Multilingual Poetry & Prose Night!

Multilingual Poetry & Prose 5-10-18 Program-page-001Last Thursday (5/10/18), a group of over fifty people from the community came together to celebrate the power of poetry and prose in many languages at the first annual Multilingual Poetry & Prose Night. The Cupertino Poet Laureate Program joined with the United Chinese Alumni Associations (thanks to Jing Jing Yang!) to put together a transformative program. From our list of invited speakers to the brave souls who shared during the open mic portion of the evening, every syllable imparted a bit of the magic of language to those listening.

As I soaked up the sounds of the different languages, I was Multilingual Poetry & Prose 5-10-18 Program-page-002transported – across time and across the world to a different places and spaces until all that mattered was the beat of the language as it reverberated in me and in the bodies of those sitting in the audience. We were joined together to share in this powerful experience, and it is a memory I will carry with me for years to come.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of attending a multilingual event, I encourage you to make space on your calendar to do so. I plan to host the second annual program through the Poet Laureate program next spring, and I hope to see you there! In the meantime, please enjoy these photos and video from the event! And if you were present and would like to see you photos / video posted, please send me the files via email to poetlaureate@cupertino.org.

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Photos courtesy of Alex McCormick (c) 2018 

VIDEOS:

Here is a clip of Flo Oy Wong reading in Cantonese.
Video courtesy of Mara Grimes (c) 2018

 

 

 

Community Poetry Night – Celebrating the Lunar New Year!

chinese-new-year-2018Yesterday (Feb. 8, 2018), I had the pleasure of hosting my first Community Poetry Night as Cupertino Poet Laureate. Thank you to everyone who came out and made the evening special! With over 30 attendees present it was an exciting night, and your presence was a wonderful way to kick off the Lunar New Year & Spring Festival season.

Most importantly, I feel grateful and inspired after listening to everyone read their poetry or put their voice and emotional stamp on the poetry of others. What an amazing gift all of you have given to me and to each other. I look forward to hosting many more Community Poetry Nights during my term.

Over the next two years, one of my goals is to gather work from local poets and poetry enthusiasts, and to put them together in an anthology. If you’re interested in being a part of this project, please stay posted for more information and/or send in your work via email. If you would like to send in a poem from the reading, please feel free to email your work to me for a future compilation! 

Here are some photos from the evening … and if you have pictures to share, please email them to me at poetlaureate@cupertino.org!

Photos courtesy of Alex McCormick (c) 2018.

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Poetry Comes to Storytime!

animated-clipart-groundhog-12On Monday (January 29th), I had the privilege of reading both a story book and poetry to the Storytime gang at the Cupertino Library. In honor of the holiday approaching this Friday, our theme was Groundhog Day! I had a blast working with Elizabeth, one of the children’s librarians, and all of the amazing little people who attended the event. I especially loved asking our little groundhogs what their weather predictions were for Cupertino. I’m happy to report that with only one or two exceptions, the Cupertino Groundhogs predict and early spring!  I’m definitely looking forward to bringing poetry to Storytime again!

Here are some photos from the event, and below you can read one of the Groundhog Day poems we decorated and enjoyed!

Event Photos:

Photos courtesy of Alex McCormick (c) 2018.

Groundhog Day Poem & Picture:

GHD poem and picture

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Write Your First Poem

One of Jennifer Swanton Brown’s last events as Cupertino Poet Laureate was the “Write Your First Poem” workshop, held Thursday, October 8, 2015. Fifteen people came to the Cupertino Library Story Room for a fun and interactive workshop. A few people were there writing their very first poems, and a few were old timers from the community, looking for some new inspiration. All went away with poems, and from the smiles on their faces, a good time was had.

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These photos are of the exercise Jennifer did to warm up the crowd, the poem they wrote as a group from random words (chosen from Jennifer’s “word bowl”) and the prompts offered to tempt first time writers.

One of the first time writers was Yana Gulati, an elementary school student from Cupertino, who came to the workshop with her mother Elisabeth Merkle. Yana has given us permission to post her poems here, both in their first rough draft form and her typed second drafts. (I have a sneaking suspicion that Yana is not really a first time poet…)

Enjoy Yana’s poetry and please, Cupertino, keep writing!

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Why?

Why part for tomorrow, when you can do things today?

Why go back in the past when you can live in the present?

Why have a world with worries when you can have a carefree world?

Why would you have wrinkles when you could be young and frolicky.

Oh yes, there are many “why’s” in our planet.

 

Lies

Lies? Why tell lies about rushing when you say you got stuck in traffic, but you actually lost your pet rat Cinnamon.

Lies, Lies, the more you tell, the guiltier you get.

Why tell lies about loving spinach leafs, but when you eat them you spit it out.

Why tell the lies, the guilty, guilty lies instead of being truly honest.

 

 

Changing of the Guard

On January 7, 2016, Cupertino will welcome its third Poet Laureate, Amanda Williamsen, and express its thanks to its second Poet Laureate, Jennifer Swanton Brown.

