Community Poetry Night – Celebrating the Lunar New Year!

chinese-new-year-2018Yesterday (Feb. 8, 2018), I had the pleasure of hosting my first Community Poetry Night as Cupertino Poet Laureate. Thank you to everyone who came out and made the evening special! With over 30 attendees present it was an exciting night, and your presence was a wonderful way to kick off the Lunar New Year & Spring Festival season.

Most importantly, I feel grateful and inspired after listening to everyone read their poetry or put their voice and emotional stamp on the poetry of others. What an amazing gift all of you have given to me and to each other. I look forward to hosting many more Community Poetry Nights during my term.

Over the next two years, one of my goals is to gather work from local poets and poetry enthusiasts, and to put them together in an anthology. If you’re interested in being a part of this project, please stay posted for more information and/or send in your work via email. If you would like to send in a poem from the reading, please feel free to email your work to me for a future compilation! 

Here are some photos from the evening … and if you have pictures to share, please email them to me at!

Photos courtesy of Alex McCormick (c) 2018.

14494858_1052448421529899_6375380712797709368_n  Kaecey signature

Happy Lunar New Year! Poem for the Year of the Goat

No matter how you say it, no matter what language you use, Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Lunar New Year! 新年快乐!! 新年快樂, 洋洋得意! Wishing you luck in the upcoming Year of the Goat! Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) and Gong Hey Fat Choy (Cantonese).

I have been asked again this year by the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce to write a poem for their Lunar New Year Luncheon, sponsored by the Asian American Business Council. Information on the February 26th event is here. You may recall that last year I attended the luncheon and read a poem, honoring the Year of the Horse. This year’s poem, honoring the Year of the Goat, will be read by my friend and former Cupertino Library Commissioner, Adrian Kolb (as I will be out of town).

In honor of the day, and the year, here is my poem, “Cupertino, What is Your Moon? A Lunar New Year Sestina.”

Cupertino, What Is Your Moon? A Lunar New Year Sestina

Once a year, the year begins again.
The sun has made his one cycle, the moon
her twelve. The time has come to count your luck,
to launch anew – sure-footed as a goat –
your way, your goals and all your many dreams.
A city – like a woman or a man –

shakes off the dust. Each woman, child, man,
each teenager, each grandmother, again,
each grandfather compares today with dreams
long dreamed, imagined once under the moon
of youth. But truth is stubborn, like a goat,
and dreams as unreliable as luck.

And cities, built of stone, if they have luck,
are only as lucky as their citizens – men
and women – strong-hearted as symbolic goats
(or sheep) will be in the year to come. Again,
we will make plans and love under the moon;
nothing can keep the dreamers from their dreams.

So, Cupertino, what will be your dream?
How hard will you work to make your luck
as certain to come true as the full moon
surely shines in the night for anyone
who waits for clouds to float away again?
And what are we to think of the green goat,

with humble heart, who patiently waits, a goat
after all dreams only goat dreams,
and we are human. Will we try again
our hands at the same games of luck
and chance? Or aim higher, like the man
sent into space, sent to the moon?

Cupertino, what will be your moon?
Will you climb your mountains, like the goat,
will you, every woman, every man,
rededicate your life to those old dreams,
or strike out somewhere new and test your luck?
Now’s the time; the year begins again.

May both the sun and moon shine on your dreams.
May you feel strong and peaceful as the goat, and may your luck
be human, and like the New Year, start again.

(c) Jennifer Swanton Brown

Comments on this poem

The first challenge was to decide on the image of goat or sheep for my poem. I polled my Chinese and Filipino friends. I investigated on the internet. I decided on the goat, since that’s what the Cupertino Chamber is using, and because of some of the internal rhymes available to me (like Cupertin-O) and alliterations (green goat, grandfather, grandmother) seemed right.

(Fortunately, today, NPR has run a lovely story on the radio that the choice of animal in Chinese is not fixed and so either will do.)


I chose the sestina as the technical form for my poem because of its cyclical nature. The repetition of six end-line words in a sestina allows the poet to return again and again to several central images, an apt technique for a poem describing the cyclical nature of the moon and the years of our lives.


Read more about this sestina form here (history from the American Academy of Poets) and information about how to construct a poem of this type, here (Wikipedia).

