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.

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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: