De Anza College “First Thursday” Open Mic

If you are ready for some live entertainment and poetry, spoken word artistry, and a chance to meet new people and see some great performances, join The 4 Elements of Hip Hop at De Anza College for the first “First Thursday” open mic of the year.

first thursday open mic

This Thursday, October 2, from 5:30 to 8:30 at the Euphrat Museum. I hope to see you there!


Beat Museum Poetry

Tomorrow, Erica Goss and I will be part of this only-in-SF poetry festival. The 7th Annual Beat Museum Poetry Festival should be fun and if you’re in the city, join us! The event is from 1-6 pm, at the Beat Museum, 540 Broadway, in SF, across the street from City Lights bookstore. Many cool poems, and my friend, Terry Adams, as MC. (More about Terry here.)

The theme is “World of Change: Jack Kerouac Is Alive and Well!” and that’s JK in the cool graphic at the top of the post.

If you didn’t know that Kerouac was a poet as well as an author, read a poem or two here. “Everything is perfect because it is empty.”

Prompt #42 Poets, Food, Limes, Love and Death

Food makes regular appearances in poetry: appetites, hunger, desire, love, family, togetherness, physical senses, the body, color, flavor and scent. It’s not surprising that poets, who famously attend to the textures of the world, would use food metaphors and write whole poems in honor of the senses that we savor.

Some of the most famous poems to food include the following:

  • Pablo Neruda’s odes — including these two, among my favorites — “Ode to A Large Tuna in the Market” and “Ode to the Orange.” (If you want a real treat, check out this amazing food and poetry blog, Eat This Poem, for recipes and poetry. What did I tell you about this relationships between eating and poets?) (Neruda is so beloved, his poetry is everywhere. Check out this blog where “Ode to the Onion” is translated into many languages!)
  • Gary Soto’s “Oranges” which from this link can be printed onto handouts to use in a classroom!
  • Giggle Poetry has a whole page of silly food poems, ready to tickle kids.
  • Food poetry is often nostalgic, as in Amy Gerstler’s “Fruit Cocktail in Light Syrup.
  • The Academy of American Poets has a great list of books with food and poems.
  • Even the important and creepy Emily Dickinson uses food imagery. “Fame is a Fickle Food” is a scary poem and should be a lesson to us all!
  • And what about Kay Ryan’s “Lime Light” which is a modern (and slightly less creepy, more compassionate version of ED’s poem)??

I think you get the idea.

Perhaps my favorite use of food in poetry is, however, not silly, or even in a poem about food. When Donald Hall‘s wife and fellow poet, Jane Kenyon, died, he wrote an astonishing book called Without. The poem at the center of this bleak, grim, grief-struck book — which marks the turn towards poems that begin to think about the possibility of healing — is a poem called, “Without.” Fortunately, you can click through and read it for yourself. The reason I thought of it for this post, is because the last word in the poem is “garlic” — a word that hangs at the end of the last stanza — a potent, flavorful, sharp universal food at the end of a poem that can’t possibly end. How can a husband ever finish a poem that describes all the things he is forever without, now that his wife has died? There are other food words in the poem, many sensual and intellectual images, but to end with garlic seems so wrong, so painful, so impossible. It’s a remarkable poem and I hope you’ll take the time to read it. I have never forgotten it, or how strange and perfect that one food image resonates with the universal experiences of love and great loss.

So, your challenge, today, this week, is to write a food poem! I had the delightful experience today of reading at Erica Goss‘s Poetry Kitchen, a new series she is hosting at the Los Gatos Library. I read several food poems that I’ve written. I’ll write a new one, too, if you will.

(Onion illustration source here.)

Cupertino Library Teen Poetry Contest Winners

Click through here to the Santa Clara County Library website to read the poetry contest winners’ winning poems. There were winners from each library, and they are lovely poems.

Congratulations to the Cupertino winners (and of course, to all the winners!).

Neelufar Raja, Monta Vista High School (Grade 9) “The Music of Yosemite”

Serena Liu, Kennedy Middle School (Grade 6) “”Wandering Heart”




Reading Food Poems!


This Sunday I’ll be joining the lovely Erica Goss, Los Gatos Poet Laureate, for her Poetry Kitchen reading series. Come hear! And, come read — there will be an open mic following.

September 21, 2014 update: Here’s a photo of Erica and me, after the event. It was so much fun. I hope to attend the upcoming readings in the series. Photo by Amanda Williamson.

erica and jennifer poetry kitchen

Prompt #41 : Photo Prompts & Sea Turtles

For your 41st prompt, I’m going the lazy (but it works I swear it does) route. Many times I get the poem urge after seeing a great image. Like this one. This is a turtle from the Sea Turtle Conservancy‘s Facebook page. They posted it on Friday 9/12/14 as part of a caption contest. This was my caption:

Don’t look at me like that. I’ve been places. I’ve seen things. I like yellow flowers, what’s not to like? I’ve been places. Don’t judge me.

