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!

Call for Submissions: Refugee Poem

This looks like a lovely call for submissions. Thanks to Kacey McCormick the current Cupertino Poet Laureate for posting!

Poets and Writers –

Editors James Adams (Pulitzer Prize nominee for Noble Savage) and South African poet Peter Anderson are looking for submission to their INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE POETRY ANTHOLOGY — WaterWood Press will accept refugee poetry beginning the 2019 anthology entitled Elusions: Refugee Poetry.

Submission guidelines: Original poems/translations on refugees in any style. No PPW (previously published work) except for poems in translation. Submit 1–3 poems per poet (3 copies per poem). No more than 30 lines per poem. Include SASE and cover letter. All entries postmarked by August 15. No fees.

Mail submissions to:
WaterWood Press
Attn: 2018 Refugee Poetry Editor
47 Waterwood
Huntsville, TX 77320 

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.