” “She made it through the fire?”

For a few moments we counted the number of sounds, dominated by Pepperwood Creek in full flow. Further along the trail, while we took turns sitting on the low branch of a younger, “bench” oak, one of the students said, “This must be Grandma Oak’s daughter!”

Many thanks to Phyllis Meshulam (CPITS), Nikki Winovich and Mike Persinger, teachers at James Monroe Elementary School, and all their students for coming over to hike and read poetry in Pepperwood Preserve. Mike Persinger’s students were enthusiastic despite the rain, and created their own film based on the trip). Thanks also to Creative Sonoma and The Sitting Room Library for supporting the field trips.

Poetry month is here! We’ll be celebrating poetry all month, with public events on April 25th at Readers Books, Sonoma and on April 28th at the Sitting Room Library. The April 28th afternoon readings will begin at 2:30 and conclude by 5:00 pm. Please feel free to arrive by 2:00 so you have time to enjoy the refreshments! We will be celebrating many Sonoma poets, new books by Sandra Anfang (Xylem Highway) and by Tom Nonn (The Path Worn by Love). The Sitting Room has an announcement online (; please scroll down to April 28th for the description). The April 25th reading at Readers Books in Sonoma will feature readings by new poets from Sixteen Rivers Press. Barbara Swift Brauer, Camille Norton and I will be reading.

Best wishes,
Maya Khosla
Poet Laureate, Sonoma County (2018-2020)


February 2019

The Good Work of the Seasons

Maya Khosla

The Legacy Project continues — with the sounds of rain and poetry! On the afternoon of January 13th, a bright afternoon between rain events, several Sonoma writers got together to read and to hear others at Pepperwood Preserve’s Dwight Center Gallery. The poetry was intense and powerful. The film project is beginning to take shape

More readings will follow — there’s one planned for April 28th at the Sitting Room Community Library. With a little more than another full year as Sonoma’s poet laureate, I continue to invite people to attend or be a part of the reading series. It’s become a habit. Spontaneously, I answer questions with:

What I’m doing? I’m working on the Legacy Project, a series of gatherings and filmed poetry readings that began with responses to the 2017 Sonoma Fires. Given time, the themes have broadened naturally. Some poems focus on healing and renewal at personal or landscape levels (or both), some reflect on the fires; still others venture beyond those themes. Do attend one or more of the events* …

Legacy Project

The Legacy Project collage shows a growing number of voices that are a part of the reading series…

Annadel State Park

A glimpse of Annadel State Park

On a related note, we’re stepping out into the field on February 23rd. The Petaluma Arts Center is offering a field-based program called From the Land to the Page. Beginning with an introduction at the Petaluma Arts Center, we will take off — bound for Annadel State Park. The park and neighboring lands are experiencing an astonishing level of post-fire renewal — giving us a chance to understand the way they have been shaped by rain, wind and fire since long before the dinosaurs. Scores of trees with fire scars are leafing out, while the standing dead trees support nests and dining areas for birds and other animals. All will be invited to absorb the landscape, pen down their thoughts and share them in a supportive environment.

*The Sitting Room Community Library is sponsoring many of the upcoming events — a big thank-you to the library!

Best wishes,
Maya Khosla
Poet Laureate, Sonoma County (2018-2020)


December 2018

As you bustle through the holiday season,

Maya Khosla

do spend a moment thinking of a powerful poem that caught your attention this year. My poet laureate project, The Legacy Project, has given me opportunities to record many powerful Sonoma voices in film. The materials will continue to grow with plans to continue filming Sonoma poets in 2019. While I’m thinking about it, I would like to thank all who made the 2018 events happen and all who attended them –  at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, The Sitting Room Community Library, Armstrong Woods, Aqus Café, Santa Rosa Junior College, Petaluma, the Petaluma Poetry Walk, Rohnert Park Public Library, Munroe Elementary School, Sebastopol Regional Library, the Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, Fairfield Osborn Preserve and Pepperwood Preserve. Wow – and the list is expected to grow next year!

And before I forget: please keep a January event in mind…On January 13th, 2019, a poetry reading will be held at Pepperwood’s Dwight Center. More details will be listed here and on the Pepperwood Preserve website ( in January.

