Pictured Susie Terence, Area coordinator of San Francisco, 4th from the left, along with Javy Lopez of SF Giants, and other recipients of Giants Community Fund.




Last Chance for Commuters to Register for CPITS symposium, Sept. 9-11!
All the rooms are filled for the CPITS symposium at Casa de Maria in Santa Barbara, but commuters are still welcome to register for the weekend or daylong workshops on Saturday and Steve Kowit’s workshop on Friday. Please call Tina at the CPITS office, 415-221-4201 as soon as possible.

Giants Grant to CPITS for Grand Slam Poetry Project
The San Francisco Giants Community Fund has awarded CPITS and the San Francisco program a grant for the 2011-2012 school year to lead poetry residences in SF elementary schools to promote literacy.  The poetry lessons will focus on: students' background and family histories,cooperation and teamwork, dreams for the future, and the history of baseball and the SF Giants.  An anthology will be created with the students' baseball poems.  We hope the Giants will invite some of the student poets to read their baseball poems during pre-game festivities at the SF Giants' stadium.A citywide reading of students' baseball poems will also be held in the spring.


New CPITS logo: a note from Christina Chang, VP CPITS Board of Directors
Get ready to welcome the new CPITS logo – a creative, visionary, and professional emblem of who we are! CPITS changes lives every day in the schools, hospitals, and broader communities. It’s time that our visual identity speak for our work.
More than a year ago, the Board of Directors conducted a study indicating that a more relevant logo design would elevate the organization’s profile among donors and customers. The logo would manifest the impact of poetry education in a manner more readily understood by people less familiar with CPITS, a critical task in today’s age of outreach. Hence, the Board led a collective effort with the central office to complete the redesign. First, multiple workshops were conducted to brainstorm the organization’s brand, personality, key messages, and visual elements. Next, a professional graphic designer was engaged to turn the ideas into the ultimate composition of images, lettering, and colors. Finally, the Board, Advisory Council, central office staff, and a sample of poet-teachers worked together to iterate the design. The final product will be unveiled at this year’s Symposium in September.
Spread the word of this exciting debut and watch for a chance to enter our holiday logo contest on Facebook (

CPITS Goes to AWP 2012 Conference in Chicago!
At this winter’s AWP Conference, four CPITS poet-teachers will present a panel discussion: Poetry Out Loud as a Poetry Liberation Organization. As you probably know, Poetry Out Loud is an NEA and Poetry Foundation recitation program that served 325,000 high school students nationwide in 2010. Phyllis Meshulam, Tobey Kaplan, Iris Dunkle, Gwynn O'Gara who teach in the Poetry Out Loud program will be the panelists. While forever committed to helping students write poems, they want those poems to live in the airwaves, and for students to say memorably – right out loud – what they need to say in this world. These veteran poet-teachers have found their own voices liberated as well as their students in this recitation practice. They will share techniques and insights with other attendees of the conference that lasts from February 29 through March 3, 2012.
Sonoma Fundraiser
Angel Island Sailboat Trip to raise money for the Sonoma County Branch of California Poets in the Schools.  Saturday, October 1, leaving Sausalito at 10 am, returning by 4 pm, depending on the wishes of the guests. Price: $150 per person, $275 per couple.

Come join us for a picnic lunch on an island rich with manzanita, madrone, toyon, and history. Sail over with poet-mariner, Jabez “Bill” Churchill. Eat a lunch overflowing with local produce at one of the island’s picnic spots. Listen to poetry read and recited by poet-teachers from the program. “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou…” Thou art the only part missing! To reserve one or more of eight places: `Please call CPITS area coordinator, Phyllis Meshulam, 707-829-0787 or 707-486-7450.

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Gwynn  O’Gara will be teaching a workshop for this year’s CPITS symposium titled, Poetry Performance Made Easier
along with Claudia Poquoc on September 10 in Santa Barbara.

