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.

write your first poem group with kids.JPG

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.

 

 

Cupertino Library Diwali Celebration

On October 24, 2015, the Cupertino Library hosted a Diwali Celebration of song, dance, crafts, and food. Amanda Williamsen and Jennifer Swanton Brown (incoming and outgoing poets laureate) presented two poems, one each they had composed from comments and memories shared by visitors to the Cupertino Library booth at the Chamber of Commerce Diwali Festival the previous weekend. Many thanks to Gayathri Kanth, the Cupertino Community Librarian for inviting us and making us feel welcome.

diwali yellow card 2 diwali yellow card 3

Over 60 people left memories, feelings, thoughts, and drawings about Diwali. Amanda and Jennifer split them up and wrote poems that are complimentary in their style and substance. Here is Jennifer’s poem:

Diwali Voices

Diwali is, Latika reminds, the festival of joy and light,
which makes our lives even more bright.
Meera and her daughter eat lots of sweets –
the new lehenga is orange and gold –
and the henna tickles.
Aditri likes the colorful creative beautiful rangoli

Diwali is the festival of lights,
which even small boys know
celebrates the victory of Rama.
On Diwali, I go to the temple –
Aarav celebrates with family and friends –
Sanyay does nothing and something –
Yash burns firecrackers.

Oh, the firecrackers!
Noopur lights candles,
Kashish puts lights outside the house
and everyone loves the firecrackers
everywhere. On Diwali I light firecrackers –
on Diwali I hold and play with friends
and do stick fireworks –
on Diwali we all fire firecrackers –
At Ria’s house there are 50 candles in the pool!

I feel more in touch with my community –
the lights fill me with warmth –
I study for an hour –
I have fun praying and celebrating our family –
I love Diwali –
I look forward to Diwali –
I call my friends to my house –
I decorate my house –
I celebrate I celebrate –
spreading happiness and love –

On Diwali, I wear a bright green saree
and listen to the voices of Cupertino.

Written with the voices of Cupertino residents from the October 17, 2015 Diwali Festival.

Visit the library in the upcoming months to see the collection of Diwali cards and the poems on display.

Here are some photos of scene on October 24th in the Community Hall. What a wonderful celebration.

Library Diwali Amanda and friends from Amanda Diwali Library 1 girls used Diwali Library 3 altar use Diwali Library 6 program use

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.

diwali poetry booth amanda ghoda clare close website

Amanda, Godha and Clare!

diwali booth amanda clare godha website

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.

diwali help us write a poem website diwali filling out a yellow card website

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.

##

Three Favorite Books — Sponsored by the Cupertino Library

Check ’em out here!!  My most favorite book of poetry for children isn’t in the Cupertino Library, being quite old and in a extinct edition. You can see from the image below that it’s quite tattered.

IMG_6425 (1)

The Cupertino Library features three favorite books by local readers every week on their Facebook page, and the previous Thursday, they featured Amanda Williamsen, the incoming PL.

three favorite amanda

As devout and dedicated readers, it’s hard to choose just three.

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.

Poems from Teen Poetry Workshop

As part of my April activities, I co-hosted a workshop for teens at the Cupertino Library with David Perez. Read about the fun we had and read the poems written by three students who joined us.

Poetry Workshop for Teens at Cupertino Library

Please join me and my friend David Perez, the current Santa Clara County PL, this Thursday evening at the Cupertino Library for a poetry workshop. Celebrate National Poetry Month with us!

I’ll warm up the crowd with a poetry warm up full of colors and David will run his part of the workshop in his inimitable way.

Bring a poem of your own, or come ready to write and hang out.

Register at the library website at this link. Hope to see you there!

Teen Poetry Workshop at Cupertino Library

Photos from Cupertino Library Anniversary Celebration

I posted an album of these photos on Facebook, but for those of you who don’t “do” Facebook, here’s the best of the bunch. It was a great afternoon and I’m thankful to have been invited by the Cupertino Library Foundation and Library Commission.

IMG_4195 IMG_4191 IMG_4190

I decorated my booth with poems written by me and by winners of the Silicon Valley Reads contest (March 2014). I had magnetic poetry for folks to play with and my trusty golden poet laureate cup.

