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.

 

Refugee Poetry Sought!

 

Poets and Writers –

Editors James Adams (Pulitzer Prize nominee for Noble Savage) and South African poet Peter Anderson are looking for submission to their INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE POETRY ANTHOLOGY — WaterWood Press will accept refugee poetry beginning the 2019 anthology entitled Elusions: Refugee Poetry.

Submission guidelines: Original poems/translations on refugees in any style. No PPW (previously published work) except for poems in translation. Submit 1–3 poems per poet (3 copies per poem). No more than 30 lines per poem. Include SASE and cover letter. All entries postmarked by August 15. No fees.

Mail submissions to:
WaterWood Press
Attn: 2018 Refugee Poetry Editor
47 Waterwood
Huntsville, TX 77320 

Good luck! Let me know if you submit and if you’re accepted!

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Writing Poetry with Warm Ups

writing exerciseThere are many parallels between writing and exercise. With both, it can be challenging to get started. We’ll swear tomorrow’s the day we get going, we’ll do it every day for at least an hour, and we imagine grand results in record time… only to quit after a day or so. We worry we’ll look foolish next to the “experts” out there. It can be hard to find a routine that works for us, especially with the constant demands from work, family, and friends on our time. We hit plateaus, and physical or mental obstacles can set us back or derail us.

It’s no wonder many people who have always wanted to try writing (or exercise) shy away or give up when their first draft (or workout) is less than stellar (hint: almost all first are less than stellar!). In teaching writing, I’ve found one mistake new writers make is diving into composing a piece without doing any pre-writing work. This is the equivalent of setting out to sprint a mile without warming up. Your muscles are cold, your blood flow is slow, and you’re bound to get hurt or, at the very least, you won’t set your best time.

Think of these warm-up exercises as getting the brain ready for the real work by clearing the creative passageways of any junk warm upfloating around. Sometimes the “junk” might actually be precious gems that can be used in finished pieces, and sometimes the junk is just junk. And that’s okay. By getting it out of your system, you have warmed up your brain and can focus on the next thing.  Working through warm-up exercises is also a great way to beat writer’s block.

Here is one quick warm-up routine I sometimes use. You should spend no more than 15 minutes total on the group of exercises – in other words, write and write fast. The trick is to not think before you write. Just write. Let whatever comes to mind come out on the page without worrying about whether or not it’s good or makes sense. No judgments, just the pen moving over paper.

Ready? Let’s go…

brain-exercisesPoetry Warm-up Routine #5 

Required equipment:

  • A timer or clock
  • A pen/pencil and paper (do warm-up exercises by hand!)
  • A space to work in

Exercises:

    1. Spend two minutes writing lines that begin with “I wish…” and keep going until the timer sounds. Write the lines as a list going down the page.
    2. Spend two minutes writing lines that begin with “Once…” and keep going until the timer sounds. Write the lines as a list going down the page.
    3. This two-minute warm up is split: Spend one minute writing lines that begin with “Now…” then spend one minute writing lines that begin with “I remember…” Write the lines as a combined list going down the page.
    4. Spend two minutes writing a list of lies.
    5. Spend no more than six minutes total!
      – For the final warm up, fold your paper in half to create two columns.
      – Next, write a list of five concrete nouns in the right column (30 seconds). (Concrete nouns are nouns that are tangible. To figure out if the noun is concrete, do what I call the “Drop Test.” Ask yourself, could this noun be dropped on my foot? For something like a mug, the answer is yes. For something like love, the answer is no.)
      – Then, write a list of five verbs or adjectives ending in -ing (e.g., biting, singing, dashing) in the left column (30 seconds).
      – Now randomly draw a line from each noun to one -ing word. When you’re done, you should have five word pairs.
      -Finally, write a sentence for each pair. Do not spend more than one minute on each sentence! The sentences do not have to be related, though if you’re looking for an extra challenge you can layer this in.

To help you see what the result of these warm-up exercises look like, here are some excerpts from the last time I used this warm-up routine. Remember – these are warm-up exercises, not polished pieces of writing!

ONE – “I wish…”

  • I wish I could function on four hours of sleep every night.
  • I wish guns had no place in our world.
  • I wish it were easier to find size 10 ballroom shoes.
  • I wish I could answer the question “Why?”
  • I wish my children never had to face loss.
  • I wish I could fall asleep each night watching stars streak across the inky sky.

TWO – “Once…”

  • Once I believed unicorns and dragons were real and leprechauns lived at the end of rainbows.
  • Once I found five dollars at the bottom of a river.
  • Once I laughed until I couldn’t breathe and the black spots burst on the backs of my eyelids.
  • Once I believed love was enough.
  • Once I dropped a pink ribbon into a pot of soup.
  • Once I wanted to be a firetruck with a tall ladder and loud bell.
  • Once I was able to run for miles and miles.

THREE – “Now…” followed by “I remember…”

  • Now she pays for groceries with borrowed pennies.
  • Now I wipe away their tears with my apron strings.
  • Now I know the joy of giving in at the right time.
  • Now I know the only thing at the end of a rainbow is wet grass.
  • I remember the weakness of small people in a large crowd.
  • I remember the slice of a knife through my finger.
  • I remember the taste of being five and the warm rain as it fell on the field.
  • I remember the banter of the geese on the pond in the early hours of November.