During her term from 2013-2015, Jennifer hosted an Unsung Holidays reading series, participated in civic festivals, judged a poetry contest in conjunction with Silicon Valley Reads, hosted a Poetry Hack-a-Thon, and reached out to writers young and old with workshops and lessons.

Amanda plans to continue many of Jennifer’s efforts, including hosting a diverse reading series, visiting schools, and bringing poetry to many of our town’s events.  Her main project will be to conduct a Poetry Memoir Class for adults.  Through a collection of inter-related poems, writers can create or enhance a memoir in an approachable, meaningful, and fun art form.  A Poetry Memoir can transform a daunting task into an album with a series of snapshots to create a portrait of a life.

Join us at the Cupertino Senior Center on January 7 at 7:oo p.m. to thank Jennifer for her service and welcome Amanda.  Light refreshments will be served.

Pictured above:  Dave Denny, CPL #1, Amanda Williamsen, and Jennifer Swanton Brown.

 

 

Cupertino Library Diwali Celebration

On October 24, 2015, the Cupertino Library hosted a Diwali Celebration of song, dance, crafts, and food. Amanda Williamsen and Jennifer Swanton Brown (incoming and outgoing poets laureate) presented two poems, one each they had composed from comments and memories shared by visitors to the Cupertino Library booth at the Chamber of Commerce Diwali Festival the previous weekend. Many thanks to Gayathri Kanth, the Cupertino Community Librarian for inviting us and making us feel welcome.

diwali yellow card 2 diwali yellow card 3

Over 60 people left memories, feelings, thoughts, and drawings about Diwali. Amanda and Jennifer split them up and wrote poems that are complimentary in their style and substance. Here is Jennifer’s poem:

Diwali Voices

Diwali is, Latika reminds, the festival of joy and light,
which makes our lives even more bright.
Meera and her daughter eat lots of sweets –
the new lehenga is orange and gold –
and the henna tickles.
Aditri likes the colorful creative beautiful rangoli

Diwali is the festival of lights,
which even small boys know
celebrates the victory of Rama.
On Diwali, I go to the temple –
Aarav celebrates with family and friends –
Sanyay does nothing and something –
Yash burns firecrackers.

Oh, the firecrackers!
Noopur lights candles,
Kashish puts lights outside the house
and everyone loves the firecrackers
everywhere. On Diwali I light firecrackers –
on Diwali I hold and play with friends
and do stick fireworks –
on Diwali we all fire firecrackers –
At Ria’s house there are 50 candles in the pool!

I feel more in touch with my community –
the lights fill me with warmth –
I study for an hour –
I have fun praying and celebrating our family –
I love Diwali –
I look forward to Diwali –
I call my friends to my house –
I decorate my house –
I celebrate I celebrate –
spreading happiness and love –

On Diwali, I wear a bright green saree
and listen to the voices of Cupertino.

Written with the voices of Cupertino residents from the October 17, 2015 Diwali Festival.

Visit the library in the upcoming months to see the collection of Diwali cards and the poems on display.

Here are some photos of scene on October 24th in the Community Hall. What a wonderful celebration.

Library Diwali Amanda and friends from Amanda Diwali Library 1 girls used Diwali Library 3 altar use Diwali Library 6 program use

Photos from Cupertino Diwali Festival

October 17, 2015 was a great day! I wrote a poem and read it from the main stage. (Wow, that was an experience, sandwiched between children singing and dancing and very lovely ladies in their costumes dancing and clapping — I think the audience wasn’t quite sure what to make of me!)  I would never have gotten the saree to stay on without the help of Janki Chokshi.

diwali janki and jennifer sari

Janki and Jennifer in festive garb.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out with Clare Varisio and Godha Krishnan (librarians and awesome humans) at the Cupertino Library booth. Here are some photos of the general scene. Amanda Williamsen was with us for the morning.

diwali cupertino library table

Clare took this photo — they were signing up people for library cards all day.

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Amanda, Godha and Clare!

diwali booth amanda clare godha website

Amanda, Godha and Clare in the booth early in the day. Amazing yellow stars gave the booth such charm. Just like the lights of Diwali fighting off the gloomy overcast day.

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Jennifer wearing the saree, her first time ever.

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Godha and Clare, with the poem I wrote for them.

I was typing poems on my typewriter, and this one is for the great new librarian friends I made.

I was typing poems on my typewriter, and this one is for the great new librarian friends I made.

diwali harry potter in hindi website

You can read Harry Potter in Hindi if you check the book out of the library!