I don’t think I’m going to win. (They have some great photos.)

I did, however, write a little haiku to go with the photo, last night, after brushing my teeth and curling up in bed and remembering I hadn’t written my poem-a-day (see my Tumblr September 2014 PAD challenge for more information about that!!).

So, in addition to the photo, and the prompt (which is to pick an awesome photo from your life today — a random photo works best — and write to it), you’re getting my little poem.

old turtle among the dunes
black eyes ringed with sand
two beach sunflowers

(The Sea Turtle Conservancy credits the photo to  Ursula Dubrick.)

Poem for the Cupertino Fall Festival “In A Dry Time”

Yesterday I was fortunate and honored to read a new poem, written for the occasion, at the Silicon Valley Fall Festival, held in the beautiful Memorial Park in Cupertino. Read more about the festival sponsors and events here. I was invited to read through my connections with the Cupertino Library Foundation and the Rotary Club. It was a  super event; I particularly enjoyed the high school art show and the robotics teams. I even bought a Christmas present for my sister-in-law at one of the booths. I had a lovely chat with

My dear friend Alice came to listen, and made a video with her phone, which you can view here on Flickr. The first line of the poem is missing from the video. That’s sometimes the way with technology, even here in Silicon Valley. There might be professional photos and video later, but for now, it’s a couple of us neighborhood amateurs.

(9/18/14 click through here for many photos from the great event.)


For those who weren’t in attendance, and for the couple of you I saw at the event and to whom I promised I would post, here’s the poem. I hope you enjoy it.

In A Dry Time

September in California is a dry time.
Have you seen the madrone bark curl?
Have you seen the mountain lion on the trail?
Do not fear.

September in California is a new year.
Have you seen school children with backpacks thumping,
their bicycle helmets beaded with morning fog?

September in California is still a flowering time.
You have seen the pink and white oleander blossoms winking
between dark green, dusty branches, heavy
along the highway, waving as you drive by golden hills.

Soon the dark and wet will find us.
Already the first Liquid Amber leaves are turning red.
Have you seen them still high in the trees?

We are September in California together,
in festivals, in flea markets and garage sales.
We will walk the booths looking for a silver pin,
a ruffled scarf, a book.
We will finger the red, green and purple bounty,
the tomatoes, the long beans, the okra on the farmers’ tables.
September in California is feast time.

Have you seen the moon as orange as a mango?

September in California is a waiting time.
Have you felt it, standing on-line for coffee, crossing the street
with your company badge banging gently against your hip?
Have you felt the changing angle of the sun,
the hot wind in the afternoon,
the air thick with that singed grass smell and car exhaust?

Soon enough the rain will come, but for now,
September waits with you.
September in California is a dry time,
but bright with glare glancing off the final days of summer.
Raise your hand, shield your eyes, we have a few more days.

for September 13, 2014
Cupertino’s Silicon Valley Fall Festival

(c) Jennifer Swanton Brown

(The photo above is of a madrone tree, with its characteristic red bark curling over green wood. The photos below are of the event. It was sure a sunny day!)

jennifer emoting her poem adj jennifer with dignitaries adj

Postcard Poetry Project

There’s a group on Facebook doing this, and since I’m not clever enough to share that Facebook Group Event, I’m putting the information here.
Every few years, we poets who love sending and receiving snail mail engage in an enormous pen pal event called the Postcard Poem Project. Last time, in 2012, we swapped poetry and postcards between over 250 poets from 16 countries on four continents. This time, we’re hoping for all seven continents. Here’s how it works:

Poets who wish to participate have until Friday, September 19th, 2014 to email their address to the website. On that weekend, they will receive two randomly-picked mailing addresses; they could be from the other side of the world, or just down the street. Poets will buy (or make) two postcards, write a short poem on the back of each (preferably about the pictures on the front of each postcard), and send them to their mailing addresses before the end of September. Easy, right? Come October or November, you will hopefully receive two poems in your mailbox from two complete strangers… poems written just for you!

You probably have questions. We have answers. But first: Are you in, or out? If you’re in, here’s what you have to do:

Send an email to that includes your full mailing address, the way you would write it on a postcard yourself. It should look something like this:

Your Name
Your Street Address
The Rest Of Your Address
Your Country

(People often leave out either their name or their country. Please don’t leave out your name or your country. Also, WE DID NOT KEEP ADDRESSES FROM THE LAST ROUND, so please send your address in even if you have before!)

