Charlotte Muse: Sharpening the Senses

Charlotte Muse, a well-known poet from Menlo Park will be coming down to San José to present “Sharpening the Senses” from 9:00 a.m. – 9:50 a.m. at the San José Poetry Festival 2016: Breaking Borders, on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at History San José.


She received both her MA and MFA from San Francisco State, where she taught poetry. Charlotte was also the Peninsula Instructor in Poetry for UC Berkeley Extension for many years, and has taught writers of all ages at many different venues. Her most recent books include Violin (Blurb Books, 2013), a series of poems illustrated by the artist Joyce Savre, and A Story Also Grows (a Main Street Rag Editor’s Selection. A handmade letterpress edition by the Chester Creek Press is in both the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress rare book collections.)

Awards include the 2011 Allen Ginsberg Award, the 2011 Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize, the Yeats Society of New York’s Poetry Award, two Atlanta Review International Publication Awards, and prizes in the Joy Harjo Poetry Award contest, the Foley Prize, and Ireland’s Feile Filiochta, among others. Her work has appeared in magazines and anthologies including Room to Breathe (Heyday Books) A Bird Black As The Sun (Green Poet Press); and The Place That Inhabits Us (Sixteen Rivers Press). Her website is at

for Jennifer

Hurry. The redbud won’t wait, or the freesia,
or the silver-bark cherry. All the new webs,
shining and floating like unrounded bubbles
won’t wait. They’ll be gone even faster. Hurry.
Let’s lay down heaviness and watch.
If we find ourselves asking whether this is the last spring,
it’s not because we want to know.
It’s only that asking makes us look.

I know of a walk to a waterfall,
past smaller streams wetting the path,
past butterflies flashing
and banana slugs oozing blindly towards
a heaven of pink-flowered sorrel.
There’s the sound of the stream, a distant woodpecker,
and the falls themselves, where water pours down
spreading like hair over the rock.

We don’t owe everything to madmen who think
we’re only empty shoes in their jig with death.
We don’t owe everything to sorrow.


Nils Peterson: How to Read a Poem Out Loud

It is one thing to enjoy reading poetry by well known poets and write your own poems. But it’s a whole different experience reciting and reading poetry out loud to an audience. Come September 18, 2016, on a Sunday morning at History San José, Nils Peterson will show you How to Read a Poem Out Loud at our San José Poetry Festival 2016: Breaking Borders. His presentation will be held at the Firehouse, from
9:00 a.m. – 9:50 a.m.

Nils Peterson, Professor Emeritus from San José State University, was the first Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County,  from 2009-2011.  He is also one of the original founders of Poetry Center San José.  He has melded his poetry with works of art and music, and offered many workshops throughout his career as a poet. He has published poetry, science fiction, and articles as varying as golf and Shakespeare. He was nominated for a 2005 Pushcart Prize. His books include Here is no Ordinary Rejoicing, The Comedy of Desires, Driving a Herd of Moose to Durango; For This Day, Revenge of Socks, and A Walk to the Center of Things.    


As the first Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County, Peterson’s first project was putting out a call to all the county residents to send him a 17-syllable line about the county. Out of a  outpour of lines from the county, Peterson selected his most favorite lines and created a 100-line poem, calling it A Family Album, Santa Clara County, 2009. Thereafter, his next project for the community was Writing Thirty Poems For Thirty days, and select three prize winners. And another original project for the community was to create Haiku-ish poems.  Peterson has also been a participant and contributor to the multi-laureate collaborations Local Habitations and Good Talk.


Driving back from a night at the shore
between hills green with new rye grass. Home,
I see in my neighbor’s yard the year’s first
iris bud. The purple of that almost-here
flower, makes me remember that Frederick
wanted a winter poem by tonight for The Crow.

Well, here it is, a day late, finished up
in a coffee shop, Super Bowl Sunday,
temperature in the fifties, air moist,
low gray clouds moving in a slow scud.
There’s skiing three hours drive away.
I won’t go, yet I have “a mind of winter.”

Well again. It isn’t finished. I type
a week later. Now jonquils and daffodils,
and when I walk my dog, I see heron—like
white clouds—nesting in a still barren tree.
Yet my winter mind dozes in its burrow
refusing to come out of long sleep.

