Poetry & Music Workshop Evokes, Inspires Local Poets
Contributed by Evelyn So and Renée Schell
On September 21, 2014, ten participants joined instructors Renée Schell and Evelyn So at the Edwin Markham House in History Park San Jose for an afternoon of writing about music.
“The idea behind the workshop was that everyone has stories they can tell about music,” said Schell, “whether they’re musicians or not.” So and Schell first presented commentary on and insights into the selected poems, then introduced music selections complementary to the poems. Among other topics, participants read and wrote lyric poems about specific musical instruments, as well as narrative poems about their early experiences with music. A variety of poems by contemporary poets such as Tomas Tranströmer and Adam Zagajewski, and music by composers ranging from Ludwig van Beethoven to Antônio Carlos Jobim, provided inspiration.
The workshop supplied “great music and poem prompts” said PCSJ member Kelly Cressio-Moeller. “An incredible afternoon,” said Markham House docent and PCSJ member Clysta Seney, citing the “evocative” music. Markham House Chair and PCSJ board member Dennis Noren pronounced the workshop “very successful.”
Workshop attendees left with a full handout of poems and music citations as well as quotations from musicians, poets, and scientists about music and poetry. Writing in Edwin Markham’s living room proved stimulating for many of the participants: “I’ve never written five poems in an afternoon before,” says longtime PCSJ member Jerry Dyer.
“It was great to see people from our writing community come together for this,” So said. “I was very impressed with the quality of the writing.”
On 99 Poems for the 99 Percent: An Anthology of Poetry
Contributed by Dean Rader
It was late August of 2011. The United States was fully immersed in the worst economic recession in years. I had been reading about the thousands of Californians, most just outside the San Francisco Bay Area, who were losing their houses. I found myself unusually preoccupied with the daily media reports of increased layoffs, foreclosures, and repossessions. The fall semester of classes at the University of San Francisco had resumed, and I was thinking about all of the students who were about to graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. As I was reading poetry for my classes, I began to realize that the aims of poetry and those of a democratic country were, if not exactly the same, then profoundly similar. They are both about liberty, equality, freedom, expression, and community. They are about reaching people on issues they care about in a voice they recognize.
The next day, I began planning the blog 99PoemsForThe99Percent.blogspot.com. My plan was to publish one poem per day for 99 days, and so I started contacting writers whose work I admire either to write a poem for the blog or submit one of their previously written poems. I also initiated an open call to both professional and non-professional poets to submit their work. I did not want the blog to be an elite mélange of academic poetry; rather, I wanted to assemble a plurality of writers that showed the range of voices in both poetry and America. And so it happened—99 poems in 99 days.
I loved the blog, but now that the blog is a book, it is even cooler. The anthology debuted at #2 on the Small Press Distribution Poetry Bestseller’s list for July and was #1 for August, at which point we completely sold out of the first printing. But, sales aside, I’m happy with the result—there are poems by former poet laureates, well-established and highly respected poets, hip up-and-coming poets, student poets, and poets who would probably never consider themselves “poets,” just regular people who, like thousands—perhaps millions—before them, turned to poetry in order to say something meaningful about the world and the people in it.
“Stay-at-Home Poet” Stepping Out for Bay Area Readings
Contributed by Kara Arguello
Kelly Cressio-Moeller, a long-time PCSJ member and self-described stay-at-home poet, has been enjoying what she refers to as the “Year of the East Bay Reading.” In March 2014, she participated in the Valona Deli reading series in Crockett, California—her first time reading in the East Bay.
More recently, Cressio-Moeller has been invited to participate in the launch of the Fall 2014 issue of Zzyzzyva, in which her poem “Begin and End at Big Sur” appears. The Zzyzzyva reading took place at Diesel Books in Oakland on September 18, 2014. She read four poems and appeared with other poets, essayists and non-fiction writers including Paul Madonna, Jill Logan, and Troy Jollimore. Cressio-Moeller describes the invitation from editor Oscar Villalon as a “privilege.” “There are so many poets in the Bay Area, that to be asked to read anywhere is amazing.”
On October 5, 2014, Cressio-Moeller read several poems at the Poetry Unbound series at Berkeley’s Art House Gallery and Cultural Center. Also appearing at that event were Al Young, Connie Post and Harold Adler. The Art House Gallery, adorned with paintings and black-and-white photographs, has a “genuine spirit,” according to Cressio-Moeller. “The people who attended were really locked in,” she said, describing the intimate audience as having a “strong sense of community.”