You will receive a reply email with all the details and an FAQ section. In the meantime, help make this project grander by passing this event on to any poets you know! Spread the word, and help spread good words in the mailboxes of the world!


The Fortieth Prompt : Why Bother?

A lot of people wonder why we bother with poetry. Nobody wonders why we bother with groceries, or gasoline, or silverware. But poetry? They wonder. Maybe I should tell you a little bit about why I bother: and the prompt this week will be to write a poem about why poetry matters to you. Or why it doesn’t….

Regularly in the late 20th and now into the 21st century, critics, thinkers, people in the know ask if poetry matters, is poetry dead, what is poetry? Doesn’t that sound a little bit like does God matter, is God dead, what is God? For me, poetry — and I believe this applies to all arts, but poetry is my art — is like God. An idea, a force, an organizing principle, a beloved, a set of rules and expectations, a community — something I can’t live without, something unexplainable, something I think about and try to understand every single day of my life. Something I believe in. Like gravity. I look at the world always, over and over, as a place where I might find poetry. I don’t mean this comparison to be sacrilegious, but rather to elevate poetry in your understanding. Poetry is not my religion; I don’t worship poetry.  But there are/were gods and goddesses of poetry, and you could worship one of them… (smiley face).

DanuBrigid 024

And yet, the comparison still works: many would say their religion is their context for living, and for me, that’s what poetry is: the context in which I live my life. (Wow, this is getting pretty serious…)


But, of course, poetry is useless, pointless, worth nothing at all. Poets don’t get any respect, they can’t sell their work, they’re awkward, congregate in dark places, spend way too much time staring out the window and day dreaming. Good for nothings. You can’t get the news from poetry. (William Carlos Williams and Adrienne Rich have talked about this a lot).

Poetry is something I put my faith in. When I don’t know what to do next, I take a deep breath, look around, and see where the poem will appear. I listen and wait and a poem comes both up from inside my heart and in from outside my body. (Yeah, this might be getting rather maudlin, but I want you to understand how seriously I take this stuff.)

When I realized I was writing my fortieth prompt today, I went to and typed “forty” in the search box. This very funny sarcastic sweet terrible (as in, strikes terror in your heart) prose poem appeared, called “Forty-Seven Minutes” by Nick Flynn — it made me both laugh and shudder. (Nick Flynn is exactly as old as I am, but his poems are better – or at least he’s more famous. Read more of his work.)

What is he trying to do by starting the poem with “Years later,” — where was he before this poem began?  I love how he leans in close at the end, both threatening and laughing, full of the power of poetry and the complete ridiculous futility of it.

I hope you’ll see how Flynn’s poem is simultaneously a statement of faith, a swagger, and an acknowledgement of longing. Poets are really rather pathetic silly egomaniacal loners. People who make art with nothing but words. Whoever heard of making art with nothing? Those people be poets. I am proud and resigned to call them my tribe.


Leave me a comment, a note, a curse, something, anything, to let me know you’re listening.

Prompt # 39 Monday, Monday

Today’s prompt is based on the poem I wrote this morning — which I realized is backwards. Usually I put up a prompt, then I write to it, and ask you to write to it, too. Today, I got up, drank my tea in the backyard and thought about the morning — and then I found myself writing a poem. A poem about being squeamish, a poem about bunnies and cats and lizards, a poem about Monday morning.

So, I’m challenging you to write a poem about Monday! And since this prompt is going up so late in the day, if you’d rather, write a poem about Tuesday, or Wednesday, or — you get the picture. Pick a day of the week and contemplate it.

To get you in the mood, listen to this recording of The Mamas & the Papas, from 1966, singing one of their great hits, “Monday, Monday.”

Looking for a Monday poem to share, I found this delightful poem, “Moonlight Monologue for the New Kitten,” by Péter Kántor, translated from the Hungarian by Michael Blumenthal. It’s even about kittens (like my poem was this morning). The poem is about the non-replaceable nature of things, as in this stanza, which links the old kitten with the day gone by.

But for me they aren’t replaceable,
not the kitten, not the Monday, not anything else;
for me they never die.

You might also like this poem, “Blue Monday,” by Diane Wakoski, a contemporary American poet. It’s a strangely moving, fluid, free verse poem, contemplating the passing of many things.

Blue Monday. Monday at 3:00 and
Monday at 5. Monday at 7:30 and
Monday at 10:00. Monday passed under the rippling   
California fountain. Monday alone
a shark in the cold blue waters.

So, a couple of poems, some music, and the week ahead of you. (I hope your Labor Day was a happy one.)