KKUP Interview and Poems

Did you know Cupertino has it’s own public radio station? KKUP (FM 91.5) is a sweet little station filled with volunteers and subscribers who broadcast out of a funky studio in East San Jose.

KKUP from web

Last month I was invited to read poetry and talk about the current search for the next Cupertino Poet Laureate. Pushpa MacFarlane, a member of the search committee and a friend and awesome local poet, arranged the time with KKUP music mixer extraordinaire, David Stafford.

David Stafford, KKUP

David Stafford, KKUP at his sound board (Photo by Pushpa MacFarlane)

Pushpa reading

Pushpa MacFarlane, reading her poems

Jennifer at KKUP

Jennifer Swanton Brown, reading her poems at KKUP (Photo by Pushpa MacFarlane)

I read my “Softball Sestina” (published in The Sand Hill Review 2006) which I wrote for my daughter and her team, The Purple Power. I read “In A Dry Time” which I wrote for the 2014 Silicon Valley Fall Festival, and “Dog Park Rules” which I wrote for Cupertino’s Mary Avenue Dog Park.

I also read “My Elements: Earth” by a student I taught last year while working as a poet/teacher with California Poets in the Schools. This poem was published in If the Sky Was My Heart (the California Poets in the Schools 2014 Statewide Anthology). I teach a lesson based on one by Maureen Hurley, CPITS Area Coordinator from Alameda County.

My Elements: Earth

I shake like an earthquake,
I erupt like a volcano.
My outside is as hard as a rock.
My inside is soft,
a dark brown soil.
Inside, I have peace,
hills, fields, and valleys.
Don’t judge on what you see outside,
look past that boulder, look past that mountain!
Behind them grows peace.
Mounds of green, birds are free!
My soft, underground soil
is better on the inside.
Outside, I am hard,
boulder, grime, and rocks.
When I’m mad, I’m a volcano,
when I’m mad, I’m an earthquake.
Outside, there’s mud, muck, and dirt.
Two completely different sides.
Please don’t judge on what you see.
Both sides of me bring all my harmony.

Alicia Chen
Grade Four, Gomes Elementary School
Alameda County

The rest of these photos show the inside of the KKUP station — I admired the signs and the pictures. All around, a great place!

KKUP sign KKUP poetry KKUP tapes KKUP photos

Reading at Sunday Assembly

One of the joys of being the city’s Poet Laureate is that your name gets circulated among poetry lovers all over the county. I had the honor last month of being invited to read some of my poetry as part of the Sunday Assembly Silicon Valley meeting, June 14, 2015. (Photo above by Vickie Thompson, (c) Sunday Assembly.)

The featured reader for the morning was Lester Deanes, assistant dean at Santa Clara University’s Office of Student Life. He gave a great talk called “Man in Progress – A Conversation on Redefining Manhood and Family.” For me the highlight was a video he showed at the end of the talk of kids at a camp singing songs about gender issues.

Sunday Assembly is a group that meets, sings, listens to lectures and poems, shares adversity and adventure. They meet in the absolutely gorgeous old San Jose Women’s Club building, which has a lovely auditorium. I took several photos of the light fixtures while I was warming up my poetry mojo.

Sunday Assembly sconce Sunday Assembly light fixture

I especially love Sunday Assembly’s motto: Live Better. Help Often. Wonder More. I took these photos of the palms they use to define a more intimate space for meeting. Look closely for their little signs of joy.

Sunday Assembly Wonder More

Wonder More!

Sunday Assembly Live Better Sunday Assembly Help Often

I read two of my newer poems, “Liver & Onions,” and “Hold What He Made” about my own father. I read “The New Season: A Baseball Sestina,” which celebrates my son and husband, and Little League Teams everywhere (published in What the World Hears, California Poets in the Schools 2009 Statewide Anthology). I also read a CPITS student poem, “My Father’s Hands” (published in If The Sky Was My Heart, California Poets in the Schools 2014 Statewide Anthology), and which I reproduce here:

My Father’s Hands

Scarred are my father’s
hands and wrists
from cuts,
never self-inflicted,
but the scars
of a working man.
Unfortunately, also those
of a junkie,
the poison needle
long gone,
but its marks
ever present,
the veins standing out.
He wears fantastic
silver bracelets,
drawing attention away
from the marks.
I think he’s ashamed,
embarrassed,
or both.
The hands of my father,
loving and caring,
despite the permanent marks
and the roughness.

(c) Cassidy Bailey
Grade Nine, Six Rivers Charter School
Humboldt County

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.)

Los Gatos High School Poets & Larry Levis

It couldn’t be a more perfect story. “Los Gatos High Freshman English Class Publishes ‘Windows to the Teenage Soul’. The Ebook poetry anthology — possibly the first of its kind for a high school class — is innovative project to help finance 2017 Senior Prom.”

Quoting from Los Gatos Patch: Los Gatos High School English 9 Honors students collaborated with the Los Gatos Library and Smashwords, a distributor of self-published books, to create and publish what they believe to be the first self-produced ebook by a high school class.  Written by more than 120 freshman English students at Los Gatos High, Windows to the Teenage Soul  is an an electronic poetry anthology — an Ebook — available worldwide through Smashwords, on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, KOBO and Apple’s iBook store. Proceeds from the book’s sales, which begin May 6, will help fund the LGHS Class of 2017’s future events, including senior prom. 

I can’t share a poem from this book (not yet published) but I will share this poem about teenage life and its challenges and dreams.

The Poet at Seventeen

by Larry Levis

My youth? I hear it mostly in the long, volleying
Echoes of billiards in the pool halls where
I spent it all, extravagantly, believing
My delicate touch on a cue would last for years.

Outside the vineyards vanished under rain,
And the trees held still or seemed to hold their breath
When the men I worked with, pruning orchards, sang
Their lost songs: Amapola; La Paloma;

Jalisco, No Te Rajes—the corny tunes
Their sons would just as soon forget, at recess,
Where they lounged apart in small groups of their own.
Still, even when they laughed, they laughed in Spanish.

I hated high school then, & on weekends drove
A tractor through the widowed fields. It was so boring
I memorized poems above the engine’s monotone.
Sometimes whole days slipped past without my noticing,

And birds of all kinds flew in front of me then.
I learned to tell them apart by their empty squabblings,
The slightest change in plumage, or the inflection
Of a call. And why not admit it? I was happy

Then. I believed in no one. I had the kind
Of solitude the world usually allows
Only to kings & criminals who are extinct,
Who disdain this world, & who rot, corrupt & shallow

As fields I disced: I turned up the same gray
Earth for years. Still, the land made a glum raisin
Each autumn, & made that little hell of days—
The vines must have seemed like cages to the Mexicans

Who were paid seven cents a tray for the grapes
They picked. Inside the vines it was hot, & spiders
Strummed their emptiness. Black Widow, Daddy Longlegs.
The vine canes whipped our faces. None of us cared.

And the girls I tried to talk to after class
Sailed by, then each night lay enthroned in my bed,
With nothing on but the jewels of their embarrassment.
Eyes, lips, dreams. No one. The sky & the road.

A life like that? It seemed to go on forever—
Reading poems in school, then driving a stuttering tractor
Warm afternoons, then billiards on blue October
Nights. The thick stars. But mostly now I remember

The trees, wearing their mysterious yellow sullenness
Like party dresses. And parties I didn’t attend.
And then the first ice hung like spider lattices
Or the embroideries of Great Aunt No One,

And then the first dark entering the trees—
And inside, the adults with their cocktails before dinner,
The way they always seemed afraid of something,
And sat so rigidly, although the land was theirs.