FOUR – “Lies”

  • I never to go bed angry.
  • My patience flows from a bottomless well.
  • I’ve never regretted a decision or action.
  • I love my name.
  • I never struggle to find words.

FIVE – “Concrete Nouns & Descriptive Words”

  • cutting eraser – My sketch disappeared without hesitation under the cutting eraser.
  • biting bed skirt – The scratchy fabric burned the tops of her sensitive feet like a biting bed skirt.
  • longing pencils – The blank page called liked a siren to the longing pencils sitting idly in the dusty cup at the edge of the desk.
  • searing wedding band – Her entrapment after his betrayal was like a searing wedding band melding flesh to bone.
  • enveloping coffee – I closed my eyes and allowed my senses to be overwhelmed by the enveloping coffee.

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Creativity Workshop: Igniting Your Writing!

sensory imagesI had so much fun on Tuesday at the Quinlan Center with a group of 3rd through 6th graders as we went through the first of the Igniting Your Writing workshops! In this first session, we focused on making our writing come alive with sensory imagery.

We began the session by listening to poetry and visualizing the imagery in them. We even attempted a drawing of Jack Prelutsky’s crazy dog from My Dog, He is an Ugly Dog! It was great fun. The kids then broke into groups and visited different sensory stations focusing on picking descriptive words based on sense sensations for sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Finally, we worked on crafting our own imagery poems based on sensory description. I’m very much looking forward to next week’s session on word choice!

Here is a sampling of their original work!

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Original Sensory Imagery Poems (Grades 3-6)

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

 

 

 

National Poetry Month: CONTEST!

creative peace symbolWith National Poetry Month drawing to a close in a few days and the turmoil going on in the world around us, I wanted to share with you this wonderful contest from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)3 organization based in Santa Barbara, California.

Please note that I am not affiliated with the organization or poetry awards in any way. If you have questions about the contest, please direct them to the email address in the information below.

Good luck!

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The 2018 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards

The Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards is an annual series of awards to encourage poets to explore and illuminate positive visions of peace and the human spirit. The Poetry Awards include three age categories: Adult, Youth 13-18, and Youth 12 & Under. The deadline for entries is July 1, 2018.

The annual contest is open to people worldwide. Poems must be original, unpublished, and in English.

Deadline

All entries must be postmarked (or emailed) by July 1, 2018.

Awards

Adult Winner – $1,000
Youth (13 to 18) Winner – $200
Youth (12 and under) Winner – $200
We may award Honorable Mentions in each category.

Entry Fee

Adults – $15 for up to three poems
Youth (13 to 18) – $5
Youth (12 and under) – no fee
If submitting on paper, please make checks payable to Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Cash and money order are also accepted.

Procedures (to submit online)

Any entry that does not adhere to ALL of the contest rules will not be considered for a prize.

Adults
1. You may submit up to three unpublished poems. Maximum of 30 lines per poem.
2. Include name, “adult category,” address, email and telephone number in upper right-hand corner of each poem.
3. Title each poem.
4. Email your poem(s) in a Microsoft Word attachment (.doc or .docx) to cwarner@napf.org.
5. Please keep copies of your Word files.
6. Click here to pay your $15 entry fee online.
Youth (Ages 13-18)
1. You may submit up to three unpublished poems. Maximum of 30 lines per poem.
2. Include name, age, address, email and telephone number in upper right-hand corner of each poem.
3. Title each poem.
4. Email your poem(s) in a Microsoft Word attachment (.doc or .docx) to cwarner@napf.org.
5. Please keep copies of your Word files.
6. Click here to pay your $5 entry fee online.
Youth (12 and Under)
1. You may submit up to three unpublished poems. Maximum of 30 lines per poem.
2. Include name, age, address, email, telephone number, school name and teacher’s name in upper right-hand corner of each poem.
3. Title each poem.
4. Email your poem(s) in a Microsoft Word attachment (.doc or .docx) to cwarner@napf.org.
5. Please keep copies of your Word files.

Procedures (to submit on paper)

1. Send two copies of up to three typed unpublished poems. Maximum of 30 lines per poem.
2. Include name, address, email, telephone number, and age (if 18 or under) in upper right-hand corner of one copy of each poem. Adults, please write “adult category” in upper right-hand corner.
3. For the Youth (12 and under) category, in addition to the information in #2, please also include your school’s name and your teacher’s name.
4. Title each poem.
5. Do not staple individual poems together.
6. Please keep copies of all entries as we will be unable to return them.
7. Send entries to:
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
PMB 121, 1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 1
Santa Barbara, CA 93108-2794

Any entry that does not adhere to ALL of the contest rules will not be considered for a prize.

Judging

Judging will be done by a committee of poets selected by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Copies of the winning poems from previous years are available here.

Winners

Winners and Honorable Mentions will be announced by September 21, 2018 on the NAPF website. Winners will be notified by email and/or mail. Past years’ winning poems can be found here.

