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Welcome Poets Laureate and friends....

Alameda Island Poets  

Californian Poets Laureate
poetlaureates.jpg
Copyrights photo by Ronna Leon, 2007

Poets Laureate in California &
California STATE Laureates

*Al Young 2005 - 2009 
*Quincy Troupe 2002 
Charles Garrigus 1966-2000 (Deceased)
Gordan W. Norris 1953-1961 (Deceased)
John Steven McGroaty 1933-1944 (Deceased)
Dr. Henry Meade Bland 1929-1931 (Deceased)
Ina Donne Collbrith 1919-1928 (Deceased)
COUNTIES
Lake County
*Sandra Wade 2006- 2008 Current
*Carolyn Wing Greenlee 2003-2005
*James Bluewolf 2000-2002
*Jim Lyle 1998-1999 (first)
Napa County
*Dorothy Lee Hansen 2002 (?) Current
Sonoma County
*Don Emblen 200-2002 (1st)
*David Bromige 2002-2004
*Terry Ehret 2004-2006
*Geri Digiorno 2006-2007 CURRENT
CITIES
Alameda
*Mary Rudge 2002 - CURRENT ( 1st)
Benicia
*Joel Fallon 2005- CURRENT (1st)
Brentwood
*Diane Lando 2006-2008 (1st) CURRENT
Crockett
*Ruth Blakeney 2006 - CURRENT (1st)
Healdsburg (Literary Laureates)
*Doug Stout 2000-2002 (1st)
*Armando Garcia D'Avila 2002-2004
*Penelope LaMOntagne 2004-2006
*Chip Wendt 2006-2008
Livermore
*Connie Post 2005-2009 CURRENT (1st)
Modesto
J. Mattos 1996-2000 (1st) Deceased
*debee loyd 2000-2004
*Sam Pierstorff 2004-2008 CURRENT
Pacifica
*Rod Clark 2003-2006 (1st)
Pleasanton
Charlene Villella 1999-2001 (1st) Decesased
*Jim Ott 2001-2003
*Kirk Ridgeway 2003-2005
*Cynthia Bryant 2005-2007 CURRENT
Pt. Arena
*Fiona Perkins 2001 Life Appointment Ojai
Joan Raymond Deceased
Sacramento
*Viola Weinberg and *Dennis Schmitz 2000-2001 ( 1st)
*Jose Montoya 2003-2005
*Julia Connor 2006-2008
San Luis Opisbo
*Ray Clark Dickson (1st) 1999
*Glenna Luschei 2000
*Hernan Castellano-Giron 2001
*Anne Candelaria 2002
*Kevin Patrick Sullivan 2003
*Michael McLaughlin 2004
*Jane Elsdon 2005
*Gloria L Velasquez 2006
*Rosemary Wilvert 2007
San Francisco
*Lawrence Ferlingetti (1st) Oct 1998 -2000
*Janice Merikitani 2000-2002
*devorah major 2002-2004
*Jack Hirschman 2006-2008 CURRENT
San Ramon
*Patricia Perry (1st) 2006-2008 CURRENT
Santa Barbara
*Barry Spacks (1st) 2005-2007
New to be appointed April 2007
Sunland-Tujunga
*Marlene Hitt 1999-2000 (1st)
Katerina Canyon 2001-2003 (Not pictured) 
*Ursula Gibson 2006-2008 Ukiah
*Armand Brint 2001-2003 (1st)
*Linda Noel 2004-2006
*David Smith-Ferri 2006-2008
*Pat Perry San Ramon
*Ronnie Holland Dublin
*Martha Meltzer Pleasanton
 
CURRENT DISTRICTS
Placentia Library District
*Meredith Karen Lastow
 
 
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Ronna Leon foto by Rebecca Martinez
ronnapo8lore8benicia.jpg
Poet Laureate of the City of Benicia, Ronna Leon

American Life in Poetry: Column 347

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

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My mother and her sisters were experts at using faint praise, and “Bless her heart” was a very useful tool for them. Richard Newman, of St. Louis, does a great job here of showing us how far that praise can be stretched.

Bless Their Hearts

At Steak ‘n Shake I learned that if you add
“Bless their hearts” after their names, you can say
whatever you want about them and it’s OK.
My son, bless his heart, is an idiot,
she said. He rents storage space for his kids’
toys—they’re only one and three years old!

