The poetry of winter nights and holidays

Last night, I hosted my final Community Poetry Night as Cupertino Poet Laureate. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to celebrate creativity with an amazing community.

What a true gift I have received from all of you. Thank you.

If you weren’t able to join us last night, you missed a beautiful gathering of communityIMG_20191212_190057 members, poets, and poetry supporters. Like my heart, the room was full.

Standing-room only is a wonderful problem to have at any poetry event!

I began the evening with a discussion of the poetry of winter and the holidays, and we were then treated to the soulful works of our invited readers and the poems of community members who shared during open mic.

If you took pictures, please share them with me! As the person at the front of the room, I rarely get the opportunity to snap photos of my events!

I left the event on a true poet’s high, excited for the new season that’s about to arrive. Those who shared their work provided me with inspiration and food for contemplation. I left with the message to be on the lookout for poetry in unexpected places this winter and holiday.

IMG_20191212_190017I will miss serving as Poet Laureate. But my work in the community is not over. I will celebrate creativity and the deep well of creative genius that resides in us all with my continued work teaching and coaching in the community.

If you’re interested in joining me at a future event, sign up for my newsletter!

Below is a list with links to the poems I shared last night. Do you have a favorite winter or holiday poem? Please share it with us in the comments!

Again, thank you to those who came out to celebrate in community with me last night.

And although my term won’t end until early in 2020, I want to thank you for making serving as CPL one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

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Winter and Holiday Poetry Reading List

PS — If you love poetry and the Cupertino community, consider applying to be the next Cupertino Poet Laureate! Applications are due January 10, 2020, by 5pm. Email me for more information or click here to apply

Poetry Workshop Wonders: List-Definition Poems & Defining Home

This afternoon, I had the privilege of spending time in one of my favorite places with my favorite people: a community creativity workshop.  This October and November, I’m leading my last Lunch Hour Language Artists Workshop Series as Cupertino Poet Laureate.

Perhaps it’s because the end of my term is drawing near, or perhaps it’s because the group of attendees at these workshops never fail to inspire and humble me, but I find myself looking more and more forward to each session.

46R4BWGDYUI6NJK7YYP2B6SSAQThe theme for LHLA 3 is “Poetry of Place.” In the first session, we wrote about our childhood homes. Today the focus was on finding and defining home, and I introduced the concept of List-Definition Poetry — a form I made up that combines the list poem and the definition poem.

I structured the workshop so participants would consider the juxtaposition of “Home Then,” and “Home Now.” I like to join in during writing time whenever possible, and I was amazed by how my brainstorming around “Home Now” centered on the people I’ve met and worked with during my time as CPL and how much I’ll miss hosting these community events.

I feel truly blessed to have had my life touched by so many amazing people and their moving poetry. I can’t wait to see where the poem I started today leads as I continue to work on it over the next few months.

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At the start of our writing period, the group and I brainstormed words and phrases related to the concept of “Home, Then and Now” to generate ideas for our own List-Definition poems. If you weren’t able to join us, you can use the same concept as a poetry prompt!

I thought it would be interesting to turn our brainstorming lists into a poem using every word and phrase generated.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Then and Now

Then we were fearless
running in clean air
with the outside cats
through mustard yellow fields
playing with the neighbors
on rope swings in fruit trees.

Then we were joyful and safe
in our backyard adventures
our trust in friends expansive
jumping from diving boards
into swimming pools.

Then we were playful
trudging through white snow
splashing into cedar hot tubs,
seldom lonely and only
sometimes confused.

Now we are isolated
amidst the tall green spires
in a sea of dusty earthquakes,
suffocating in politics
and exhausting chaos.

Now our expensive empty nests
feel claustrophobic and tiny,
leaving us alone but safe
in our book-filled havens.

Now, as then, we find love and gratitude
hidden in Sunday dinners and boba tea,
waiting between cracks on the sidewalks
and countless cars parked on freeways.

Then and now we are Cupertino.
                                                            © 2019 Kaecey McCormick

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Community Poetry Night: Inspired by Nature

Free community event TONIGHT!! 7pm, Cupertino Library.

