Last April I was invited to read one of the poems I had submitted to the 2008 Poets and Writers Celebration. This celebration, a performance celebrating original compositions by community members, students, staff and faculty of College of the Redwoods, is held each year at CR's Eureka campus.
A prize is awarded for the best poem and for the best prose piece. It would be my first experience at doing this sort of thing, and I was a somewhat nervous thinking about it. When I told some friends about the invitation, they encouraged me to do it without hesitation; they knew about it then so I had to go through with it.
There were 12 writers who read that Friday evening, May 2, at Poets and Writers. Some truly gifted writers and poets were there, I realized as the evening wore on. About 50 people were in the audience, which consisted of faculty members, librarians, students and community members, including seniors. The event was co-hosted by CR professors David Holper and Vinnie Baku, along with four student editors: Chris Knight, Patricia MacDonald, Roy Marin and Phillip Neel.
The prize for prose was won by Carla Baku. Her piece, entitled "Disciple," was about experiences in a Christian cult. It was deeply perceptive, even painfully descriptive, I thought. Afterwards, David Holper announced that Carla had received the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke scholarship last year and has been studying this year in Stanford's Master of Fine Arts program. The prize for poetry was won by Ginny Jaramillo for her poem in free verse entitled, The Swather, a modern and surrealistic tale with ultra-clear expression.
Nervous to the last minute, I got up after being introduced and read my work, which is entitled Seasontide, a traditional style poem of eight quatrains in four-foot meter, double-rhymed. Carried somehow by tenacity displayed in earlier readers, my nervousness disappeared and I read my poem easily with conviction:
Late Autumn leaves of auburn hue
Free falling to the fertile loam
Lie littering the woodland view
Beyond this old adobe home.
Many a naked tree now stays,
Silhouettes on a winter sky.
The broad new-carpeted byways
Are canopies once greening high.
Those arbors shorn and shallow lain
In solvent soils of earth recede
To sprout and issue yet again
The oak and elm from seed to seed.
Buds shoot out to broadleaf bowers,
Meadows to far reality
Oh death, those fresh spring-tidal hours
Foreclose on your finality.
Gently rolling summer heartland,
Flowering and green tree bearing;
Sylvan raptures midst prairie stand
In splendor for the wayfaring.
The needle grass out waving there
Is inviting me to wander
And taste the wilder native air
Where the tall grass lands meander.
I will my fingers roam through it
And savor that new-grown incense,
Asking Him to spin my spirit
Into its wild preeminence.
I will the greening of my heart
Renew in the rustling wildwood;
I will for Del Norte depart
With cares lost in the prairiehood.
All work read at Poets and Writers will be posted to the "Poetry and Prose" section of College of the Redwoods web site. Check the following link: tinyurl.com/47h3re