Hearts & Minds with Sunday Assembly

I had the good fortune to be invited to read a few poems today at Sunday Assembly – Silicon Valley.  I’d read at their invitation before, when they were still meeting in San Jose, and found them friendly and “ordinary” in the best possible way. Driving to the Masonic Lodge in Mountain View this morning, I reflected on how much easier this trip was for me to make, giving thanks for that simple joy.

Today’s theme was Hearts and Minds, and the guest speaker was Sheldon Helms. Mr. Helms read a lovely piece, originally intended for a Kindergarten graduation, all about the marvelous brain. He explained how the brain can be a metaphor for living and encouraged us all to “work well with others and be independent.” Wise words sweetly delivered.

For my part, I shared my favorite poem about hearts: “A Birthday” by Christina Rossetti. There is much music in this poem to delight the heart, and some old-fashioned vocabulary to challenge the brain!  Everyone gets “My heart is like a singing bird,” and “peacock with a hundred eyes,” but what the heck is “vair”??  (If you really want to know, Google it.)


I also shared a poem by Sylvia Plath, “Kindness.” Most people who have heard of Plath know the horror story of her mental illness and suicide, but I love her poems for their (sometimes) tender domestic flavor, expressed via the surrealism that many new mothers experience.  For an event contemplating the heart and the mind, I wanted to honor mothers, including my own, who lived with mental illness and still loved well, made beauty, and left a legacy of joy and learning.  I encourage you to read the poem in a real book at a real bookstore or in a real library, but if you can’t find one, here you go. 


Thanks to Sunday Assembly for the lovely morning. You guys really know your karaoke.

(Check out my post from July 2015 when I read for Sunday Assembly during my tenure as Cupertino Poet Laureate.)


Poem in Caesura

Happy to have a poem published again after a long hiatus. I’m grateful to the editors of Caesura 2016, the journal of Poetry Center San Jose. My poem, “Giving Myself Up,” was published in the Silicon Valley, List / Progress category. You’ll have to buy a copy to figure out what that means!


I wrote in response to Mark Strand’s poem of the same title, which you can read here: “Giving Myself Up” by Mark Strand. I think my poem is creepy in a suburban female exhausted way, while his is profound in a famous male universal pain way.

For 2016 the editors did a very cool thing – challenging us to a kind of poetry Olympic Games. Poems were matched in the print edition according to category and form, and poems that didn’t have matches were published on line in the Bronze Edition.


Their call for poems for the 2017 edition went up April first. The theme is Ascent/Descent. That will be fun to think about. Submissions close in July.

I’ve been an on-again off-again member of PCSJ for many years, having first discovered them when I went with a friend to hear Galway Kinnell read in the 80s. He might have tried to hit on us in the book signing line. I wonder if I’ll ever get a chance to do that. This good interview with a past PCSJ president Mary Lou Taylor gives some of the history.



Writing Makes You Feel Better

It’s been a long time since I’ve written here, but want to share a post from my dear friend John, who, together with my other dear friend Patti, has built an awesome new space for people to write in. It’s called Retrospect. Here’s John’s recent blog post about the science of writing to heal. I wanted to copy their logo here, but it didn’t completely work. I think that’s my web-site-skills letting me down, not their logo’s fault.


They have a lovely logo. Kind of wavy like memories and water and rivers and Rs and swoopy 70s hairdos.

I’ve occasionally taught poetry lessons in this vein, and posted and shared about the space I believe exists between mental health and art. If you want to read (and more importantly write!) your way to longer life and peace of mind, read what John has to say and then go to Retrospect and write. You’ll be glad you did.

Adrienne Rich’s “For The Record”

Today, as a small one-person part of the Poets Against Trump protest in Washington DC, I’m going to stand on the steps of Cupertino City Hall and read this poem.

20th & 21st Century Protest Poetry

Adrienne_Rich,_Trumansburg,_New_York,_October_2001Award-winning poet Adrienne Rich passed away in 2012, but left behind a remarkable collection of poetry (25 books) and essays (7 books). Often political, almost always personal, Rich’s poems pose deep questions about femininity, power, and language. In 1997, Rich was awarded a National Medal of Arts and declined in protest of Newt Gingrich and the House of Representatives vote to end the National Endowment of the Arts (it failed, thankfully) and the Clinton Administration’s anti-art and literature policies at the time (the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was also on the block). Rich stated, “[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage.”

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Absent + Retrospect

Have I been so absent? It appears to be true. I have been writing, many many poem drafts, and some dream notebook keeping, but it’s not blogging.

There is a new place where I have written stories, a cool site, Retrospect, that is the brain/love-child of some dear friends of mine. Here’s what they have to say about it.

Retrospect is the place for baby boomers to tell their stories.

Week by week, story by story, we help you capture and share your memories and experiences with family, friends, and fellow boomers. Join the community and contribute your stories to our collective mosaic.

I’ll have to figure out how to hook this all up, but for now you can read my stories here. The image above is from a pattern for making shorts and pants – a pattern very like the one I would have used as a child in the 1960s. I’m on the young end of the Boomer spectrum, but I still have nightmares about those shorts.

(I encourage you to check out Retrospect. There is much there worth reading.)

New Cupertino Poet Laureate Reading

Tomorrow, October 13, 2016, there will be a special poetry reading at the Cupertino Library.

Cupertino Courier June 03 2016 Ann Muto photo 2
Ann Muto


Two Poets Laureate and a winner of the 2016 Rotary Teen Poetry Contest will read on Thursday, October 13th from 7-8:30pm. San Ramon Poet Laureate Shikha Malaviya, Cupertino Poet Laureate Ann Muto and Aryia Dattamajumdar will read poems related to the theme:  “Myself, My World, Our World”. All poets are invited to read during the Open Mic period.

Shikha Malaviya

Shikha Malaviya is co-founder of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, dedicated to introducing new voices from India & the Indian diaspora. She has been a featured TEDx speaker, AWP mentor and has been nominated for the Pushcart prize. Her book of poems is Geography of Tongues. Shikha was a resident of Cupertino from 2002-08, when she helped foster the joy of poetry/creative writing in the classroom at Regnart Elementary and McAuliffe Elementary Schools, where her children were students.

Aryia Dattamajumdar

Aryia Dattamajumdar is a student at Cupertino Middle School. Her favorite class in school is science. She discovered through her volunteer activities that leading a group of people takes a community to do it together. This competition helped her master the courage of writing poetry and created a life-long passion for poetry. In addition to writing poetry, the competition motivated her to become more active in poetry events in the community.