Join us in celebrating nature-inspired poetry. The evening will begin with a tour of nature poetry through the ages. Twelve local poets will then read their nature-inspired work. Finally, it’s open mic time! Step up to share your poetry (or poetry you didn’t write but simply love) on any subject, or simply listen and enjoy.

For more information, email Kaecey at poetlaureate@cupertino.org.

See you there!

First Lines

This week, I had the privilege of spending 90 minutes with sixteen fabulous poets from the community at my Nature-made Poetry Workshop. We explored nature through an up-close and personal lens, and then from a distance. I was humbled by the beautiful poems that were shared with the group at the end of the session.

Before we started writing our own poems, however, I had everyone participate in a warm-up exercise called “First Line.” In this exercise, the first line from an existing poem is provided, and the poem is then passed around the table with each poet adding a subsequent line.

Like our nature exploration, this exercise has the poet first focusing narrowly on the line that came before, then from a distance to take into account the whole of the emerging poem. What resulted from each group was a meaningful poem, which you can enjoy below.

Interested in trying a workshop?

Come join me on Wednesday 8/7 from 12:00-1:30PM in the final Nature-made Poetry Workshop. You do not need to have attended the previous workshops to join in the fun.

And don’t forget to RSVP to the Nature-themed Community Poetry Night happening on Thursday 8/8. Details and tickets available here.

Enjoy the sunshine and the natural world in its summer state!

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WARM-UP “FIRST LINE” POEMS FROM 7/31/19 CPL WORKSHOP

woman s face

Nature-made Workshop Group Poem A
after “Packing” by Sampurna Chattarji

I put in a butterfly, first
and a drop of cherry juice
watched its wings turn the color of sunset
in the blazing sun
brushed with the flowers of the clouds
its wings carried it through, to the heavens
and beyond
into my dreams from which I woke
and rose through the day, butterfly

 

Nature-made Workshop Group Poem B
after “Replication of Desire” by Lee Herrick

How much delight before we collapsesilhouette photo of couple standing outdoors
Thoughts tumble as I grapple with my heart
Hearts expand, smiles abound
We strive to connect to all
Give me ten more seconds, I’ll survive
When you tickle me unconscious

 

Nature-made Workshop Group Poem C
after “California Hills in August” by Dana Gioia

I can imagine someone who foundphoto of person walking on deserted island
a redwood growing in the desert
kelp rising up from a bed of fern
stood there stricken with awe
color, dry sand, green and alive
on this planet, I can thrive

 

 

Nature-made Workshop Group Poem D
after “Beauty is brief and violent” by Snehad Vadher

Beauty is brief and violentflour
Punching a fist in the flour that will be cake
A splash of strawberry icing has lent
Its sweetness to the chill of celebration
Family gathers around and sings, and sings
Until hoorah explodes and the crowd ebbs

Speaking at Monument Unveiling: Celebrating Our Sister City – Toyokawa

toyokawa sister cityForty years ago, Cupertino joined into a partnership with a city 5,317 miles away – Toyokawa, Japan. Toyokawa become Cupertino’s second Sister City, and the partnership has blossomed over the past four decades. Perhaps the most widely celebrated aspect of the Cupertino-Toyokawa friendship is the annual Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival. And another integral piece is the annual student delegation exchange. “In September 1979 the first annual student delegation of six middle school students from Toyokawa visited Cupertino. The first delegation of eight Cupertino middle school students visited Toyokawa in 1983. Over the years, the size of delegations has grown. The delegations of today are typically 12-16 students plus chaperones. Each autumn, a delegation of middle school students from Toyokawa travel to Cupertino with their adult chaperones”  (Cupertino-Toyokawa Sister City website).

On the morning of July 11, 2018, this forty-year relationship was celebrated and commemorated with the unveiling of a new monument outside Cupertino City Hall after the recitation of a celebratory poem written and performed by the current Cupertino Poet Laureate, Kaecey McCormick. Representatives from both Cupertino City and Toyokawa City governments were in attendance, as was the Japanese General Consulate from San Francisco and numerous other delegates from Toyokawa who all shared remarks and commentary on the special occasion. A video recording of the hour-long ceremony can be watched here.

 

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!

two poems by Yana Gulati rough drafts_Page_1two poems by Yana Gulati rough drafts_Page_2

 

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.