Adventures at the Silicon Valley STEAM Festival

In one of my other poetry guises, as a California Poets in the Schools poet/teacher, I hosted a poetry play booth at the Silicon Valley STEAM Festival yesterday.


We had hundreds of kids and parents making poetry about planes in our booth. It was a lot of work, but fun and rewarding. Here I am with my pals Erica Goss and Amanda Williamson at the end of the day — looking as stunned, sunburned and windblown as we were!

all three 3 best

Here are a couple of photos of some of the great poems kids wrote (click through the “poetry play booth” link above to read all about the way we built the booth and to see more photos).

I want to fly to Israel orange boys poem

reading is a dream tablecloth poem 1 tablecloth poem later

Poets in the Parks : Frolicking, Birdwatching and more at Vasona

I’m really getting into the Santa Clara County Parks “Parks for Life Challenge” and Erica Goss is a good sport and willing to go along with my nutty schemes. Our first adventures were so fun, we went out and did it again.

We met at Vasona Lake Park, where we captured Carrie Grisenti, Parks for Life Game Coordinator. Erica and I want to develop some poetry activities to be included in the game, and Carrie was showing us the ropes.

PIP Christie and Erica 2

Carrie and Erica by the pier at Vasona Lake. Parks for Life Challenge Adventure #7 “Capture a Ranger”

Suddenly, Erica saw a gorgeous, huge white egret lift off the lake and fly into the air. We tried to get a photo, for Adventure #29 “Bird Watching” but Carrie reminded us that we actually had to have a photo of a real bird, not just a story about a bird sighting and a picture of Erica pointing. So, here are the photos of the no-longer-there-egret, Erica, and the still-there pigeon and other small brown bird.

PIP Erica pointing at egret 2

Erica points where there once had flown a lovely egret.

PIP Erica pointing at pigeon better

There are the birds we actually caught on camera — Erica with a pigeon and something else bird-like-enough. “There’s a pigeon! There’s a pigeon!” Really not a great capture, but good enough for points! Parks for Life Challenge Adventure # 29, Bird Watching

Next we wandered over to the administrative offices for our Adventure # 177 (Park Trivia – Four). Here’s the question:

Activity 177 screen capture explaining it

We went inside the office, read through many brochures, and finally had to get help from the lovely office staff. The “funding source” is the Parks Charter Fund! Here is our photographic proof. (And thanks to the Parks Charter Fund for supporting this really great game.)

PIP funding

Parks for Life Adventure # 177 (if you zoom in on the photo you can see that the paper says “Parks Charter Fund!” with a heart)

close up of paper PIP funding bigger

Next we wandered over toward the Juan Maria Hernandez Adobe Historic Landmark near the entrance to the park. The historical marker was placed in the park in 2014, and Erica wrote a poem to read at the unveiling. (Check out this story about that event). The Parks for Life Adventure #4 is a challenge to “take a goofy picture of yourself at a historic landmark” — well, we decided that we’d replicate the photo of “Juan Hernandez with one of his nine sons” — so here we are. I’m posing like the old man Juan (very stuff and self important) and Erica is sticking her tongue out in the way we imagine “one of his nine sons” might have felt like doing after he was done posing for the camera.

PIP Erica as one of nine sons 2

Erica imagining how “one of his nine sons” might really have felt —

PIP Jen as Jose 2

Jennifer Swanton Brown pretending to be Juan Maria Hernandez (the hat and the posturing are not exactly right, but it was fun!)

PIP Jose and one of nine sons  PIP Jose historic monumnet 2 PIP house PIP signage bigger

(I hope this is “hysterical” enough to get credit!)

Last but not least, Erica and I tried to “Frolic in the Park” Adventure #21. We were certainly having a great time. It’s hard to take a selfie of two people, frolicking, with their feet and their sign — so the photo at the top of this post is us in a tree with the flag, and here we are with our feet, after having frolicked all afternoon.

PIP erica and jennifer fett better

Hope to see you sometime soon, with poetry, in the park!

Poets in the Parks : Vasona Dam, Vasona Pier, Hugging a Tree

Erica Goss (Los Gatos Poet Laureate and my friend!) and I have joined the Santa Clara County Parks “Parks for Life Challenge” — read all about it at this link. Our team is “Poets in the Parks” (of course) and the photo at the top of this post is our flag! Nifty, huh?

Today Erica and I spent some time at Vasona Park in Los Gatos. What a lovely place. I don’t think I’ve been there since high school. We visited Vasona Dam (Adventure # 24 “Take a Dam Picture”), the nice fishing pier (Adventure #341 “Locate the Pier!!!”) and we hugged a gorgeous tree (Adventure #25 “Hug a Tree”).

The photos below are proof!  #Parks4LifeS15

Jen Erica Vasona dam 1

Jen and Erica at Vasona Dam #Parks4LifeS15

Jen Erica Vasona dam 2

Erica and Jen at Vasona Dam. Don’t fall in! #Parks4LifeS15 (Adventure #24) Poets in the Parks

Jen Erica Vasona pier 1

Jen and Erica at Vasona fishing pier, with Emily Dickinson (in the little book)

Jen Erica Vasona pier 2

Thanks to Ranger Kenny for the great photo! #Parks4LifeS15 (Adventure #341) Poets in the Parks

Jen reading ED Vasona dam

Jen reading Emily Dickinson at Vasona Dam. Erica takes great photos with her new camera.

Jen Vasona dam

Jen (not falling in) at Vasona Dam, before we found the nice bicycle guy to take our photo together. See above.