“It’s such a solitary act to write, never knowing who will read your work,” Cressio-Moeller said. “Reading a poem on the page can give a totally different meaning than hearing the poet read it. It’s so moving to have people connect to my work in that way.”
November will bring a number of publications for Cressio-Moeller. Her work is forthcoming in Thrush, Escape Into Life, Cultural Weekly, and Spillway. She has also been contacted by a poet in Rome interested in translating some of Cressio-Moeller’s poems into Italian.
12 Moons, a Video Poetry Project
Contributed by Erica Goss
When I was born
they gave me a name
that itched like a rash
and demanded ritual objects.
from “Flower Moon” by Erica Goss
One day last winter, my son mentioned in passing that each recurring full moon has a traditional name; i.e., the full moon of January is called “Wolf Moon,” and the full moon of December is the “Cold Moon.” The names of the moons vary only slightly from culture to culture, proving that regardless of where humans live or what they believe, they share an understanding that the moon influences not only the seasons and climate of Earth, but also the imaginations of its people.
This knowledge inspired me, and I wrote “Snow Moon” and “Strawberry Moon” within a few days of each other. I sent those poems to Swoon (Marc Neys),a groundbreaking video and sound artist whose work in video poetry is exceptional, with the hope that he would find them worthy subjects for his art.
Swoon suggested that I write twelve poems based on the traditional names for each month’s full moon, and that he create a video for each one. He also suggested that we include the vocal talents of Nic Sebastian, and the musical talents of Kathy McTavish,both artists that he’s worked with before and whose work I admired.
The result is 12 Moons, an artwork combining poetry, voice, music and video. Kathy McTavish’s original music adds complexity to Nic Sebastian’s intense and compelling narration, framed by Swoon’s precise editing of sound and image, which creates a miniature universe for each poem within the context of the project.
The project involved writing a poem for each full moon, using the traditional names of the moons as titles. I avoided using obvious moon references, and especially any moon clichés. I cast back in my memory for events that had happened during a particular month to use as a place to start, but only a few clear recollections appeared. Mostly I wrote about the feeling of that month, and about how people respond to the seasons, whether or not they are aware of the moon’s influence over their moods.
I had one really good historical event to use: Apollo 11. When I was nine years old, the first man set foot on the moon exactly one week after my youngest brother was born. I knew I had to blend these events into the poem, “Buck Moon.” I used the voice of myself at nine, unimpressed with the moon landing, having just had my world rocked with the arrival of a new sibling.
I found that writing the moon poems was not a linear process. I didn't move sequentially throughout the year, starting with January; instead, certain events associated themselves with certain months, and the poems unfolded from those points. The first moon poem was “Snow Moon,” the full moon of February, then “Strawberry Moon” (June) and “Hunter’s Moon” (October). The rest of the poems appeared the same way: haphazard inspirations over the next five months. I finished the last one on August 30th.
Beginning in January of 2014, we released one video per month for viewing on Atticus Review. A DVD and chapbook will be available via POD, and for distribution at poetry festivals around the world.
Swoon’s website: http://www.swoon-bildos.be/
Nic Sebastian’s website: http://verylikeawhale.wordpress.com/
Kathy McTavish’s website: http://www.cellodreams.com/
Erica Goss’s website: www.ericagoss.com
Erica Goss’s column on video poetry: http://www.connotationpress.com/video-poetry
New Addition to In So Many Words' Editorial Staff
In So Many Words is pleased to announce that Kara Arguello has joined our editorial staff. Kara Arguello has been volunteering for PCSJ off and on since around 2006 when she worked on the publicity team for the California Poets Festival. For the past few years she has been sending the PCSJ Events email blasts, and now turns her efforts toward In So Many Words. Kara was editor-in-chief, an editor and contributor for Allegheny College's The Campus newspaper from 1995-1999. We are excited to have Kara on the editorial team and look forward to her contributions.
Leslie E. Hoffman, PCSJ Member and Markham House Docent, received the Certificate of Award of First Place from the California Writers Club, South Bay Branch, in the September 2014 WritersTalk Challenge, for her Haiku:
Great Blue stands at shore
waiting for aquatic prey
Tim J. Myers’ poems “Animal,” “Lake Champlain Ferry, October ’95,” and “First Cave Salamander Discovered, 1689” appear in Issue No. 7 of Writing the Whirlwind Review (http://www.writingthewhirlwind.net). His poem “The Haiku Gift” appeared on Matthew Gollub’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Matthew-Gollub-Author-Storyteller-Bilingual-Presenter/146727565428375) in August 2014.
