Laureate Archive 2022-2024

October 2022

ElizHerron-reverse

Hello dear friends,

September is the month of changes — kids are back in school, folks are home from vacation, and we have shifted gears into autumn, ready for October. Here we go! Poetry seems to be everywhere. And where it hasn’t flowered, there seems to be a yearning for it. Writers and audience — makers and listeners, listeners as makers, we are aswim in poetry here in Sonoma County.

First some news about the past month. The Petaluma Arts Center had a poetry contest on the theme of Poetry and Memory as part of the events associated with their exhibition Agri-CULTURED. The winning poets read their work at the gallery. Along with the poets whose poems were selected, Jodi Hottel read her winning poem “Mochi Tsuki.” If you haven’t read Jodi’s book, Heart Mountain, winner of the Blue Light Press Poetry Prize, I recommend it.

Larry Robinson, whose poetrylovers@lists.sonic.net has long delighted so many of us — within and outside Sonoma County, has started a reading series available by zoom. The readings are from 10 to 10:30 the fourth Saturday morning of the month, and Larry was kind enough to invite me to read at the end of August. I was remiss in not alterting you to this till now, but I urge you to contact Larry through the poetrylovers list so as not to miss the October reading.

I also read on September 17th at the Bodega Land Trust 30th Birthday party. A grand crowd had turned out for the celebration which included a shared meal of great homecooked food and a local band. I read just a few poems all written in the Salmon Creek watershed where for many years I have monitored the steelhead salmon population and gathered native hawthorn berries to make the traditional heart remedy for my mother. I loved sharing poems from that part of my life with others who live in the watershed.

The crown of poetry in September is the Petaluma Poetry Walk. A light rain seemed far more a blessing than a hinderance to the festivities. My own part took me to Artaluma https://artaluma.com/, Elizabeth McKoy’s new venue on Keller Street where Jack Crimmins and I were scheduled to read. Artaluma is a wonderful airy space with a smooth wood floor that must be a dream to dance on and walls Elizabeth took down to the original brick. The main room accommodates a sizeable audience and invites performance. (I’m looking forward to returning there in March when poet and biographer Iris Jamahl Dunkle and sound artist Merlin Coleman will appear with me in an evening of three women artists.) Inspite of last minute changes necessitated by the rain, this year the Poetry Walk brought out a great crowd. It had a strong line-up and all the enthusiasm of returning live after the worst of the pandemic.

Petaluma also hosts the annual El Dia de los Muertos/Day of Remembrance, though as I understand it that event will again be online this year. As your Poet Laureate, I will offer a brief reading to open the event, followed (I’m almost certain) by Ella Wen, Sonoma County’s first Youth Poet Laureate. I’m looking forward to other occasions when Ella and I can team up, so if there’s something you’d like the two of us to work with you on, please let me know.

Lastly, an update on the Being Brave Poetry Project. The first several workshops have been scheduled for early November. I’d like to get to all corners of the county and don’t yet have workshops scheduled on The River or the east side of the county. If you are at all interested in the project, don’t hesitate to contact me at socopoetlaureate@gmail.com and please spread the word. A description of the project is on my SquareSpace website: www.elizabeth-herron.com.

My very best to each of you,

Elizabeth Carothers Herron
Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2022-2024
socopoetlaureate@gmail.com

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September 2022

ElizHerron-reverse

Following the very moving reading given by Phyllis Meshulam, Phyllis crowned me with laurels, which I am now wearing, whether you see it or not, as I lope along in my new role as your Poet Laureate.

Many thanks to the Sebastopol Center for the Arts for hosting the event to a full house.

I was also wearing a beautiful lei brought to me by my family from Hawaii, which caused someone to joke that I was wearing the new poet’s lariat along with my laurel crown.

A semi-circle of past Poets Laureate on-stage supported first Phyllis and then me through the ceremonial changing of the post, followed by a reception that included two beautiful cakes, one with a welcome message to me as the new Poet Gloriat. While there was some speculation at the time about this possible ‘misspelling,’ I was charmed by the word play; I hope you were too.

During the ceremony I introduced my Being Brave Poetry Project, and during the reception answered questions about it and encouraged interested people to contact me later. I have subsequently received at least five invitations to present the Being Brave Poetry Workshop, the first of which is scheduled for November 14th when Brendan and I return from our annual vacation trek north. That first workshop will be for the Burbank Community.

