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

Meet the New Poet Laureate : Amanda Williamsen

After several months of committee meetings and planning, and several weeks of interviewing talented applicants, the Cupertino Poet Laureate Selection Committee recommended to the Cupertino Library Commission one poet for the third incarnation of this city volunteer position.

That poet is Amanda Williamsen (above center–with PL1 Dave Denny and PL2 Jennifer Brown–after her appointment by the city, August 18, 2015).

From this link, you can watch the video of the city council meeting in which Amanda was introduced and the vote was made appointing her. You can also download and read the draft resolution from the Library Commission as well as Amanda’s bio. (The video for “Agenda Item 14” starts at 2:04:02; Library Commissioner Ann Stevenson begins speaking at 2:04:24).

screen capture of city council meeting August 18 2015

Congratulations to Amanda! She begins her term in January 2016.

Here are a few selection committee members who were able to attend the council meeting.

PL3 group Adrians photo

Bev Lenihan, Adrian Kolb, Amanda Williamsen, Dave Denny, Jennifer Brown, Ann Stevenson, Pushpa MacFarlane

Catching Up with the PL Summer

Summer has been a busy time, for me, and for Cupertino poetry lovers. I’ve been away from this blog, doing my poetry work, spending time with family and vacation. But there’s been poetry action, and with this post I want to give an overview of what’s been happening in the past three months.

July

July 7: Poets in the Park at Rancho San Antonio 

  • I spent some great time with a friend and her son reading poetry and exploring this local park. Check out the videos!

July 11: California Poets in the Schools at the Silicon Valley STEAM Festival 

July 21: Media Poetry Studio Guest Lesson

  • My PL colleagues Erica Goss and David Perez invited me to give a lesson to their teen girl campers.

July Cupertino Poet Laureate Selection Committee & Interviews

Cupertino Scene June announcment of search with all names

August

August 1: Media Poetry Studio Videos Presentation 

  • Students from this special summer camp presented their video poems at the Milpitas Library.

August 18: Cupertino City Council Appoints New Poet Laureate 

Poet Laureate Vacation Adventures

I had a great vacation and spent some time with poetry and favorite American poets.

  • Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst Massachusetts
  • Robert Frost moments at Amherst College
  • Friends of the Library Used Bookstores, Boothbay Harbor and Wiscasset Maine
  • Placerville, California Bookstore Pleasures

KKUP Interview and Poems

Did you know Cupertino has it’s own public radio station? KKUP (FM 91.5) is a sweet little station filled with volunteers and subscribers who broadcast out of a funky studio in East San Jose.

KKUP from web

Last month I was invited to read poetry and talk about the current search for the next Cupertino Poet Laureate. Pushpa MacFarlane, a member of the search committee and a friend and awesome local poet, arranged the time with KKUP music mixer extraordinaire, David Stafford.

David Stafford, KKUP

David Stafford, KKUP at his sound board (Photo by Pushpa MacFarlane)

Pushpa reading

Pushpa MacFarlane, reading her poems

Jennifer at KKUP

Jennifer Swanton Brown, reading her poems at KKUP (Photo by Pushpa MacFarlane)

I read my “Softball Sestina” (published in The Sand Hill Review 2006) which I wrote for my daughter and her team, The Purple Power. I read “In A Dry Time” which I wrote for the 2014 Silicon Valley Fall Festival, and “Dog Park Rules” which I wrote for Cupertino’s Mary Avenue Dog Park.

I also read “My Elements: Earth” by a student I taught last year while working as a poet/teacher with California Poets in the Schools. This poem was published in If the Sky Was My Heart (the California Poets in the Schools 2014 Statewide Anthology). I teach a lesson based on one by Maureen Hurley, CPITS Area Coordinator from Alameda County.

My Elements: Earth

I shake like an earthquake,
I erupt like a volcano.
My outside is as hard as a rock.
My inside is soft,
a dark brown soil.
Inside, I have peace,
hills, fields, and valleys.
Don’t judge on what you see outside,
look past that boulder, look past that mountain!
Behind them grows peace.
Mounds of green, birds are free!
My soft, underground soil
is better on the inside.
Outside, I am hard,
boulder, grime, and rocks.
When I’m mad, I’m a volcano,
when I’m mad, I’m an earthquake.
Outside, there’s mud, muck, and dirt.
Two completely different sides.
Please don’t judge on what you see.
Both sides of me bring all my harmony.