Best wishes,
Maya Khosla
Poet Laureate, Sonoma County (2018-2020)

2018 Owl Family
time stops for stars, while
a soft unheard rush of wings
brings winter nights home

– Maya


November 2018

The Beginning of a Poetry Series

Maya KhoslaThe month of October 2018, one year after the October 2017 fires, was marked by many moments of silence, commemorations, poetry, music, and art events across Sonoma County. On October 14th many writers gathered at Pepperwood Preserve to read from their work dealing with the evacuations, the losses, the luck, and major realizations.* It was the beginning of a poetry reading series that will continue through 2019 and will broaden to include formal readings, informal gatherings, and walks through lands advancing through the stages of rejuvenation — the oaks, bays, redwoods, the chaparral plants and wildflowers and wildlife – even black bears — making a comeback (

Related to making a comeback, I would be pleased if you could join me for Poetry for a Changing Landscape in Fairfield Osborn Preserve on Sunday November 11th (; please scroll down to the final event and click on Sunday, November 11th) And there’s one more informal gathering for the fall at the Sitting Room on November 29th, 4-6 pm (; please scroll down to the final event). I’m delighted so many have gained from our fall 2018 gatherings – more are being planned!

For the future readings on January 13th 2019 (Pepperwood Preserve**), the end of April 2019 (The Sitting Room) and other future readings, I am hoping to gently shift the focus towards healing and renewal at both personal and landscape levels. My hope is that the readings can progress thematically over time. With permissions from poets, the readings will be filmed so I can begin to create a film featuring Sonoma poets. Do let me know if you’d like to participate.

Maya Khosla
Poet Laureate, Sonoma County (2018-2020)

* ”Rising from the Ashes: The Heart of Poetry,” a gathering held at Sebastopol Center for the Arts a month after the October 2017 Wine Country Fires, inspired me to continue with a reading series, a gathering places for poets and their audiences. Over 20 people walked up to share their poems, music, scratch-notes, thoughts gathered in the haste of a moment. “Rising from the Ashes” was sponsored Word Temple, and organized by 2016-2018 Poet Laureate Iris Jamahl Dunkle, and by Terry Ehret, Katherine Hastings, Larry Robinson, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee.

** Pepperwood Preserve in the News:


September 2018

Note how the Summer Light Turns

Maya KhoslaSo much of this year has been full of new beginnings. If you have a moment, stop and think about one snapshot. It could be a photo you took with your phone or camera, or it could be in an image that has remained with you. You might have been in a rush, but for some reason that moment, that image, was important. And you hoped to keep in mind.

Consider the details of that image and take a moment to write about it. Perhaps you can simply create a short sketch in words, a sketch that expresses just a few details of that image. Or perhaps it can go a little beyond that moment – how you felt, why it was important, who else was present, and who was absent. There’s no pressure here – the minute you put yourself under pressure to write is the minute the words tend to escape like so much water in a stream. So begin small and simple, just a few words to celebrate that image. Your lines don’t have to follow any rules – just as long as they recapture that moment…

Maya Khosla
Poet Laureate, Sonoma County (2018-2020)

California buckeye, sprouting after the 2017 wildfires

California buckeye, sprouting after the 2017 wildfires. Photo taken on Jan 3 2018.
KRCB TV Sonoma fire update







Iris Dunkle

January 2018

Let’s Poem a Day our Way into 2018!

For most of us in Sonoma County, 2017 has been a challenging year with the most dramatic and devastating event being the wildfires that blazed through and forever changed our lives this past October. To begin 2018 on a positive note, I’m leading a free, online poem-a-day group on Nicenet Each morning, I will post a prompt and you will have all day to write a poem in response to it and post it under the day’s prompt. You will also be able to see all your fellow group member’s poems posted and you can leave brief comments on these poems if you like. (We try to stay positive though in a poem-a-day environment though because let’s face it it’s tough to write a poem in a single day!) Many of the prompts will be about the Sonoma and Napa county wildfires: remembering and reflecting on all that we lost and all that we gained as a community from this tragedy.

All are welcome to join! (There is no age limit!) So, please tell a friend! Also, if the idea of writing a poem-a-day terrifies you, don’t worry! You can join and only write a few poems.

Here are the instructions to join:

Go to
Set up an account.
Find our class: Poem a Day January 2018
Enter the key: 838ZZ63P36

I look forward to writing with you! Please feel free to send me an email ( if you have any questions!

Iris Jamahl Dunkle
Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2016-2017


Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s  poetry collections, Gold Passage (2013) There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air (2015), and Interrupted Geographies (2017), are available at:


Archives of previous Poet Laureate columns may be found here for 2012,  2013, 2014,  2015 and 2016-2017.

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