(c) 2009 Jeanne Powell
"Prose, Poetry, Art -- where were you?"
all rights reserved
If someone mentions art, slam poetry, fiction writing and live music -- you think of San Francisco, right? Of course you do, unless you're from Berkeley, but that's another story.
However, if you are talking about the first weekend of April 2009, you would be wrong. Pleasanton -- yes, Pleasanton -- hosted its "8th Annual Poetry, Prose & Arts Festival" and you missed a lot of good stuff if you weren't present for those two days. Activities began Saturday morning and continued through Sunday afternoon. Although parking was available, many attendees simply took BART and the local Wheels bus, which stopped in front of the venue.
Writers of all ages and levels found a user-friendly, supportive atmosphere. Whether you blog for love or money, write poetry, want to study teen slam poetry, or write prose, there was a workshop for you. The presence of delicious food, live music and framed art work for sale throughout the weekend ensured that all sensibilities were addressed. Writers could and did reserve tables to feature their novels, poetry books and CDs. One local family was selling an utterly fabulous cookbook -- recipes from four generations of Californians. Poets laureate from several California counties were in residence, as were professional storytellers.
Keynote speaker for the weekend was Dana Gioia -- graduate of Stanford and Harvard, former NEA chair, acclaimed poet and music critic. Workshop leaders included Elizabeth Rosner -- award-winning novelist, poet and essayist with degrees from Stanford and University of California. Another workshop leader was Al Young, poet laureate emeritus of California, who has taught at University of California, University of Michigan and in the Czech Republic. He is the recipient of Stegner, Guggenheim, NEA and Fulbright fellowships. Young's novels, poetry and essays are widely published as well. Rounding out the stellar faculty of published writers that weekend were Ellen Bass, Toby Bielawski, Susan Browne, Sandra Kay, Alison Luterman, Floyd Salas and Penny Warner. Unfortunately, it wasn't possible to attend all the workshops.
For those who like a little competition, there were several prose and poetry contests, with cash prizes awarded at the Saturday evening banquet. And writers had opportunities for fabulous networking over coffee in the morning and wine in the afternoon.
Contributions by lots of hard-working volunteers made this annual arts festival a genuine success. A shout-out to current and former poets laureate such as Martha Meltzer, as well as others who were involved.
All right, so you were hanging out in a beer hall or a pizza joint crying into your lasagna, when you should have been in Pleasanton that weekend. Take comfort in the fact that the City of Pleasanton and the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council will provide a chance for you to get on a literary path next year. Keep an eye on http://www.pleasantonarts.org.
May 4, 2009
(c) 2009 Jeanne Powell
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