IMG_4177 IMG_4176 IMG_4175 IMG_4172 IMG_4170 batman

I had some very special guests. Meeting the Cat in the Hat has always been a life long dream! Batman and I discussed poetry about bats. Former Cupertino Poet Laureate, David Denny, chatted up Darth Vader, who commented, that, although the Empire was not much of a poetical place, “I’ll have to think up some Imperial Haiku.”

I also had many community members drop by, play with the magnetic poetry, and create the own poems. Here is a sampling.

IMG_4158 IMG_4159 IMG_4160 IMG_4161 IMG_4162 IMG_4163 IMG_4164 IMG_4165 IMG_4166 IMG_4167 IMG_4168 IMG_4178 IMG_4179 IMG_4192

I’m not sure why some of the poem photos are coming out sideways, but I guess that’s okay with poetry.  I also provided a game of “Exsquisite Corpse” and many people wrote lines. You can see the Imperial Storm Trooper above adding his. I’m working them all into a single poem, and will get that up here one of these days.

IMG_4196

It was a great day for the library and for poetry. I’m grateful (as always) to my supporters from the Library Foundation, the Library Commission and from the community. This time, especially to Bev Lenihan, Gayathri Kanth, and Adrian Kolb.

IMG_4182

???????????????????????????????

One final shout out to my neighbor, Barbara Pollek, for making my fantastic Poet Laureate apron. It was the perfect gear for the day.

A Gate In Cupertino

There was so much going on yesterday at the Cupertino Library’s 10th Anniversary Fair! I will post a separate post with all my photos, observations, and special superhero sightings. Here is the poem I wrote for the occasion, slightly altered from the way I read it during the ceremony for the Teen Advisory Board’s time capsule internment. I was honored to be asked to read during that special event.

A Gate in Cupertino

In Cupertino, there is a rickety gate in a redwood fence.
It hides recycle bins and drying laundry.
Cats sit on the gate in the morning
waiting to be fed.

For dreamers in Ancient Greece,
there was a gate of ‘sawn ivory,’
and a gate of ‘polished horn.’
Penelope asked the old stranger
if her dreams of her wandering husband
were false or true.

High in the mountains of Hunan province,
there is a gate on the Yellow River
where a strong carp, who perseveres,
who swims with courage and leaps up,
becomes a dragon.

We live in a modern city
without stone walls, without iron fortifications.
The gates to our city are freeways and wide boulevards.
Here, there is a gateway to learning—
shining with glass and flanked by
trees of fire, the library gates are made of fountains.

Enter these gates today.
You don’t need a magic key.
Enter these gates today to dream,
enter to be transformed.
(c) Jennifer Swanton Brown
for the Cupertino Library 10th Anniversary
October 18, 2014

Notes on the poem

The theme for the Cupertino Library’s Anniversary was “Gateway to Learning.”  I spent some time researching famous gates in literature, and the symbology of gates in different cultures and dreams. I found gates mentioned prominently in Milton’s poem “L’Allegro” (1645) and in Book 19 of Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. I also discovered a lovely Chinese legend of the Dragon’s Gate, about carp that leap up through waterfalls high in Hunan province, on the Yellow River, and become dragons. There is a proverb that goes like this: 鲤鱼跳龙门. Learning all of this history and culture was great, but I needed an image to start the poem. I’d promised to write one for the anniversary and I was getting nervous. Sitting at my kitchen table Saturday morning, I spotted my cat, perched on the gate outside the kitchen door. Some gates are grand, some are humble. I had my poem.

Right against the Eastern gate,
Wher the great Sun begins his state,
Rob’d in flames, and Amber light,
The clouds in thousand Liveries dight.

Milton, L’Allegro (1645)

“Two gates there are for our evanescent dreams,
one is made of ivory, the other made or horn.
Those that pass through the ivory cleanly carved
are will-o’-the-wisps, their message bears no fruit.
The dreams that pass through the gates of polished horn
are fraught with trugh, for the dreamer who can see them.”

Homer, The Odyssey (19:630-640) Fagles trans.