I will offer the workshop, or some variation of it, wherever I am invited to do so. So please keep that in mind and spread the word.

I am also taking the names of individuals who would like to be in a workshop but are not part of any specific huddle or herd so I can put together a group especially  for creative stragglers.

Forgive my imagery this morning. I woke with a half-gibberish poem about the cow who jumped over the moon. So I’ll stop now and before the adult demands of the day carry me off, and go back to the other side of night where I left the cow singing to the stars.

May each of you be blessed. May the world’s leaders be blessed. May we find our way to peace with poetry.

Elizabeth Carothers Herron
Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2022-2024
socopoetlaureate@gmail.com
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August 2022

The Being Brave Poetry Project

ElizHerron-reverse

What does living bravely look like in a time of radical climate change, war, inflation – flood and famine, and violence that invades our churches, our schools, our local grocery and even our neighbor’s house? In fact it takes courage just to read the news. It takes courage to accept the contradictions in our lives – that I am safe while others are living through war. That I have food while others are starving. It takes courage to admit a mistake or to apologize and sometimes just to tell the truth.

Supported as Poet Laureate and with matching funds from Poets & Writers, I will offer workshops to foster the writing of being brave poems where people who may never have written a poem before can find words for what being brave means in their lives. The workshops will include conversation about what our poems tell us of what it means to live courageously. And along with each workshop I will give a reading with other poets of that area of the county.

The world of poetry has been enlivened by voices unheard in the past; it has been enlivened by spoken word, by rap and by hip-hop. The infusion of language from the street up has brought story back into poetry and the poet back into the poem. So it is a very good time to support a project designed to evoke poems from all voices and all corners of Sonoma County.

Already I have received a poem from a woman who writes about risking everything familiar, something that took her a lot of courage, to escape an abusive home. Wherever we notice our fear or hesitancy, there’s an opportunity to be brave. Courage should be celebrated for its most humble moments, which usually remain invisible, to its grand inspirations in someone like Volodomyr Zalensky.

Whether it’s a private moment from one’s own life or an homage to an inspirational other – if we share such poems and make time for conversation about them, we will learn things about ourselves and each other that cannot help but deepen our understanding and respect and bring us all closer. By directing us to the question of how to live bravely in this time and place, I hope the Being Brave Poetry Project will evoke the imagination we need to navigate the future as individuals and in community.

And despite everything we need the courage to celebrate what goes on living and what goes on blooming and what gives us joy.

I expect Being Brave Poetry workshops and readings will be held in a variety of community spaces from churches to libraries to community centers and coffee houses – and house concerts –wherever I am invited, I will come. I hope one way or another all of you will be participants. So I ask that you connect with me about where you think such events might be welcome, especially if you can offer a direct contact. Email me at <socopoetlaureate@gmail.com>

Aldo Leopold, father of the modern environmental writing, famously observed we take care of what we feel affection for, and Toni Morrison says that “Beauty makes the unbearable bearable.” My own poetry is always an effort to find the beauty that compels affection, even when the subject is otherwise unbearable. We want our hearts awakened, and poetry is about the heart. In the Being Brave Poetry Project, we will hear the heart speak.

Elizabeth Carothers Herron
Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2022-2024
socopoetlaureate@gmail.com

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July 2022

Dear Friends,

BeingBrave

Here is an introduction to my theme for the coming two years: Being Brave.

When we are courageous, it has something to do with the heart. And poetry most often arises from the heart. These days we need courage in almost every part of our lives. We have to be brave in facing the uncertain future of the climate. We have to be brave about the possibility of fire. We have to be brave to protect others who are more vulnerable. It takes courage to apologize, and it takes courage to try again when we fail. We see leaders who are courageous, and we witness courage around us every day in tiny moments we hardly notice. If we you look for them, what will we see?

I invite you to look at your own hidden courage. What are you being brave about right now in your life? I invite you to make and to find and to share Being Brave poems. Email them to friends. Host a Being Brave Garden Gathering and read these poems to each other. Ask your library or community center or school or church to host a reading of Being Brave Poems where you talk about what it means to have the courage to stand up for what is right, to fight injustice, to be a better person, to sacrifice to make a better world. We have so much to learn from each other!

When you gather for a Being Brave poetry reading and conversation, please let me know. And let me know if as your Poet Laureate I can help to bring about such an event.

Elizabeth Carothers Herron
Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2022-2024
socopoetlaureate@gmail.com

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