Lunch With a Poet

Guest piece from Writers Forum Newsletter Editor George T. Parker.

20160721_120323Yesterday’s lunchtime visit with California’s Poet Laureate was time well spent. Several Writers Forum members were in attendance, along with an audience of about fifty or sixty, to hear Dana Gioia (pronounced JOY-ya) recite pieces from his latest book 99 Poems: New & Selected, and to explain his views on writing poetry for everybody.

Gioia’s ambition as Poet Laureate,as well as during his tenure as the Chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003-2009, is to take poetry out of academia and make it available for everybody. He insists that poetry is in the interests of ordinary people, not just English majors at universities, and as evidence, he points out the enormous popularity of such poetic forms as hip hop, rap, and cowboy poetry.

Gioia was interviewed by Nathan Solis at the Redding Record Searchlight. You can find the interview here.

Gioia reminded us of the charm of recited poetry. Words on a page take on a new life when spoken. For example, the first stanza of his poem ‘Finding a Box of Family Letters’ reads:

The dead say little in their letters

they haven’t said before.

We find no secrets, and yet

how different every sentence sounds

heard across the years.

Now listen to the same piece recited:

 

Hearing the words brings the piece to life, and helps to teach us how to read and hear other poetry. Learning poetry can only help to enhance our other writing, as well, teaching us meter and cadence of the language. Poetry can also teach us how to refine the language of our other writing.

Find a poet you like, and learn!

 

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Reminder: Literary Event Today

Here’s a reminder:

The Redding Public Library will host a reading and Q&A with the current Poet Laureate of California, Dana Gioia (pronounced JOY-a) today from 12:00-1:30.

Dana will read from his latest book, 99 Poems: New & Selected. Dana will also discuss literacy, and there will be a time for questions from the audience.

Dana spent the first fifteen years of his writing career writing at night around his day job as an executive at General Foods. In 2002, George W. Bush appointed Dana as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. As Chairman of the NEA, Dana developed several new modernizing initiatives, including Shakespeare in American Communities, Poetry Out Loud, and Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience. Operation Homecoming collected writings from US troops and their families and published them in an anthology, which became the basis for an Academy award-nominated documentary by the same name.

Dana was appointed Poet Laureate of California by Governor Edmund G. Brown in December, 2015.

Come spend a memorable lunch hour celebrating words at the Redding Public Library.

Did anybody ever check out Dana’s book? I never made it back to the library.

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Member Monday: Poetry by Larry Solberg

Today’s Member Monday features a pair of poems written by Larry Solberg. Larry read them at the last Read Around.

If you read at the Read Around and would like to see your piece on the website and in the newsletter but did not give us a copy yet, please send them to writersforumeditor@gmail.com .

Thank you.

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Larry Solberg

The Voice of a Parent

(Who has Lost a Child)

Upon the Sea of Life

I carried a soul in its tiny boat

To the shores of the Sea of Life.

The spirit sailed its growing bark

On The Waters both light and dark.

 

With energy it would float

O’er that Lake with meaning rife

Until it could make its mark

Upon the Waters of Strife.

 

And ever as I watched The Lake

To see the way the soul would take

I heard a note with meaning rife

(A message that cut like a knife.)

The wind above The Waters wrote.

 

I’ll review the life that soul bore

Whose raft to the dock draws near.

T’will sail The Sea of Life no  more.

I hold its essence most dear.

 

In my mind is now forever locked

The voyage of that ship now docked.

I’ll review the journey that boat took,

And see the soul’s shining look.

 

My soul will hold that soul most dear.

 

I Would a Sailor Poet Be

A sea of sound engulfed me

Just the Other day

It most carried me away

For I would a sailor poet be,

An endless sound to my sea.

 

And for freight a thought or two.

Misty thoughts for which I’d expound

Words would shower off my tongue,

A deluge for expectant ears.

All the while those memes would

Swim in that endless pond

While waiting proud masses to respond.

 

Poet Laureate of California at the Redding Public Library

The Redding Public Library will host a reading and Q&A with the current Poet Laureate of California, Dana Gioia (pronounced JOY-a) on Thursday, July 21 from 12:00-1:30.

Dana will read from his latest book, 99 Poems: New & Selected. Dana will also discuss literacy, and there will be a time for questions from the audience.

