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!

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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.

diwali jen with poetry booth and sari website

Jennifer wearing the saree, her first time ever.

diwali godha and clare with their poem website

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.

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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:

Reading at Peninsula Literary October 16

I have the pleasure of having been invited to be a featured reader at the upcoming fall Peninsula Literary event.

I’ve been asked to read some of my poems from The Poetry Booth and to discuss the process. That should be a lot of fun. Come with your questions.

Here’s the back of the flyer, with some information about my co-featured reader, Lori Ostlund.

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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

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

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(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.)