Three or four years later, still not finished,
and you now sleep the longest sleep. Frederick,
this year I missed the gravity of your smile in the dining hall
where we once leaned on coffee and waited for sunrise.
So fierce you were against injustice, at such a cost.
You would not dance, but there was such a longing in you.

Poets Laureate Read: Sally Ashton

Poet Sally Ashton, Emeritus Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County ( 2011-2013) will read at the San José Poetry Festival on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at History San José, CA. Sally will read some of her poems in our Poets Laureate Read segment at the Markham House porch from 1:00 p.m.- 1:50 p.m.

Sally Ashton is the author of Some Odd Afternoon, Her Name Is Juanita, and These Metallic Days. She is Editor-in-Chief of the DMQ Review, an online journal featuring poetry and art. Honors include a fellowship from Arts Council Silicon Valley and a residency at Montalvo Arts Center. Ashton earned her MFA at Bennington Writing Seminars. She teaches at San José State University and has taught a variety of workshops including Disquiet: International Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal.


As the County Poet Laureate between 2011-2013, Sally Ashton created several reading events at various cities within the county.  She also created thematic events, where poets from the community, as well as, non-poets were encouraged to read a poem by their most favorite published poet. These events were very well attended. Poetry on the Move was another of Sally Ashton’s projects where she collaborated with VTA, Santa Clara County’s Valley Transport Authority to display winning poems of the contest inside the Light Rail. Moreover, she collaborated with local poet laureates and made available to the public, anthologies of poems read at the respective events. Local Habitations and Good Talk are two anthologies published as a result of this collaboration.


Poets Laureate Read: Arlene Biala

Arlene Biala, the current Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County will read at the San José Poetry Festival on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at History San José, CA. She will read some of her poems in our segment Poets Laureate Read at the Markham House porch from 1:00 p.m. – 1:50 p.m.

Arlene Biala, is the current Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County (2016-2017).  A Filipina poet and performance artist, and born in San Francisco, California, Arlene is the author of bone, continental drift, and her beckoning hands, published by Word Poetry, WordTech Editions in July, 2014. Her beckoning hands recently won a 2015 American Book Award. She received her MFA in Poetics & Writing from New College of CA, and was the recipient of an artist residency at Montalvo. Performances and workshops include POETS UNITE! with current United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera at Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC; Kuwentuhan curated by Barbara Janes Reyes with Poetry Center SF; University of Texas at El Paso, Writers’ Week at UC Riverside, DiVERSEcity in NYC, San Francisco Asian American Jazz Festival, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Manilatown Center at the I-Hotel, La Pena Cultural Center, APAture at Intersection for the Arts, Santa Clara University, and SOMArts Center in San Francisco.


Arlene has also performed for and taught creative writing workshops with elementary and high school youth. She lives in Sunnyvale, CA with her husband Carl, (blue) Queensland Heeler Pepper, and their three children: Kai, (aries) 16; Josh (scorpio) 13; and Kiana (scorpio, again) 11.

how loudly have you met her in the wind?

today like all other days she will chant
bleed this hymn into the mist until she is sure to be cured.
she places the bamboo jaw harp at her lips, asks you to recall

how many people in the philippines will have to eat toxic yams
instead of starving?
how many here will watch the news and rush to pack to balikbayan box
with old clean bed sheets packets of top ramen clothes
nestle crunch bars last year’s shoes
letters to nanay so that she won’t feel alone
here is a picture of your great granddaughter. here is our wedding picture.

how many boxes, how many letters beating
of the drums gongs listening tonight to this music
how many tunes sung into full moon waves lapping against the shores
of her lake a door, small something tapping against her leg

if you could understand her, she would be singing hip-hop funk
and drinking san miguel beer from a dusty warm bottle,
smoking a cigar and spitting brown tobacco juice into the crowd
of laughing comadres who have come to remember who they are

if you could keep up with her, the beating of the kulintang
the colors of her voice a dance she is challenging the drummer
she is challenging the drummer to respond she is scooping
twirling frenzied wrist neck feet into a dance all hair bracelets
beating the screams out of the slow lapping of the lake.