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.

Chaos & Kindness Poetry Reading

Last night was such a great event. I was thrilled and honored to see the largest audience to date for an Unsung Holiday poetry reading. We were publicized in the De Anza college paper, so maybe that helped. Here’s a photo of the notice that my son texted me!

De Anza news announcement

I’m a little cranky that I didn’t think to take any photos, but hopefully some of my friends who attended will have some photos I can share. In the meantime, the photo featured at the top of this post is of a piece of art featured at the museum right now, Thinly Veiled, by Mark Engel. It puts me in mind perfectly of chaos, and the beauty to be found there.

David Perez and Kim Johnson were fantastic and moved me and the audience with their spoken word poetry.

  • Kim performed “off book” which put the rest of us to shame. But it’s also a different style of poetry — a hybrid of theater and poetry, a performance reminiscent of a one-woman play. As much as I admired what Kim did, I don’t have that voice, so will try not to be envious! Here’s a link to a performance Kim gave in 2011.
  • David’s poetry is also fine and powerful. He’s a seasoned performer and I love the asides and stories about his work he shared. He read poems about his mom, which I especially enjoyed. You can find out more about David and what he’s up to, with links to his work, at his website and hear some of his performances on his YouTube channel.

If you want to hear David again soon, he’ll be reading Sunday November 16 with Erica Goss at her Poetry Kitchen at the Lost Gatos Library. Check out all his activities as Santa Clara County’s Poet Laureate here.

In addition to my featured readers, we had ten (10!) for our open mic. We put it in the middle of the show, instead of at the end where you typically hear an open mic, and I liked the arc of the reading that created. The energy was up and down and up and down again, the flow constant. Familiar faces read with us and some new folks, who I hope will come again.

The Euphrat Museum of Art is a fabulous venue, and this time the exhibit included works by De Anza and Foothill College faculty and staff. I encourage you to get over there and see the great show. I remain grateful to them for allowing us to hold our readings in such a great space.

euphrat2014-fallx450

“The De Anza and Foothill Art Faculty/Staff Show highlights the diverse yet interconnected work of art faculty and staff from De Anza College in Cupertino and Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Painting, drawing, prints, mixed media, photography, sculpture, ceramics, and more will be on display. The fall exhibition also includes special projects with summer Artist-in-Residence Titus Kaphar and De Anza students in the Black Leadership Collective, and a Puente class Día de los Muertos installation. Sponsored by De Anza Associated Student Body, the City of Cupertino, the Friends of the Euphrat, and the Creative Arts Division.”

Chaos Never Dies on World Kindness Day

The third reading in my series on Unsung Holidays will be Thursday, November 13. Join us at the Euphrat Museum of Art, at De Anza College for two fabulous featured readers and an open mic.

Below, some information from the press release.

Featured poets for the evening are Santa Clara County Poet Laureate David Perez, and the adult winner of the 2013 Cupertino Library Foundation’s Silicon Valley Reads poetry contest, Kim Johnson.

There is no charge for this event, to be held on World Kindness Day, and celebrating Chaos, and sponsored by the City of Cupertino, the Cupertino Library Commission, the Cupertino Library Foundation and Friends of the Cupertino Library.

“The variety of events this year,” commented Swanton Brown, “has enabled me to touch the many and varied groups in Cupertino. It keeps me energized, and hopefully, encourages others to write poetry.”

Perez currently serves as the 2014-15 Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County. He is a recipient of the Arts Council Silicon Valley Fellowship for Literary Art, a repeat guest on the NPR storytelling series “Snap Judgment,” and author of the poetry collection, “Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse” from Write Bloody Publishing. In 2012, he was voted “Best Author in the Bay” by the SF Bay Guardian. He currently lives in San Jose.

Johnson was named the 2013 Grand Prize Winner in the adult category for the Library Foundation Silicon Valley Reads poetry contest. She won $350 for her poem related to one of the featured books about technology.

The Cupertino Library operates Monday through Thursday 10AM-9PM; Friday and Saturday, 10AM-6PM; and Sunday, noon-6PM. http://www.sccl.org

The Cupertino Library Foundation is a 501(c)3 Public Benefit Corporation with the purpose to raise money to continue programs encouraging life-long learning and self-improvement through the Cupertino Library. The Foundation has the Non-Profit Seal of Approval by Guidestar demonstrating satisfaction of transparency requirements and is a member of the Google for Nonprofits program receiving tools to work efficiently. It seeks major donations from corporations and the business community and from other foundations as well as individual donations and planned gifts and bequests. For further information visit: http://www.cupertinolibraryfoundation.org.

Poetry Contest Winners

Poetry Contest Winners

Read here about the winners of the poetry (and essay) contest sponsored by the Cupertino Library Foundation as part of 2014’s Silicon Valley Reads project. You can click on the names of the winners to read their work. We write some fine poems in Cupertino! Special thanks to Stephanie Pressman and Amanda Williamsen for helping me judge.

Adult Category

First Prize Winner: Kim Johnson

essay-winner-first-place

Teen Category

First Prize Winner: Annabelle Tseng

Second Place: Angela Wang

Middle School Category

First Prize Winner: Hope Nguyen

Second Place: Jacqueline He

Here’s Amanda chatting with a couple of the winners after the event.

amanda chatting wtih winners

And this is Amanda and I with Robin Sloan, the author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, one of the books featured during Silicon Valley Reads this year.

jsb robin and amanda