I said, my father, bless his heart, has turned
into a sentimental old fool. He gets
weepy when he hears my daughter’s greeting
on our voice mail.
Before our Steakburgers came
someone else blessed her office mate’s heart,
then, as an afterthought, the jealous hearts
of the entire anthropology department.
We bestowed blessings on many a heart
that day. I even blessed my ex-wife’s heart.
Our waiter, bless his heart, would not be getting
much tip, for which, no doubt, he’d bless our hearts.
In a week it would be Thanksgiving,
and we would each sit with our respective
families, counting our blessings and blessing
the hearts of family members as only family
does best. Oh, bless us all, yes, bless us, please
bless us and bless our crummy little hearts.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2009 by Richard Newman from his most recent book of poetry, Domestic Fugues, Steel Toe Books, 2009. Reprinted by permission of Richard Newman. Introduction copyright 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 348

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

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When we’re on all fours in a garden, planting or weeding, we’re as close to our ancient ancestors as we’re going to get. Here, while he works in the dirt, Richard Levine feels the sacred looking over his shoulder.

Believe This

All morning, doing the hard, root-wrestling
work of turning a yard from the wild
to a gardener’s will, I heard a bird singing
from a hidden, though not distant, perch;
a song of swift, syncopated syllables sounding
like, Can you believe this, believe this, believe?
Can you believe this, believe this, believe?

And all morning, I did believe. All morning,
between break-even bouts with the unwanted,
I wanted to see that bird, and looked up so
I might later recognize it in a guide, and know
and call its name, but even more, I wanted
to join its church. For all morning, and many
a time in my life, I have wondered who, beyond
this plot I work, has called the order of being,
that givers of food are deemed lesser
than are the receivers. All morning,
muscling my will against that of the wild,
to claim a place in the bounty of earth,
seed, root, sun and rain, I offered my labor
as a kind of grace, and gave thanks even
for the aching in my body, which reached
beyond this work and this gift of struggle.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2010 by Richard Levine, from his most recent book of poetry, That Country’s Soul, Finishing Line Press, 2010, by permission of Richard Levine and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 349

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

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Here’s a fine poem about a cricket by Catherine Tufariello, who lives in Indiana. I especially admire the way in which she uses rhyme without it ever taking control of the poetry, the way rhyme can.

The Cricket in the Sump

He falls abruptly silent when we fling
A basket down or bang the dryer shut,
But soon takes up again where he left off.
Swept by a rainstorm through a narrow trough
Clotted with cobwebs into Lord knows what
Impenetrable murk, he’s undeterred—
You’d think his dauntless solo was a chorus,
This rusty sump, a field or forest spring.
And there is something wondrous and absurd
About the way he does as he is bidden
By instinct, with his gift for staying hidden
While making sure unseen is plainly heard.

All afternoon his tremolo ascends
Clear to the second story, where a girl
Who also has learned blithely to ignore us
Sings to herself behind her bedroom door.
Maybe she moves to her invented score
With a conductor’s flourish, or pretends
She’s a Spanish dancer, lost in stamp and whirl
And waving fan—notes floating, as she plays,
Through the open window where the willow sways
And shimmers, humming to another string.
There is no story where the story ends.
What does a singer live for but to sing?


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2010 by Catherine Tufariello, whose first book of poetry is Keeping My Name, Texas Tech, 2004. Reprinted from Able Muse, Inaugural Print Issue, Winter 2010, by permission of Catherine Tufariello and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 350

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

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The persons we are when we are young are probably buried somewhere within us when we’ve grown old. Denise Low, who was the Kansas poet laureate, takes a look at a younger version of herself in this telling poem.

Two Gates

I look through glass and see a young woman
of twenty, washing dishes, and the window
turns into a painting. She is myself thirty years ago.
She holds the same blue bowls and brass teapot
I still own. I see her outline against lamplight;
she knows only her side of the pane. The porch
where I stand is empty. Sunlight fades. I hear
water run in the sink as she lowers her head,
blind to the future. She does not imagine I exist.

I step forward for a better look and she dissolves
into lumber and paint. A gate I passed through
to the next life loses shape. Once more I stand
squared into the present, among maple trees
and scissor-tailed birds, in a garden, almost
a mother to that faint, distant woman.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2010 by Denise Low, from her most recent book of poetry, Ghost Stories of the New West, Woodley Memorial Press, 2010. Poem reprinted by permission of Denise Low and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 351

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

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In many of those Japanese paintings with Mt. Fuji in the background, we find tiny figures moving along under the immensity of the landscape. Here’s an American version of a scene like that, by Stanley Plumly of Maryland, one of our country’s most accomplished poets.

