Phyllis Meshulam's two-year tenure as Sonoma County Poet Laureate ended in March. However, he did not contribute to the local literary scene.
A tireless teacher and advocate, she has worked with young writers on programs such as Meshulam Calpoets, Poem Out and Petaluma Poetry Walk and has published four collections of poetry.
Meshulam is currently editing several unique poetry collections by local poets, some of whom will read their works at events in the West.
Earlier this year, The Freedom of New Beginnings, Poems of Testimony, and Visual Poems from Sonoma County were published, edited by Meshulam with Gail King, Gwynn O'Gara, and Terry Ehret.
On Sunday, December 18, from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm, selected poets from this collection will read their works at the Western Arts Center. The reading will be followed by a question and answer session, a book sale and a signing ceremony.
On Wednesday morning, Santa Rosa Copperfield had three copies, and in Sevastopol Copperfield ordered several more copies later in the week.
Meshulam notes in the preface to his book that "Today our world faces many challenges."
For this dictionary, he invited poets to solve these problems. Seventy-two people supported the cause, including Meshulam. Most are local, but at least two—former American Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and Joey Harjo—are not.
Meshulam planned to give more individual performances during his tenure as Poet Laureate, but the Covid-19 pandemic put those plans on hold. The seminar was held online.
But, as he writes in the introduction, the authors "came together" and contributed many "brilliant" poems to the anthology.
To organize them, Meshulam quotes from a book by activist and author Joanna Massey. Meshulam explains that the volume, titled "Joining Forces," begins with a theme of gratitude, moves on to "respect our pain in the world," and then "sees it with new eyes."
They became "the three themes of this anthology".
While all the verses in the anthology are strong, Katherine B. Krause's "Crushing Green" stands out for its angry and insistent verses:
"My heart is angry
greed for nothing
Deprive God of his will.
Meshulam was moved by William Greenwood's Pistol Shots. Referring to the italicized text of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, he proceeds to a catalog of the massacre committed by firearms in this country, and then asks:
"How can it be? Money
In the pockets of puppets of Congress?
Who sanctifies empty or heartless judges?
The right to keep and bear personal weapons?
The collection includes the poem "Ez zaiz isilduko" written by high school student Maria Carrillo Desiree Prater. His complaints are:
“I woke up this morning and turned on the news to see this.
My brothers and sisters are still dying", and;
“I woke up this morning with tears of sadness.
Whole families died because of this hatred.
People are here for my skin" and;
“I woke up this morning, I tried to shave.
Because my hair didn't meet society's beauty standards.
But the poem ends with a test of hope.
The anthology takes its title from the last poem in the collection. Sonoma County Poet Laureate Katherine Hastings, who moved to upstate New York after the 2017 wildfires, wrote of the bird in "Herons Like Smoke":
They charged it with new daylight
It makes us remember more than fire
On the threshold of the slogan
ashes out of danger
Light follows you, cuts a path
This is tantamount to destroying an abandoned nest.
This is tantamount to the freedom that comes with a fresh start.
The cover of the book features a majestic blue heron in flight. This arrest photo was taken by Phyllis Meshulam's husband, Jerry. “I became a bird photographer by accident,” he said.
Secretary of State Austin Murphy can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ausmurph88.