Alicia Chen
Grade Four, Gomes Elementary School
Alameda County

The rest of these photos show the inside of the KKUP station — I admired the signs and the pictures. All around, a great place!

KKUP sign KKUP poetry KKUP tapes KKUP photos

Reading and Interview on KKUP

Looking forward to this!!!

2012-new-kkup-logo-1

I’ll be reading poems and discussing the ongoing search for the next (#3) Cupertino Poet Laureate on KKUP (FM 91.5) public radio today (Friday, June 26) at 4:00 pm. Pushpa MacFarlane has arranged this as part of the Friday Folk Off, every Friday from 3:00 to 6:00, courtesy of the every wonderful David Stafford!

Tune in!

Code Poetry Hack-a-Slam Success!

It was our first ever Cupertino Code Poetry Hack-a-thon and Slam. We had no idea what we would happen. But, in the end, plenty of people showed up, and we slammed six poems at the end of three hours of concentrated fun. I am so pleased and grateful to all who helped and came out for our wild and crazy tech + art event.

Here are my photos of the slam portion of the event. There was video and I’m sure other photos, but for now, you’ll have to imagine us listening to the lecture and demonstration and eating our pizza.

Table 1 included tw0-time Stanford Code Poetry Slam participant Julian Bliss and “two novice coders and amateur poets” (yes, that’s how these kids described themselves). Both students read about the event in the Cupertino Courier and came ready to learn and work. (See more of Julian’s work here and here.)

Table 1 Bliss with two edited Table 1 presenting with Ben and Julian Table 1 on screen 1

I am asking my friends what computer languages these poems were written in, so stay tuned for updates.

Table 1 on screen 2

To our utter delight, Ms. Ghaidaa Mousabacha (language arts teacher from Morrill Middle School in San Jose) brought many of eighth-grade students to our slam. There were three tables of Ms. M’s students. They loved the pizza, but I think they truly enjoyed the poetry and the coding (for which they had no previous experience!) I was very inspired talking to Ms. M. about her love of teaching and her dedication to her students.

Table 2 wrote a code poem about Starbucks. Three brave souls presented it to the audience.

Table 2Table 2 on screen Table 2 presenting

Table 3, also students from Ms. M’s class, worked on their poem with Stanford Code Poetry Slam founder Melissa Kagen and then presented it with another Stanford Code Poetry guest Ben Allen. Their poem was about Batman.

Table 3 with MKTable 3 batman on screen Table 3 presenting wide with Ben  Table 3 presenting Table 3 presenting with Ben

We had some technical difficulties projecting Table 4’s poem on the screen, but they did a fine job and had the audience laughing. You can see them working on their piece with Ms. M and Ben.

Table 4 with Ben and Ms MTable 4 presenting

A local De Anza College student wrote the beginnings of a very interesting poem about Cat’s Cradle (is that a language?) and I overheard her and Melissa talking about how she should keep writing it and submit it to the next Stanford Slam.

Juhi presentingJuhi on screen

Well-known local poet Dennis Noren also joined us for the afternoon. Dennis brought his background in economics, data analysis and poetry together in his piece. My photography skills weren’t always up to the task of getting poet and poem at the same time, but I did get a fun view of Dennis’s poem while he was writing/coding it!

Dennis presentingDennis laptop coding Dennis on screen

Here are a few more shots of the scene, including a silly selfie of Melissa and me — we had such a good time.

JSB with CupPL poster JSB MK selfie

My most heartfelt thanks to Adrian Kolb for bringing the pizza, and to Chris in the blue shirt who served as our great room and tech guy. The City of Cupertino really went the distance this time, supporting us with space and technical assistance. Without them we wouldn’t have had such a successful event.

P.S. Did you know that there are over 9 pages of programming languages on Wikipedia? I was told yesterday that is is just the beginning. I remember my Dad writing in Assembly Language. I tried to learn Pascal in college. The possibilities are endless.