As the poet laureate, I had two activities going on. First, folks could come and check out my 1950s typewriter — and many many (many) kids tried it out. It’s hard to type on a machine like this if you’re used to an easy computer keyboard!

diwali girls typing website

Secondly, Clare made great yellow cards with prompts “Diwali means…” and “On Diwali, I…” which anyone could write on. We collected over 60 cards from kids as young as three, teens, and adults, and had a lot of lovely conversations with people about Diwali in the process. Amanda and I are writing poems from these messages to read at the October 24 Diwali Festival of Lights event at the Cupertino Library. Read those poems at this link and at the library.

diwali help us write a poem website diwali filling out a yellow card website

Diwali yellow poem card sample

I’m so grateful to Clare and Godha for all their excitement and support. Amanda and I had a blast. What a lovely day it was, in spite of the cool cloudy weather. I certainly understand now why so many people love Diwali. I am especially grateful to Anjali Kausar and Ann Stevenson of the Chamber for arranging the reading, and to Gayathri Kanth, the Cupertino Community Librarian. Ann is also a Cupertino Library Commissioner.

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Cupertino Poem for Diwali

I was delighted to take on the challenge of writing a poem to help celebrate Diwali in Cupertino. The Chamber of Commerce hosted a huge Diwali Festival in Cupertino’s Memorial Park on Saturday, October 17, and I read this poem at the festival.

(For more information about my adventures at the Cupertino Library’s booth, and the community poem written by me, Amanda Williamsen, and 63 visitors, read more at this link.)

This poem is in the form of a pantoum. I like the form for holiday and seasonal poems, because it emphasizes repeated images and is well suited to themes of time and celebration– events like Diwali that come around year after year. In this poem I linked my memories of being a teenager in Cupertino (seeing the distinctive shape of lights from the quarry on the hillside while driving home in the dark) to current images of lights (the Mary Avenue pedestrian and bicycle bridge) that can be seen at night driving into Cupertino.

mary avenue bridge at night

Also, in October, you might see both Diwali and Halloween lights driving around your neighborhood.

“Home on Diwali”
A Pantoum for the Cupertino Diwali Festival, October 2015 

I don’t know much about Diwali,
but I know the shape of familiar lights
means that I am home.
I’m told Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps.”

A familiar shape of lights,
shining in a line on the dark hillside,
might be a row of lighted Diwali lamps –
twisting like a broken tree branch –

The shining lines on the dark hillside
(it was the quarry above our house)
twisted like a broken tree branch,
seemed so close when I was a child –

The quarry lights above our house,
for many years a welcome sight,
seemed so close when I was a child,
after late night family parties.

In recent years a welcome sight
while driving westward on 280
after late night family parties,
the pedestrian & bicycle bridge glows!

Driving westward on 280
I see, lit up against the sky
the pedestrian & bicycle bridge glowing:
a shining gate into the city.

Lit up bright against the sky –
this symbol of our rushing lives –
a shining gate into the city,
where things are happening, in October.

A symbol of our rushing lives,
the end of summer is a time
when things can happen! In October
my house is hung with purple bats –

The end of summer is a time
when orange globes and spider webs
hang on the house with purple bats –
my children decorate this year.

When orange globes and spider webs
light up our neighbors’ streets
(my children decorate this year)
we find light in gloom and darkness.

Light up our neighborhood streets!
I don’t know much about Diwali,
but I’ve found light in gloom and darkness,
and know that I am home.

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diwali janki and jennifer sari

Janki and Jennifer, photo by Chwen Lim.

diwali sari three best website

Posing for the photographer — thank you to Chwen Lim for all the great shots.

Here I am in the beautiful saree I was invited to wear for the occasion. I’m very grateful to Anjali Kausar and Janki Chokshi for all their friendly support! Janki pined me into the saree so I wouldn’t lose it. Many thanks also to Ann Stevenson of the Cupertino Library Commission for arranging this reading with Anajli (current CEO of the Chamber). Thanks to Chwen Lim for the photos of the saree fitting.

diwali janki and anjali website

Janki and Angali

See more photos from the day here. I learned so much at the Diwali Festival. What a great outpouring of spirit and energy!

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Other pantoums can be found at the Poetry Foundation.

Other poems that celebrate Diwali can be found on these sites and I’m sure many more:

Write Your First Poem (or Your Second…)

Come to the Cupertino Library Story Room, Thursday evening, October 8 at 7 pm to join a friendly, relaxed group of people who are not poetry experts but love to write poems. I hope this means you.

  • If you’ve never written a poem but would like to try, this workshop is for you.
  • If you’ve written poems in secret and are ready for a gentle group, this workshop is for you.
  • If you’ve written poetry for years and you just want a night out and a new prompt and a new poem on a blank page, this workshop is for you!

Free and open to the public. All ages welcome.

October 2015 Plans

October 2015 will be full of great poetry-related events!

October 8, Thursday: Write Your First Poem workshop

October 16, Friday: Peninsula Literary ( Jennifer Swanton Brown, Featured Reader) — check out the flyer and more details here.

October 17, Saturday: Cupertino Diwali Festival

  • Come see Jennifer Swanton Brown and Amanda Williamsen at the Cupertino Library’s booth. Event sponsored by the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce. Video preview here!
  • Video by Cupertino poet Archana Panda  “Celebrating Diwali in America” (Diwali Festival, 2014)

October 24, Saturday: Cupertino Library Diwali Celebration