Jen Vasona pier 1

Reading Emily Dickinson poems at the fishing pier. (“Jen, you have to hold the flag better”)

Jen Vasona pier 2

Jen holding the flag better but with her eyes closed. You can’t have everything. Vasona Lake fishing pier.

Vasona lake selfie with flag

Vasona lake selfie (with flag appropriately well positioned, thanks to Erica)

Erica hugging a tree

Erica hugging a tree, holding her flag high! #Parks4LifeS15 (Adventure #25) Poets in the Parks

jen hugging tree with flag better

Jen hugging the tree, flag better (after being chastised yet again)

jen hugging tree

Jen hugging and kissing the tree (flag smushed). Are you seeing a pattern here?

vasona lake selfie

One more selfie, Vasona Lake is so lovely, the afternoon was so lovely (but again, the flag is nowhere to be seen. Thank goodness for Erica and take-overs.)

We would like to thank very cute Ranger Kenny for taking our photos on the pier and a very cute bicyclist who took our photos on the dam. We did our own tree photos.

We had Emily Dickinson with us, too, and we read some of her little poems at all the sites we visited.

Watch this space for more action from your favorite Poets in the Parks!

Poems and Photos from the Cherry Blossom Festival

What a great day I had at the Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival yesterday. I posted all my photos on Facebook, and you can see them at this link. David Perez, Erica Goss and I did our magic with typewriters and the imagination of strangers.

Some of the poems were especially lovely. Like this one I wrote with a young man, based on his answers to my questions.

Aman’s Poem

I also play the violin
I like kicking goals in soccer
Pasta with mushrooms tastes like happiness
I wear Lord Shiva on a silver chain
My favorite flowers are sunflowers
My name means peace.

amans poem

This poem, I wrote with this dad, because his kids were too shy, but they got into the poem!

jsb and the dad

One of my favorite poems was a collaboration with a sweet young person named Christina, who kept saying “I don’t know” when I’d ask her things. Funny what appears in poems.

christinas poem

Poetry at the Cherry Blossom Festival

Tomorrow is the Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival, at Memorial Park. The festival is both days, Saturday April 25 and Sunday April 26, but I’ll only be there on Saturday, with my poetry booth and my poet friends. Erica Goss, Los Gatos Poet Laureate, and David Perez, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, will both be with me (in booth 15) after about 11 am. I’ll be there the whole day.

(Read about Japanese poetry before you come, if you’re new to the subject).


Come by for a chat, for a free poem (written on the spot just for you by a real poet!), to play with my magnetic poetry or my Haikubes (highly in-authentic, but fun).


I’ll have books of haiku and senryu, both by Japanese poets and by Americans. I’ll also have anthologies and lesson books from California Poets in the Schools.

I hope to see you there!

San Jose Poetry Festival

This was my first year at the annual San Jose Poetry Festival. It was a busy day, well attended, with many local poets, coming from Santa Cruz to Berkeley to join in the fun. I’m grateful to Pushpa MacFarlane for getting me involved, but the biggest kudos go to David Eisbach, who produced this year’s event.

sjpf building

It was also my first time visiting the (Le Petit) Trianon Theatre in downtown San Jose. A GREAT venue.

I missed the morning, so I missed my friends Erica Goss (and her metaphor workshop) and Renee Schell (and her poetry and music reading). I’m sure they were swell.

I enjoyed reading my work with two other fine poets, new to me, during one of the featured readings held after lunch. (The only problem was missing the other sessions in which other awesome featured readers read.) Here I am with Harry Lafnear (who read some wonderful poetry about animals, sweet and not at all sentimental) and David Sullivan (who gave a lecture later on the poetry of war). I wouldn’t have been able to make the mic work without them, and I enjoyed our camaraderie immensely.

jen with two others at sjpf

For some better photos of us, read this really friendly and fantastic write up of the day by Cupertino’s own Crystal Tai for Cupertino Patch.

After my joint reading with Harry and David, I slipped upstairs for the poetry slam portion of the afternoon. I have to confess, right now, that this was my first ever slam. The slam was hosted by Dennis Norren and MC’d by Scoripana X. It’s hard to describe how much fun this was. The format is very smart: judges picked on the spot from the audience, poets reciting their poems and following all kinds of rules (no hand gestures — or was it no props? and time limits and when your phone isn’t a prop and when it is…). Then the judging, which tends to “creep” as the slam goes on, so the scores get higher and that’s why the poets have to read in a randomly chosen order — any way, it was so much fun. Very much an audience participation event. I was amazed by the artistry, the passion, the voices! I didn’t catch everybody’s name, but you’ll recognize Kim Johnson, a past featured reader on Chaos Never Dies Day and winner of the Silicon Valley Reads 2014 poetry contest.

kim at sjpf slam

Kim Johnson

scorpiana x

Scorpiana X

another slammer other slamer red slammer

After the slam, I was energized enough to stay for another event. Pushpa MacFarlane created a truly wonderful reading, inviting poets from all over the world and the bay area to read what she very smartly called “World Poetry” — perfectly in keeping with my theme for National Poetry Month, these were poems written about what it means to be from all over the world. The poems were in most cases read in English either after or before being read in the language they were written in: Spanish, Mandarin, Persian/Farsi, Japanese, German, Hindi, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Native American (by Joy Harjo) and Maori. What a splendid music.

crystal at sjpf

Crystal Tai reading her own poems in Mandarin and English

pushpa and japanese lady at sjpf

Pushpa MacFarlane reading the English translations of Japanese haiku, read by Shizuko Shands.

Okay. That’s about all I’ve got. Again, I’m so grateful to have been part of this lovely day. I hope it’s repeated next year.

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.)