Lunar New Year Poem “Prayer for the Year of the Horse”

This is the poem I wrote for the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce Asian American Business Council’s annual Lunar New Year luncheon. I was born in the year of the rat, and while doing my research for this poem, discovered that I share that Chinese Zodiac sign with President Noynoy Aquino of the Philippines. I understood from my research that 1960 was a “metal” year, making me a “metal rat.” However, I met a lovely woman at the luncheon, Mei Huey Huang, the Editor-in-Chief of the World Journal, who explained that in Chinese, the “metal” would certainly be “gold” — suggesting that President Aquino and I are indeed “golden rats.” I’ll have to write another poem about that. (You can read about the photo on the Santa Clara County Library’s Facebook page.)

Prayer for the Year of the Horse

for President Noynoy Aquino of the Philippines and me

Stay away from stress.
Don’t dress unconventionally.
Praise a horse when you see one,
praise his haughty neck or humble head.

Watch out for sharp objects.
Your mettle will be tested,
but knife wielding can cut both ways.

Wear green or brown,
the lucky colors of California hills.
But keep your hand on your dance partner,
your grip may slip
on the handle of romance.

Above all keep your ratty nose down,
whiskers twitching with keen sense.
Horses have beauty and speed, it’s true,
but you can escape under the fence.

In honor of the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce
Lunar New Year Luncheon

February 14, 2014
© Jennifer Swanton Brown

Mango Pudding at Chamber of Commerce Lunch

Mango Pudding at Chamber of Commerce Lunch

This was dessert, mango pudding, at last Friday’s Lunar New Year Luncheon, sponsored by the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce, Asian American Business Council (AABC). This event, the AABC’s 16th annual luncheon, was full of happy noise, good food courtesy of the Dynasty Seafood Restaurant, and many vibrant Cupertino businessmen and women. I wrote a special poem for them to honor the Year of the Horse, and read it together with another poem celebrating horses. It was a “tough crowd” but many listened respectfully and seemed to appreciate the opportunity to hear from the CupPL. I had a blast.

Thanks to Anne Stevenson of the Cupertino Library Commission and the AABC for inviting me. Poems to follow, soon.

Prompt #16 : Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year is here. Everywhere I go in Cupertino I can see the signs. The nail shop had a lovely tree with yellow flowers and red & gold paper money envelopes hanging all over it. There were gorgeous yellow chrysanthemums* in pots decorated with red and gold bows. My realtor sent us a shiny gold envelope, decorated with red Chinese calligraphy, containing a crisp single dollar bill. She wishes us Gung Hay Fat Choy!


There are many many people in Cupertino who can tell you more about this holiday than I can; I’m not an expert, not even a little bit knowledgeable. I know that I was born in the year of the rat, and furthermore that I’m a metal rat (1960).  Anyone born this year will be born in the year of the wood horse (2014). I’m not a great believer in astrology, but I love symbol and image, I love tradition and color and storytelling and celebrations. So, to celebrate Chinese New Year, I’m going to write a poem to a horse.

There are many poems in English about horses.

  • This one, “Horse Horse Hyphen Hyphen” by Marilyn Chin (a Chinese American poet from Hong Kong and Portland OR), speaks wildly about Chinese zodiac, custom, sex, disappointment and family.
  • There is an entire genre of “horse haiku” written by horseback riding enthusiasts — most of it not great haiku and not remotely Japanese.
  • This 2008 essay “Horses and Poetry” discusses poetry about horses and includes a lovely Chinese painting with poem from the Tang Dynasty. chinese horse poem
  • This site presents wonderful translations of multiple Chinese poets into English by the great and wonderful Kenneth Rexroth. I particularly like “Jade Flower Palace” by Tu Fu, which includes this image:

A stone horse is left of his

So, your challenge this month is to write a poem about a horse, or if you’re feeling energetic, to look up your Chinese zodiac sign and write about that. Have fun. And I wish you health, happiness, success and good fortune in the new year.

*The chrysanthemum is one of the “Four Gentlemen” (四君子) of China (the others being the plum blossom, the orchid, and bamboo). The chrysanthemum is said to have been favored by Tao Qian, an influential Chinese poet, and is symbolic of nobility. It is also one of the four symbolic seasonal flowers. (Quoted from Wikipedia. Please comment if you know more about this, or if it is incorrect.)