Connie Post, Livermore poet laureate emerita (2005-2009) and PCSJ member, was awarded the 2014 Lyrebird Award for her book, Floodwater. The Lyrebird Award recognizes Glass Lyre Press’ bestselling and best overall book of the year. Floodwater contains a foreward by Al Young, California’s poet laureate emeritus, and is available from Amazon.com, major retailers and Glass Lyre Press.
Jenny Katherine Luu, a local San Jose poet and SJSU alumna, published a collection of poetry titled "Whisperings: A Decade of Poems" on October 15, 2014. Ms. Luu uses vivid imagery and angelic rhythm to communicate universal human emotions, in the hope that she can inspire others to see the beauty in the world. This collection of poems, which Ms. Luu wrote while in her twenties, covers the following themes: Inspiration & Creativity, Thoughts on Love, Thoughts on Nature, The Body & The Senses, Telling a Story, Dark Poetry, Thoughts on Society, A Different Perspective, and Self-Reflection. Through these poems, you will see a young lady search for her purpose in life, explore the human psyche, question society, fall in and out of love, and mentally dance with the poetic language. Ms. Luu’s book is available on Amazon.com (Whisperings: A Decade of Poems). Visit her blog to learn more: Whisperings.
Renée M. Schell’s poem “Beyond Vienna” won Third Prize in the 2014 String Poet contest. Read the poem here: http://www.stringpoet.com/2014/09/8-renee-m-schell/. In September, together with Evelyn So, she co-taught the workshop Poetry and Music: A Writing Workshop. In October, Renée was invited to read her short fiction piece “Jack” at the Flash Fiction Forum at WORKS Gallery in downtown San Jose, hosted by Lita Kurth and Tania Martin. And on November 8, she participated in Ekphrasis, hosted by David Eisbach, for the Lunchtime at Trianon series.
Kelly Cressio-Moeller has forthcoming poems coming out on-line in November at THRUSH Poetry Journal, Cultural Weekly, and Escape Into Life, and a poem in the forthcoming issue of Spillway.
Evelyn So’s recent and upcoming publications include two poems in Gingerbread House, three poems in Adanna Literary Journal’s new annual issue, two poems in Red Wheelbarrow, and a nonfiction story in the anthology Three. Evelyn and other contributors will read from Red Wheelbarrow’s new national edition at a release party on November 19, at 7 P.M., at Works/San Jose. A book launch party for Three, hosted by PushPen Press, will be held on November 25, 7-10 P.M., in the lobby reception room at the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Avenue, San Jose. Both events will include refreshments and friends are welcome to attend.
Calder Lowe was singled out as a September 2014 EXEMPLAR by The Washington Independent Review of Books in their BEST PROSE BY A POET category. Her prose collection, THE LIGHT ON HIS FEET, was reviewed by Kathie Isaac-Luke on the NLAPW online book review site at http://www.nlapw.org/book-reviews. A reference to her book is included on page 130 of the Bookshelf column of the October-November 2014 issue of The Writer’s Chronicle. The following link is to Public Radio’s Grace Cavalieri's The Poet & The Poem interview with our current Poet Laureate of the United States, Charles Wright, which was funded by Lowe’s Dragonfly Press referenced at the conclusion of the program. Since the poets’ names are organized in alphabetical order, Wright can be heard on the second page of the Library of Congress site: http://www.loc.gov/poetry/media/poetpoem.html.
Erica Goss started a new poetry series, called "The Poetry Kitchen," at the Los Gatos Library. It meets on the third Sunday of every month. She recently read at the Beat Museum in SF, Sacred Grounds in SF, Emery Arts in Emeryville, Aqus Cafe in Petaluma, and Ravenswood in Livermore. With David Perez, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, she’s working on a 2015 summer camp for high school girls called Media Poetry Studio, which will combine poetry and technology. Her video poetry series titled "12 Moons" is available for viewing at Atticus Review. It's a series of twelve poems written about each moon of the year, put into videos by video artist Swoon. Her poems have been published or accepted in Catamaran, One Sentence Poems, San Francisco Peace & Hope, Up the Staircase, The Perfume River Poetry Review, Red Dashboard, and Atticus Review.