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:

Reading at Peninsula Literary October 16

I have the pleasure of having been invited to be a featured reader at the upcoming fall Peninsula Literary event.

I’ve been asked to read some of my poems from The Poetry Booth and to discuss the process. That should be a lot of fun. Come with your questions.

Here’s the back of the flyer, with some information about my co-featured reader, Lori Ostlund.

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Bay Area Generations Reading in Berkeley

Read here a post about my experiences with Bay Area Generations (poetry readings) last Monday in Berkeley.

A Twirly Life

Last Monday, at the beginning of the Christmas week, when it was almost as dark and cold and lonely as possible, I drove to Berkeley in the worst imaginable traffic to participate in a poetry reading. Of all things. My back hurt afterwards, but I’m so glad I went.The venue was the inspired, glamorous, intimate Berkeley City Club, famously designed by California architect Julia Morgan.

Bay Area Generations is “an intergenerational literary series featuring readers of different generations performing their work in tandem.” Poets submit in pairs, and accepted poems are curated into a single evening-long reading, with musical interludes, but without commentary or banter by the poets. It’s a remarkably freeing enterprise.

The whole evening was wonderful, and I hope you can take the time to listen to the entire video. But if you want to jump to the section where I was reading, paired…

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Angela Narciso Torres and Peninsula Literary

Now it is Sunday, and I have missed two days of the Cupertino Poetry Exchange. I’m not quiet sure how that happened. My apologies.

Friday I attended a lovely reading of Peninsula Literary, a quarterly reading in Palo Alto. Here’s a bit of background: “Carrie Harper Hechtman has been a curator at Peninsula Literary for six years. Her poetry  appeared recently Meridian and is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly. She holds an MFA from University of San Francisco.” The readings take place in the fine Palo Alto art gallery, Gallery House, amidst paintings by Maura Carta and ceramics by Thomas Arakawa. It’s a great place for a reading and the format is welcoming and comfortable.

Friday’s reading featured John W. Evans, who read from his terrifying and inspiring memoir, and my good and sweet friend, Angela Narciso Torres. (The photo above is one that Angela’s son took after the reading; Angela and I with two good good friends from our old days in “The Nita Street Poets’ — a monthly writers workshop that kept us sane for several long learning years.)

I’d like to offer you Isla Mujeres, published in the DMQ Review. Please click through to read about “Waking up fevered in a foreign country, the bedclothes soaked –”  You’ll be glad you did. You can buy Angela’s book, Blood Orange, via Aquarius PressSmall Press Distribution,  and Amazon.

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April Fool’s Day Reading

It was my great pleasure to read with Stephanie Pressman and Amanda Williamsen last night at the first of this year’s “Unsung Holiday” poetry readings. Stephanie took the theme of foolin’ around very seriously with her jester-ly costume and thought provoking philosophically tricky poems. Amanda made us all laugh with memories of our unfortunate teenage years and bad kitchen smells. There were four open-mic readers, which was pretty good considering the miserably rainy night. Thanks again to Peet’s for their generosity and warm space, and to my poetry “posse” (Roz, Kathy and Adrian) from the Cupertino Library Foundation, the Friends of the Cupertino Library, and the Cupertino Library Commission. Special thanks to Dave Denny — without whom I’m sure I would still be standing there fussing with the audio equipment — for the photos.

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Local National Poetry Month Events

Cupertino Poet Laureate April Poetry Events

April 1 “Unsung Holidays: April Fool’s Day” Poetry Reading with Jennifer Swanton Brown and Guest poets: Stephanie Pressman & Amanda Williamsen, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino 7-9 pm

April 4 Mary Avenue Dog Park Dedication, 5-6:30 pm

April 17 Art and Poetry: 5th Annual SJMA Poetry Invitational, San Jose Museum of Art “Initial Public Offering” poetry and art, 7 pm

April 19 Erica Goss & Friends Poetry Reading, Friends Bookstore, 110 East Main Street, Los Gatos, 2-4 pm

April 26/27 Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival – Surprise poetry games and opportunities for the whole family! Memorial Park

Check out these local websites for all kinds of poetry month activities brought to you by my friends and colleagues.

Erica Goss: Los Gatos Poet Laureate
Starting with Book Launch Party for Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets, Come and meet Erica and the members of PushPen Press for a reading and book-signing, CB Hannegan’s Restaurant, 208 Bachman Ave., Los Gatos CA 95030, Wednesday, April 2 at 6:00 pm

David Perez, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate
“National Poetry Month is upon us, and here are my upcoming events! Also, as many have requested, here is the video of the speech I gave at my reception. If you have questions, email me at info@thedavidperez.com. If you want reminders as events get closer, follow my Twitter @dperezer. Enjoy your poetry month!”

San Mateo County Poet Laureate Caroline Goodwin
Including Tuesday, April 22 – 9:00 a.m., Poetry Reading at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors Meeting, Board Chambers, 400 County Center, Redwood City

Unsung Holidays : Poetry Reading Series in Cupertino

This coming Tuesday, April 1, will be the first of a series of poetry readings I’m hosting in Cupertino. Join the event on Facebook. Or just show up and have a cuppa with us at Peet’s. Guest poets will be Stephanie Pressman and Amanda Williamsen.

You may remember Stephanie and Amanda, as they were the first and second place winners in last year’s Cupertino Poetry Contest, sponsored by Dave Denny, the first CupPL. Read about that event and remember here.

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Stephanie is third from the left. Amanda is third from the right. I’m the tall one in the green scarf. We had fun that evening. That’s Dave in the middle with the glasses and handsome beard.