Off A Side Road Near Staunton

Some nothing afternoon, no one anywhere,
an early autumn stillness in the air,
the kind of empty day you fill by taking in
the full size of the valley and its layers leading
slowly to the Blue Ridge, the quality of country,
if you stand here long enough, you could stay
for, step into, the way a landscape, even on a wall,
pulls you in, one field at a time, pasture and fall
meadow, high above the harvest, perfect
to the tree line, then spirit clouds and intermittent
sunlit smoky rain riding the tops of the mountains,
though you could walk until it’s dark and not reach those rains—
you could walk the rest of the day into the picture
and not know why, at any given moment, you’re there.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reprinted from Old Heart, by Stanley Plumly. Copyright 2007 by Stanley Plumly. Used by permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Introduction copyright 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 352

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

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Here’s a moving poem about parenthood, about finding one’s self to be an adult but still trying to care for the child within. Mark Jarman teaches at Vanderbilt University.

After Disappointment

To lie in your child’s bed when she is gone
Is calming as anything I know. To fall
Asleep, her books arranged above your head,
Is to admit that you have never been
So tired, so enchanted by the spell
Of your grown body. To feel small instead
Of blocking out the light, to feel alone,
Not knowing what you should or shouldn’t feel,
Is to find out, no matter what you’ve said
About the cramped escapes and obstacles
You plan and face and have to call the world,
That there remain these places, occupied
By children, yours if lucky, like the girl
Who finds you here and lies down by your side.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 1997 by Mark Jarman and reprinted from Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems, Sarabande Books, 2011, by permission of Mark Jarman and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 353

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

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Anne Coray is an Alaskan, and in this beautiful meditation on the stillness of nature she shows us how closely she’s studied something that others might simply step over.

The Art of Being

The fern in the rain breathes the silver message.
Stay, lie low. Play your dark reeds
and relearn the beauty of absorption.
There is nothing beyond the rotten log
covered with leaves and needles.
Forget the light emerging with its golden wick.
Raise your face to the water-laden frond.
A thousand blossoms will fall into your arms.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2011 by Anne Coray from her most recent book of poetry, A Measure’s Hush, Boreal Books, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Anne Coray and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 354

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

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A wise friend told me that since the Age of Reason we’ve felt we had to explain everything, and that as a result we’ve forgotten the value of mystery. Here’s a poem by Lisel Mueller that celebrates mystery. Mueller is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet from Illinois.

Sometimes, When the Light

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 1980 by Lisel Mueller, from her most recent book of poems, Alive Together: New and Selected Poems, Louisiana State University Press, 1996. Poem reprinted by permission of Lisel Mueller and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 355

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

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Here’s an experience that I’d guess most of the men who read this column have had, getting into a rental tuxedo. Bill Trowbridge, a poet from Missouri, does a fine job of picturing that particular initiation rite.

Rental Tux

It chafed like some new skin we’d grown,
or feathers, the cummerbund and starched collar
pinching us to show how real this transformation
into princes was, how powerful we’d grown
by getting drivers’ licenses, how tall and total
our new perspective, above that rusty keyhole
parents squinted through. We’d found the key:
that nothing really counts except a romance
bright as Technicolor, wide as Cinerama,
and this could be the night. No lie.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2006 by William Trowbridge, from his most recent book of poems, Ship of Fool, Red Hen Press, 2011. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 356

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

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Nothing brings a poem to life more quickly than the sense of smell, and Candace Black, who lives in Minnesota, gets hold of us immediately, in this poem about change, by putting us next to a dumpster.

Mr. D Shops At Fausto’s Food Palace

For years he lived close enough to smell
chicken and bananas rotting
in the trash bins, to surprise a cashier on break
smoking something suspicious when he walked

out the back gate. Did they have an account?
He can’t remember. Probably so, for all the milk
a large family went through, the last-minute
ingredients delivered by a smirking bag boy.

He liked to go himself, the parking lot’s
radiant heat erased once he got past the sweating
glass door, to troll the icy aisles in his slippers.
This was before high-end labels took over

shelf space, before baloney changed
its name to mortadella, before water
came in flavors, before fish
got flown in from somewhere else.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2010 by Candace Black, from her most recent book of poetry, Casa Marina, RopeWalk Press, 2010. Reprinted by permission of Candace Black and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 357

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

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The title of this beautiful poem by Edward Hirsch contradicts the poem, which is indeed a prayer. Hirsch lives in New York and is president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, one of our country’s most distinguished cultural endowments.

I Was Never Able To Pray

Wheel me down to the shore
where the lighthouse was abandoned
and the moon tolls in the rafters.

Let me hear the wind paging through the trees
and see the stars flaring out, one by one,
like the forgotten faces of the dead.

I was never able to pray,
but let me inscribe my name
in the book of waves

and then stare into the dome
of a sky that never ends
and see my voice sail into the night.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 2010 by Edward Hirsch, whose most recent book of poetry is The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems, Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. Reprinted from the Northwest Review, Vol. 48, No. 2, 2010, by permission of Edward Hirsch and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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