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

Reading at Sunday Assembly

One of the joys of being the city’s Poet Laureate is that your name gets circulated among poetry lovers all over the county. I had the honor last month of being invited to read some of my poetry as part of the Sunday Assembly Silicon Valley meeting, June 14, 2015. (Photo above by Vickie Thompson, (c) Sunday Assembly.)

The featured reader for the morning was Lester Deanes, assistant dean at Santa Clara University’s Office of Student Life. He gave a great talk called “Man in Progress – A Conversation on Redefining Manhood and Family.” For me the highlight was a video he showed at the end of the talk of kids at a camp singing songs about gender issues.

Sunday Assembly is a group that meets, sings, listens to lectures and poems, shares adversity and adventure. They meet in the absolutely gorgeous old San Jose Women’s Club building, which has a lovely auditorium. I took several photos of the light fixtures while I was warming up my poetry mojo.

Sunday Assembly sconce Sunday Assembly light fixture

I especially love Sunday Assembly’s motto: Live Better. Help Often. Wonder More. I took these photos of the palms they use to define a more intimate space for meeting. Look closely for their little signs of joy.

Sunday Assembly Wonder More

Wonder More!

Sunday Assembly Live Better Sunday Assembly Help Often

I read two of my newer poems, “Liver & Onions,” and “Hold What He Made” about my own father. I read “The New Season: A Baseball Sestina,” which celebrates my son and husband, and Little League Teams everywhere (published in What the World Hears, California Poets in the Schools 2009 Statewide Anthology). I also read a CPITS student poem, “My Father’s Hands” (published in If The Sky Was My Heart, California Poets in the Schools 2014 Statewide Anthology), and which I reproduce here:

My Father’s Hands

Scarred are my father’s
hands and wrists
from cuts,
never self-inflicted,
but the scars
of a working man.
Unfortunately, also those
of a junkie,
the poison needle
long gone,
but its marks
ever present,
the veins standing out.
He wears fantastic
silver bracelets,
drawing attention away
from the marks.
I think he’s ashamed,
embarrassed,
or both.
The hands of my father,
loving and caring,
despite the permanent marks
and the roughness.

(c) Cassidy Bailey
Grade Nine, Six Rivers Charter School
Humboldt County

Reading and Interview on KKUP

Looking forward to this!!!

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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!

Some Awesome April-is-Poetry Month Links + Two Silly Poems

NaPoMo is overwhelming. Here is a collection of things I’ve salvaged from the onslaught.


The Library of Congress is Uploading 75 Years of Poetry and Literature Recordings

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Robert Frost

Yesterday selections from the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress became available to stream online for the first time — the launch of a project digitizing some of their 2,000 recordings from the past 75 years of literature. “I think that reading poetry and prose on the page is important, but there’s nothing that can replace listening to literature read aloud, especially when it is read by the creator of the work.”


International Lit Mag Focuses on Dissidents, Exiles and Asking the Hard Questions

wlt

(Review of World Literature Today, March/April 2015 by Nichole Reber)

The Children’s Poetry StoryBox is a physical traveling box that was launched at The Thurber Center in February 2014 and has returned to Columbus, OH.

(I want to do this so much, but it will have to wait until another April….)

story box

At a reception at the Thurber House, you will hear poetry that was begun by famous children’s poets – including current poet laureate Ken Nesbitt, Jane Yule, Georgia Heard, Nikki Grimes, George Ella, Lyons, David Harrison, Alan Wolf – and finished by hundreds of primarily elementary students around the nation.


Shakespeare’s Sonnets, All 154, Reimagined Through A New York Lens

(Yes, really, all 154 sonnets, with video. Oh my.)

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A crew filming Sonnet 108 at the John T. Brush stairway. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Mr. Williams tried matching sonnets with locations based on their “imagery and rhetorical arguments,” pairing, for example, the legal-minded Sonnet 46 with the State Supreme Court building. He mixed well-known locations, like Grand Central Terminal and the Unisphere, with less familiar ones, like the Holocaust memorial near Madison Square Park.


That’s enough for now. Whew. What a month.

I even wrote a poem, sort of a rant, really, actually two rant-like poems, very much the same. Here’s the second one.

