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April 12-18, 2006

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'Mission Rejected'

Prisoners of Conscience: Peter Laufer's newest details those soldiers who refuse to fight.

Lit Notes

Writings and ramblings about the written word

By Gretchen Giles


Poetry ain't for wimps. In fact, to quote Pablo Neruda, "Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread." To that end, two North Bay poets are helping to leaven the progress of peace by contributing to a broadsheet series devised by Washington state writer Kelli Agodon. Printed but not collated, Agodon's "Peace Poetry Broadside Series" features 13 poem-per-page reprints on fine stock intended to be displayed in public rather than closed together within the privacy of a book. Glen Ellen poet Kathleen Winter and Marin writer Jane Hirshfield have both contributed to the project, which can be seen in its entirety at all five Copperfield's Books (www.copperfields.net) locations throughout the North Bay. . . .

Now that the mood is set, more poetry must be had! The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org) features different podcasts of poems throughout each day of this cruelest month, the one claimed in honor of iambic pentameter, the A-B rhyme scheme and other technical matters of the pen. The parent organization of Poetry magazine, founded some 94 years ago, this tech-savvy presence has guest bloggers and a fabulous search engine that can pull up masterpieces simply by theme. Of course, a search on the theme of jealousy--we're in an Othello state of mind these days--returned a satirical essay on "How to Make a Killing from Poetry" (hint: death isn't a big seller), probably mostly because computers aren't poets, and thank goodness again for that. . . .

The Marin Poetry Center (www.marinpoetrycenter.org) has just released its eighth volume of works anthologized from North Bay poets, including Gerald Nicosia,Terry Scheidt, CB Follett and others. An active organization, the MPC sponsors a high school writing contest that's just getting under way, as well as monthly readings of special note. On April 13, PEN USA Rosenthal Fellow Pireeni Sundaralingam teams up with Irish violinist Colm O'Riain for an interdisciplinary performance at the Falkirk Center (1408 Mission Ave.). . . .

Poetry comes slamming back in Sonoma County when the Rincon Valley library (6959 Montecito Blvd., Santa Rosa; 707.537.0162) hosts a poetry slam on April 21 at 7pm. Only original poems will be considered in this ongoing competition toward the grand slam slated for May 19. . . .

Back in San Rafael, the Shaky Grounds Coffee House (1800 Fourth St.; 415.256.2420) launches a poetry series on April 26 in conjunction with Rebound Books titled Hand to Mouth: Words Spoken Out. Featured poets at the inaugural event are Berkeley poet laureate Julia Vinograd and San Francisco poet and (perhaps self-named) artist Bucky Sinister. The audibles begin at 7pm and open mic follows. . . .

Central Coast poet Dian Sousa heads up north to help launch a Bottled Poetry (www.bottledpoetry.org) event scheduled for April 30 at the Clos Pegase winery. Fellow Central Coast artists James Cushing and Michael C. Ford will perform in the winery's caves. Sousa kicks the weekend off by first reading at an ARTRATz event on April 29 at the O'Keeffe Gallery in Sebastopol (2423 Gravenstein Hwy. S.; 707.824.1627). ARTRATz is a new artists collective devoted, as deviously claimed, to "schemes within schemes." . . .

The Sonoma County Book Festival (www.socobookfest.org) has begun the fundraising run that will take it into its seventh year this September, first featuring past and present Sonoma Count poet laureates Terry Ehret and Geri Digiorno, respectively, reading with others at Soho (formerly Zebulon's Lounge, 21 Fourth St., Petaluma; 707.537.7562) on April 25. . . .

Shortly thereafter, author Greg Sarris, in his presumably more comfortable role as SSU professor (rather than Graton Rancheria chairman), opens his home to the public in conversation with colleague Jonah Raskin on June 4. Sarris has a new book in the works and promises to discuss it as well as host this fundraiser for the Book Festival at his digs on the top of Sonoma Mountain. Tickets are $40 and in extremely limited supply. For details, call 707.527.5412. . . .

Eagerly anticipated this spring is Sonoma County journalist Peter Laufer's newest book Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq. Set to be published May 15 by Chelsea Green and with a forward by columnist Norman Soloman, Rejected uses the frank first-person stories of scores of soldiers returning from Iraq to illuminate this war's ugly truths, as well as to explain why they won't be going back. A number now reside in Canada, choosing expatiation, breaking the rules, as one soldier explains it, "by having a conscience."

A former NBC correspondent, Laufer was a Vietnam War resister who nonetheless has first-hand experience with organized carnage, having reported extensively in Afghanistan. During his tenure with NBC, he produced documentaries on Vietnam War veterans and illiteracy in America, as well as tracking the path of cocaine from the jungles where it grows to the streets where it transforms into the highly addictive crack product. Laufer's many books include Wetback Nation: The Case for Opening the Mexican-American Border. . . .

Petaluma's own Pomegranate Communications is perhaps best known for its attractive calendars, quirky magnets and well-designed note cards. But now, in conjunction with the Library of Congress, Pomegranate reaches further afield with a new series of pocket-sized books, Women Who Dare. Contained in six volumes, Women profiles such courageous individuals as Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller and Amelia Earhart, reserving the last three volumes for overviews of women who fought as soldiers and nursed soldiers during the Civil War; the suffragettes who broke all standards to attain equal rights; and those who marched, sat down and raised hell for civil rights. The photographs alone are worth the $12.95 per-volume price tag, making these perfect gifts for the young women and men in your life. . . .

Every season brings its own avalanche of self-published books, and this is no exception, with our shelves sagging under the weight of several. Of note is Catharine Bramkamp's Woman on the Verge of Wyoming (AuthorHouse: $15.99), which traces the adventures of Jane, a mild-mannered Marin County executive who one day simply decides to turn her Volvo to the right instead of the left, and drives right out of her own life. Bramkamp, a Sonoma County resident, is also the author of a witty lifestyle column, "Miss Behaved." . . .

Things wouldn't be complete without touting one of our own, and indeed Bohemian staff writer Patricia Lynn Henley has a new biography out, The Sugar's at the Bottom of the Cup (Zucchero Press; $24.95), which traces the fascinating life story of late Sonoma resident Elda Del Bino Willitts as her family came over from Italy and settled into thoroughly American lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. This tome is replete with photos and--hooray!--recipes. . . .

Santa Rosa police officer Gary Delfino's Conscience of a Dead Killer (AuthorHouse; $14.49) has a Hollywood backstory almost as interesting as the novel itself. Without profanity, violence, sex or carnage, Conscience tells the tale of a slain serial murderer whose sentence in hell is to relieve his actions on earth, but this time with a conscience. We predict that this will hit the theaters sometime soon. . . .

Valley of the Moon writer Rocky L. Boubenmier sets his tale of a grandfather fighting for the custody of his grandson firmly in the lush coastal setting of Laguna Niguel, creating a believable character in Grampa Jack (Xlibris; $21.99), a novel that explores anti-homosexual discrimination without ever dipping into the merely outraged or maudlin. . . .

West Sonoma County writer Nick Pyatt's What's All This, Then? (PublishAmerica; $16.95) traces his travels in Southeast Asia after the terrible bombings that shook the peaceful island of Bali. . . .

And by no means least, Bruce Patterson's Walking Trailer (4Mules Productions; $19.95) is a loose-leaf-bound collection of tales and images of the Anderson Valley as far south as Cloverdale that resonates with a unique voice and perspective, detailing Patterson's time doing every labor job imaginable while keeping his eye for nature and women sharply alive. A former columnist for the Anderson Valley Reporter, Patterson purports these to be fiction, but they certainly read like one man's rollicking and singular journey.


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