Poet T.S. Elliott may have opined that April is the cruelest month, but in Modesto poetry is alive and wonderful. Modesto is home to many poetry groups. One of the largest, The Poets of the San Joaquin, affiliated with the California Federation of Chaparral Poets will host a poetry convention in Modesto on April 20.
The Poets of the San Joaquin publish a quarterly poetry journal, The Song of The San Joaquin. Poets from across the United States submit their writing and readings are held quarterly at the Stanislaus County Library. It's not just poetry groups, however, it is the broad brush of presentations that is exciting.
A new poetry venue was started in February by Ed Bearden, Modesto poet laureate emeritus. The Modesto Poetry Festival featured three outstanding presenters, Carol Ann Moon from Sacramento, Carol Eve Ford from Alaska and our own Turlock Poet Gary Thomas. The day included lunch and a poetry contest.
Of course we all know about the now-ended Slam on Rye that packed the 600-seat State Theatre, hosted by Sam Pierstorff, Modesto poet laureate emeritus; and the special monthly readings at the Barkin' Dog hosted by Poet Laureate Gillian Waggoner, featuring both local and visiting poets; but there are numerous other places to hear poetry and to get a chance to read.
Lynn Hansen wrote a Bee article in March about the Poets' Corner contest and reading to be held May 19 at the McHenry Museum. The idea of a Poets' Corner was started statewide in 1980. Modesto was the third of 15 counties to form a poets' corner.
In March many Modesto poets attended the 87th Annual Poets' Dinner in Oakland. The Bay Area Poets Dinner is one of the largest poetry events in Northern California and draws poets from all over the United States. Local winners included Cleo Griffith who won a first honorable mention in Beginnings and Endings and a second honorable mention in Love; Nancy Haskett won a second place in Humor; debee loyd won a third place in Love; Gordon Preston won a second honorable mention in the theme category Edges; and Tom Myers won a third honorable mention in Love, a third honorable mention in the theme Edges and a first honorable mention in Spaces and Places.
Most recently a group of poets led by Gillian Waggoner have started to build a sustainable and vibrant poetry community in Stanislaus County. The plan is to provide readings, lectures and literary activities to sustain and inspire community members; to connect the literary worlds of Modesto Junior College, CSU Stanislaus and the wider community; and establish a newsletter to spread the word about literary events in our area.
Already the group has established a poetry reading set for Monday at the Modesto Senior Center, an April 26 reading at Fremont Open Plan school and a poetry reading at Orchard Elementary, time to be announced.
Yes, poetry is alive and well in Modesto/Stanislaus County. Look for us at schools, the Farmers Market, on field trips, in senior living centers and of course the Barkin' Dog on 11th Street the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. Catch us on Facebook at Modesto/Stanislaus Poetry Center. Come join us and be a part of the fun.
Bearden, a former visiting editor, is a longtime resident and owns a real estate firm in Modesto. Send comments or questions to her at email@example.com.