Poems on Demand in San Jose

This is one of my all time favorite gigs — typing up poems on demand — but there is no doubt about it, no matter where I’ve done this, parks, libraries, fairs, the SubZERO festival is the best. The best crowd, the best vendors, the best dressed, and the most fun poetry booth.

Many thanks this year to Scorpiana Xlynn, and her doll-faced husband Michael R Brooks, whose sponsorship via Poetry Center San Jose made this year’s booth a reality.  The marvels of social media led me to her, the booth, and a great night. I ran into Kim Johnson there, who I haven’t seen in a while, and met some other new folks, I think several of them students (very young…oh my).

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This year, I remembered to photograph and autograph my poems. I met some sweet kids, some lovely parents, some interesting loners. The poems are strange, but that’s the improvisational way the thing moves. I especially like “Sunburned Wedding.”

This photo is courtesy of Content Magazine (if I remember correctly…)


Here are the poems. The jacaranda tree was lovely. I had such a good time. Thanks to all those brave souls who asked for poems and actually came back to pick them up, after they saw what they’d ended up with!  The tips were especially lovely, too, who knew you could make a little cash pounding away on a typewriter. Muchas gracias.

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Last time I worked the poetry booth was 2015, and the year before that I worked too, courtesy of David Perez, Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County at the time. This year I missed Mike McGee, the current Santa Clara County PL, but I’m sure he was a smash as M.C. You can find him all over the place, currently here on Facebook. 


Poetry in the Park

Lucky me, to be invited to spend a few hours in the park last weekend, talking poetry and silliness with neighbors. Thanks to the Recreation and Community Services department of the City of Cupertino for hosting Celebration of Art, one in their series of Neighborhood Events this summer.

Kaecey McCormick, the current Cupertino Poet Laureate, was on a (well-deserved) holiday, so they asked me to fill in.  Here some photos of the scene.

I had magnetic poetry on one table, books for reading on another. I set up my typewriter and typed up poems for anyone brave enough to select a word from one of the sets of cards.

Everyone who stopped by was offered a chance to add some words to a list of odd things. This is an idea I learned about from colleagues at California Poets in the Schools. It’s a Mad-Libs sort of game, and folks of all ages can play. At the end of the day, we had three sheets of odd things.

Today I combined them into a poem, the essence of that summer afternoon with neighbors at the end of summer.

All The Things We’re Thinking Of

A list poem written by visitors to the poetry booth on Sunday August 12, 2018 – Celebration of Art, Three Oaks Park, Cupertino California

On Sunday afternoon, at the end of summer,
we collect and wonder, who would think
of a school of buses,
a loaf of lamb chops,
a herd of gazelle?
A cast of Cupertino MVPs?

We’re thinking of a set of chess pieces
and a bunch of little dogs.
Someone suggests a batch of lettuce,
Someone else a jug of beer.
We imagine a fleet of sheep,
a litter of poems, a string of bubbles,
a pod of popcorn.
Somewhere there is a pair of
“getting in the spirit” people.

Now we’re talking:
a flotilla of basketballs,
a gaggle of iPhones.
Here’s a pack of bouncy houses,
a swarm of children.

A father sighs, “a bed of responsibilities.”
Here in the park, a cast of clowns,
a fine flock of neighbors.
A quiver of joy.

Stranger and stranger:
A head of surgery.
A team of screams at a soccer game,
a bouquet of yellow tulips.
The school of exquisite,
a loaf of trigonometry.
A herd of cougars eating popcorn,
a cast of bean toss players,
a set of striped dresses.

A bunch of big.
A batch of opportunity.
A jug of grape juice in the park.
A fleet of basketballs (some themes repeat)
A litter of ancient words.

For a little sister, a string of paper butterflies,
for a couple of boys, a pod of Tin Tin comics.
Do you see the pair of bows,
the flotilla of crows,
pack of paintings,
swarm of penguins?

A bed of cougars (Kennedy Middle School
mascot, you know).
A flock of pencils, a quiver of music.
We’re not so sure about the head of zodiac,
but the team of Fireballs
are strong soccer girls.

Silliness ensues:
a bouquet of potatoes,
a school of art,
a loaf of ravioli,
a herd of cows.
Cast of sisters,
set of pawns, and this time,
a bunch of potatoes.

A (big) batch of hot boys and girls,
a jug of paintbrushes.
A fleet of weeks left in summer (we wish).
A string of pasta (we’re getting hungry) — like every kind.
A pod of peas,
a pair of ponytails.
A gaggle of grandmas and grandpas
sit in a pack of shade.

Finally, a swarm of tarot cards, a cast
of new friends.
A flock of notes, another
quiver of papers for school.
Team of tigers roaming in the forest, and a
final bouquet of potatoes.
We did it!

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.)


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.




Two Cupertino Poets Laureate to Read in Pacifica

Yes, Amanda Williamsen and I will be reading in Pacifica on Saturday, March 26 at Florey’s. Looking forward to it!

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Cupertino Poet Laureate

Hello, Poetry Lovers!

Two of Cupertino’s Poets Laureate will read at Florey’s Book Company in Pacifica on Saturday, March 26, from 7:30-9:30 p.m.  The bookstore is located at 2021 Palmetto Avenue, Pacifica, CA 94044.

Jennifer Swanton Brown, Cupertino’s second Poet Laureate, and I, our third and current Poet Laureate, are excited to read together.  I’ll be sharing poems from my poetry memoir project about growing up in rural Ohio.  Many of these poems are hot off the press (of my computer printer under a table in my living room) and you may be the first listeners to hear them!

There will be time for open mic readers as well, so bring your poetry to share.  I hope to see you there.  Hey, that rhymes….  Hmm….  I know!  Don’t be square.  Let down your hair.  Dance yourselves on down there.  If you can’t get a partner, use a wooden chair.


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A Poetry Contest!

Some wonderful happenings from the Cupertino Poet Laureate, Amanda Williamson (my successor in that post) and the Cupertino Rotary Club. A contest (with prizes) for middle and high school students. Share the love!

Cupertino Poet Laureate

In conjunction with Cupertino’s Rotary Club, I’m excited to announce that organization’s first poetry contest.

Please help us spread the word and encourage students to enter.  This is an exciting opportunity.  In each age group, three prizes will be awarded.  First prize is $100.  Second prize is $50.  Third prize is $25.


Students from Homestead, Lynbrook, Monta Vista, Fremont, and Cupertino High School (grades 9- 12) as well as Middle Schools Kennedy, Miller, Hyde, Lawson, and Cupertino Middle Schools (grades 6 – 8) are invited to submit poems for the first annual poetry contest hosted by the Rotary Club of Cupertino.

Award ceremony and reading:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016, 12:00 – 1:30 pm at Quinlan Center, Cupertino


Students may submit poems that address “Be a Gift to the World” which reflects Rotary’s core values of service, fellowship, diversity, integrity…

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