Book Offer

Please include an additional $10 if you would like to receive a copy of Never Enough Flowers: The Poetry of Peace II, a collection of first-place and honorable mention poems of the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards from 2003-2010.

National Poetry Month: Poem-a-Day

poets.orgNational Poetry Month ends on April 30th, but you can keep the feeling going strong by signing up to receive a poem by email from the American Academy of Poets, the folks responsible for starting National Poetry Month in 1996.

I signed up for Poem-a-Day back in 2014, which means I’ve read and received hundreds of poems over the years. Some days I skim the poem and smile, then move on with my day. Other days, the poem resonates deep within me and shifts my perspective for the rest of the day, following me like a shadow. Either way, receiving a new poem to read each day has been a wonderful way for me to grow my knowledge of the body of American poetry.

You can join thousands of others who have discovered the pleasures of a Poem-a-Day by visiting the Academy of American Poets page here. In the meantime, here’s a copy of today’s poem written by Mineapolis-based poet, Danez Smith.

 

say it with your whole black mouth

                                                                                                 by Danez Smith

say it with your whole black mouth: i am innocent

& if you are not innocent, say this: i am worthy of forgiveness,
of breath after breath

i tell you this: i let blue eyes dress me in guilt
walked around stores convinced the very skin of my palm was stolen

& what good has that brought me? days filled flinching
thinking the sirens were reaching for me

& when the sirens were for me
did i not make peace with god?

so many white people are alive because
we know how to control ourselves.

how many times have we died on a whim
wielded like gallows in their sun-shy hands?

here, standing in my own body, i say: the next time
they murder us for the crime of their imaginations

i don’t know what i’ll do.

i did not come to preach of peace
for that is not the hunted’s duty.

i came here to say what i can’t say
without my name being added to a list

what my mother fears i will say

                         what she wishes to say herself

i came here to say

i can’t bring myself to write it down

sometimes i dream of pulling a red apology
from a pig’s collared neck & wake up crackin up

              if i dream of setting fire to cul-de-sacs
              i wake chained to the bed

i don’t like thinking about doing to white folks
what white folks done to us

when i do
                      can’t say

         i don’t dance

 

o my people

          how long will we

reach for god

          instead of something sharper?

 

my lovely doe

with a taste for meat

         take

the hunter

         by his hand

Copyright (c) 2018 by Danez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

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Earth Day Poetry: Upcycled Poetry Books

Upcycled Poetry Book picture I’m so excited about this program which is fast approaching! Next Thursday (4/26), I’m hosting an Upcycled Poetry Book workshop in honor of Earth Day and National Poetry Month.

This program is a little different from past workshops. It began months ago when I talked to local writer and artist Keiko O’Leary about doing a joint program. When Keiko and I got together to discuss possible programs, she mentioned Earth Day. I loved the idea, and we decided to go home and play around with different recycled books.

At home, I tried several types of book styles from recycled materials, but as soon as I saw this “blossom” style accordion book (thank you crafter Jen of Eve for the inspiration from her Smash Book series!) I knew it was the one!

I quickly made a prototype and couldn’t wait to share my discovery with Keiko. She loved it, too, and made this handy video that shows how it opens and closes (thanks, Keiko!) Here are some photos of the prototype I made! (The pages in the photos have yet to receive their poems.)

I hope you’ll join me at this free workshop! At the event, we’ll open with a quick poetry warm-up exercise, then Keiko will teach some hand lettering techniques so we can make our books even more beautiful. Finally, we’ll spend time constructing our books from recycled materials, then transcribe poetry onto the pages of the books.

Participants should bring their own poetry if they’d like to transcribe their own work OR a favorite poem (or two) by another writer. I will also have poetry on hand for those who would like to choose poems at the workshop. Additionally, all book-making materials will be provided, but participants may bring their own recycled papers, favorite magazines, etc., to use for making the cover if desired.

To register, simply email me! Hope to see you there!

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National Poetry Month: Poetry Postcards

During National Poetry Month, it’s fun to celebrate poetry in small, unexpected ways. The other day, I received this postcard in the mail:

It was delightful to catch this snippet of poetry in my hands, particularly because it was so unexpected and surprising. It made me think that sending a poetry postcard is the perfect way to celebrate creativity and create delight for someone else.

The rules are simple:

  • Write a poem (or part of a poem) on a postcard
  • Be sure to include the title and author (if you’re sending the card anonymously and including something you wrote, you may leave the author off the card – just be sure to credit someone else’s work)
  • Send to friend, acquaintance, small business, etc.

That’s it! Simple and easy, yet powerful.

If you send or receive a postcard, drop me a note in the comments section and let me know about the experience!

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Creativity Workshop: Word Collage!

try-something-newWhat a fantastic morning today at the Cupertino Senior Center with an amazing bunch of creative woman! I am grateful to have spent this time in community with each and every one of them. Here is a partial sampling of the creative work that resulted from today’s workshop on Word Collage. Amazing!

The idea behind Word Collage Poetry is to focus on connections and patterns and create meaning from the juxtaposition of language and images. The poet can then let the work stand or can continue to explore the connection and revise. Thank you, all, for a phenomenal Thursday!

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