Dana spent the first fifteen years of his writing career writing at night around his day job as an executive at General Foods. In 2002, George W. Bush appointed Dana as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. As Chairman of the NEA, Dana developed several new modernizing initiatives, including Shakespeare in American Communities, Poetry Out Loud, and Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience. Operation Homecoming collected writings from US troops and their families and published them in an anthology, which became the basis for an Academy award-nominated documentary by the same name.

Dana was appointed Poet Laureate of California by Governor Edmund G. Brown in December, 2015.

Come spend a memorable lunch hour celebrating words at the Redding Public Library.

EDIT: I realized this afternoon that I never included a link to Dana Gioia’s new book! You can find it here.

They also have at least one copy at the Redding Public Library.

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You can find it on the New Book shelf. (I was going to check it out myself, but I thought that would be kind of rotten, telling you that the library has it, but you can’t check it out because I have it! If it’s still there this weekend, though, I just might grab it. George.)

 

Member Monday: The Berghoff

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature a memoir piece written by Writers Forum member Jeanne Crownover. Jeanne read this piece at June’s read Around. Welcome, Jeanne!

 

Jeanne Crownover

Jeanne Crownover

 

I was a young, single woman in Chicago in 1960, and my date took me out to dinner one night at the Berghoff, which he characterized as one of Chicago’s finest restaurants.

The downtown restaurant was lovely with a dark wood interior and murals of the city on the walls. The waiters were splendid in their black trousers and jackets. A real cosmopolitan experience for this small town girl from Wisconsin.

A few months later my mother came to visit me. I promised to show her the town. She bought a new black dress for the occasion, as I had warned her we’d be going out to dinner at The Berghoff.

As we perused the menu, I recommended the Dover sole, which previously my date had recommended to me. She took my suggestion. Later, she said she loved it. I felt so grown up, taking my mom out to dinner at what seemed such a classy place. And so proud.

Eventually I moved away from Chicago—from the whole Midwest. Got married, became a Californian, raised a family. A whole new life.

Twenty-five years after departing I returned to my roots for the first time. My daughter, a young adult at the time, joined me in Chicago. The Sears Tower topped our list of “must places to go” (it hadn’t been there in 1960), followed by the Art Institute and, of course, dining at The Berghoff.

The restaurant looked exactly the same and the menu prices appeared quite reasonable through my California eyes. The large building across the street was being demolished; a huge wrecking ball swung back and forth as we enjoyed our lunch.

Five years later I returned with my newly grown-up son. His sister had told him about lunch at The Berghoff, so naturally we had to dine there, too. The building and the wrecking ball across the street were gone, of course, but to my surprise it had not been replaced by another building. Instead, a temporary fence surrounded the lot.

Another five years passed, and I returned to Chicago with my youngest child, another son. “So where did you take the others?” he asked.

“Sears tower, the Art Institute, and The Berghoff,” I replied.

So dinner at The Berghoff it was. Only this time there were trees across the street, behind a wall. Not as metropolitan as the building, as dynamic as the wrecking ball or as temporary as the fence. A familiar room with yet another view.

My son excused himself from the table for a short time, and I found myself suddenly deeply nostalgic. I remembered, with considerable emotion, a young woman dining at The Berghoff with her mom, some thirty-five years earlier.

Mothers, daughters, children…Buildings, wrecking balls, fences, walls.

The inevitability of change. The constancy of The Berghoff.

Summer Newsletter

Okay, I know that you all went to your mailboxes on Saturday eagerly anticipating your July Writers Forum newsletter, and were shocked and perhaps even traumatized when it was not there.

Don’t worry, my friends. You haven’t missed anything. Just like the Writers Forum monthly meetings, the newsletter has gone on a summer schedule. The ‘Summer’ newsletter will be in your mailboxes later this month. The next newsletter will be in September,  and you should receive that in your mailbox back on schedule. ‘On schedule’ is around the first Saturday of the month; just in time for a reminder about the upcoming meeting.

I should point out, that just because there is only one newsletter produced over July and August, that does not mean that we do not need material over the summer. We could always use material for the newsletter.

  • Short stories and poetry
  • News about your writing success stories, such as publications or book signings. Heck, if you want to brag about finishing a first draft, we will cheer you on with that as well.
  • News items about local writers or book events. If you hear about something like that, don’t assume we know it, too. Pass it on!
  • Photos. I prefer running photos over clip art to dress up the newsletter. You would get a photo credit, and if you wish, extra copies of the newsletter so you pass them around for bragging to friends and family. Photos can be anything book or writing related.

Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Your friendly neighborhood Newsletter Editor,

George