Photos from Silicon Valley Reads Art & Immigration Event

Earlier in March, I had the honor and pleasure of reading with my friends, past and present Poets Laureate in Santa Clara County, and wonderful wonderful teen poets. The students read their poems on the theme of immigration — some of them related their own experiences of home, experiences of their families, or imagined experiences.

I read a poem I wrote years ago, “Samarth’s Mom” — an observation of a young Indian mother with her children at our local elementary school. You can read it at this link, in the online journal Convergence.

Here are some photos from that evening.

Immigrant Reading 6

The event took place at the lovely Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose.

Immigrant Reading 5

Waiting outside the MHP auditorium. If you look closely, you can see Erica Goss waving from inside the window!

Immigrant Reading 3

Past Poets Laureate of Santa Clara County, Nils Peterson and Sally Ashton, at their book signing table.

Immigrant Reading 4

Not having my own poetry books (yet!) I sold anthologies and lesson plan books for California Poets in the Schools.

Immigrant Reading 1

The student poets were each paired with one adult. Here I am with my delightful Saratoga High School senior. (Name pending permissions.)

Happy Lunar New Year! Poem for the Year of the Goat

No matter how you say it, no matter what language you use, Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Lunar New Year! 新年快乐!! 新年快樂, 洋洋得意! Wishing you luck in the upcoming Year of the Goat! Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) and Gong Hey Fat Choy (Cantonese).

I have been asked again this year by the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce to write a poem for their Lunar New Year Luncheon, sponsored by the Asian American Business Council. Information on the February 26th event is here. You may recall that last year I attended the luncheon and read a poem, honoring the Year of the Horse. This year’s poem, honoring the Year of the Goat, will be read by my friend and former Cupertino Library Commissioner, Adrian Kolb (as I will be out of town).

In honor of the day, and the year, here is my poem, “Cupertino, What is Your Moon? A Lunar New Year Sestina.”

Cupertino, What Is Your Moon? A Lunar New Year Sestina

Once a year, the year begins again.
The sun has made his one cycle, the moon
her twelve. The time has come to count your luck,
to launch anew – sure-footed as a goat –
your way, your goals and all your many dreams.
A city – like a woman or a man –

shakes off the dust. Each woman, child, man,
each teenager, each grandmother, again,
each grandfather compares today with dreams
long dreamed, imagined once under the moon
of youth. But truth is stubborn, like a goat,
and dreams as unreliable as luck.

And cities, built of stone, if they have luck,
are only as lucky as their citizens – men
and women – strong-hearted as symbolic goats
(or sheep) will be in the year to come. Again,
we will make plans and love under the moon;
nothing can keep the dreamers from their dreams.

So, Cupertino, what will be your dream?
How hard will you work to make your luck
as certain to come true as the full moon
surely shines in the night for anyone
who waits for clouds to float away again?
And what are we to think of the green goat,

with humble heart, who patiently waits, a goat
after all dreams only goat dreams,
and we are human. Will we try again
our hands at the same games of luck
and chance? Or aim higher, like the man
sent into space, sent to the moon?

Cupertino, what will be your moon?
Will you climb your mountains, like the goat,
will you, every woman, every man,
rededicate your life to those old dreams,
or strike out somewhere new and test your luck?
Now’s the time; the year begins again.

May both the sun and moon shine on your dreams.
May you feel strong and peaceful as the goat, and may your luck
be human, and like the New Year, start again.

(c) Jennifer Swanton Brown

Comments on this poem

The first challenge was to decide on the image of goat or sheep for my poem. I polled my Chinese and Filipino friends. I investigated on the internet. I decided on the goat, since that’s what the Cupertino Chamber is using, and because of some of the internal rhymes available to me (like Cupertin-O) and alliterations (green goat, grandfather, grandmother) seemed right.

(Fortunately, today, NPR has run a lovely story on the radio that the choice of animal in Chinese is not fixed and so either will do.)

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I chose the sestina as the technical form for my poem because of its cyclical nature. The repetition of six end-line words in a sestina allows the poet to return again and again to several central images, an apt technique for a poem describing the cyclical nature of the moon and the years of our lives.

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Read more about this sestina form here (history from the American Academy of Poets) and information about how to construct a poem of this type, here (Wikipedia).