Terri: What is your background as a writer/artist? Did you study with a particular poet?
Gwynn: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books and write poetry. Both my parents were writers, a San Francisco newspaper reporter and a New York copywriter, so clear and correct language was highly valued in our household. From pronunciation to vocabulary, grammar to propriety, my parents were not stingy with correcting our mistakes.  I was 13 when my father died. I went out into a rainstorm, wept, and came inside and wrote a poem. From early on poetry has been a good friend, a great teacher and a way for me both to release and contain my emotions. Years later after my mother died, I found love poems I’d written to her when I was about eight.
I loved school as a kid and was blessed with mostly good teachers and a few great ones. I was encouraged but my drive always came from within. Early on I knew I was a writer.
At Kirkland College, an experimental women’s college in upstate New York, I studied with Denise Levertov. She was a passionate teacher and at the time totally committed to fighting the Vietnam War. It’s taken almost forty years but once in a while, especially when my voice grows spare and prayer-like, I see her influence in my work.
Terri: When did you become a CPITS poet? How did you hear about the organization and whom did you train with?
Gwynn: I was working at office and writing jobs in San Francisco and Silicon Valley and going to readings in North Beach and Berkeley at night. I kept hearing about CPITS and wanting to be part of it.
Finally in 1989 I was married, pregnant and able to work more flexible hours. I was so lucky to apprentice with Susan Sibbet and Katharine Harer. They were extraordinary teachers, smart, warm people who love poetry and enjoy working with kids. That’s a gift that takes a lot of patience and perspective, the ability to be in the moment, and above all, the ability to listen and laugh. Kids love to laugh and so do I. I think that’s why we have so much fun, deep fun, in the classroom. A teacher also has to read moods and emotions, and listen to what is not said.
One day Susan brought in devorah major to watch me teach, and I learned something so vital that it informs my teaching to this day. devorah told me not to forget the students in the back. So I make sure to walk through all the rows and try and call on each student at least once. You know this can be quite a challenge as some students have almost perfected the art of becoming invisible.  My first residency was at Francisco Middle School in North Beach. Most of the students were immigrants from all over Asia living in the Tenderloin. I learned so much and they wrote so beautifully of their lives.
Terri: Last year, you became Poet Laureate of Sonoma. What are your duties as a "Poet Laureate”? Has it opened new doorways for you as a writer in your community?
Gwynn: I’ve been asked to participate in readings and benefits and I’ve met a lot of great people, especially poets, and heard a lot of amazing poems. I’ve also been asked to judge a number of contests. All the hours spent reading and commenting on student work helps me trust my initial read, no matter how many times I re-read.  I also write a monthly column on the Sonoma County Literary Calendar website so I get to share my current passions and favorite poets. In an effort to encourage more people to write poetry, I’ve just sent out a call to Sonoma County residents who aren’t practicing poets to write a poem and send it to me. I’ll pick three people to read with me in the fall. As Seamus Heaney said, ‘If poetry and the arts do anything, they can fortify your inner life.’ We could all use that, especially these days.
Terri: What is the most moving or pivotal teaching experience you have had being a CPITS poet?
Gwynn:Once about ten years ago I taught a lesson about list poems, in which we read the great poem “Feral” by Antler. I burst into tears when a 4th or 5th grade student named Alex read his poem aloud:
A boy raised by robots.
A boy raised by machines.
A boy raised with guns all around.
A boy raised in war.
It was hard crying in front of the student but I learned to trust them and to trust expressing my emotions. And I realized that along with the poets whose poems I brought in, I was trying to tell the truth and that the students were also reaching for truth. Since then I’ve trusted my emotions and intuition more and this gets communicated to the students. If I tear up or get a little giddy or silly, I go with it, and it seems to open up the class. If the poet-teacher can’t feel and trust her emotions, how can the students? For the last four years, I’ve taught at the court-ordered one-room high school for girls who have completed their time at Juvenile Hall in Santa Rosa. You can imagine all the emotions floating around the room but we ride them and write. It is so satisfying to see the young women find out what matters to them. They discover a sense of self, learn to value that self, and learn that they can access their inner selves again and again. Poetry is powerful medicine. It’s always moving when a teacher writes a poem and shares it with the class. The students love it and the teachers are transformed.
In every class there are moments of truth, freedom, and beauty. It’s part of what keeps us coming back for more.  Teaching has helped make me who I am.  I’m so grateful to be part of CPITS and pass poetry forward.
Terri: That is great, Gwynn. Thank you so much for inspiring children over the years.
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The Cultural Affairs Commission panel for the City of Ventura has recommended California Poets in the Schools to receive a $4,000 grant to conduct poetry writing workshops at elementary, middle and high schools in the City of Ventura.  The grant competition was enormous, so this is a great accomplishment for the Ventura program. The poets who will participant in the grant workshops are:  Shelley Savren, Richard Newsham, Tree Bernstein, Elijah Imlay and Tim Cabrera.  Congratulations to all of you.
LA poet, Michelle Bitting has a new two-minute poem film called On Any Day Like Alice
SF poet, Joan Gelfand has two new publications: “Russian River Watershed," in Broken Circles, Cave Moon Press, Seattle (August, 2011) and "I Know Why Sylvia Plath Put Her Head in the Oven," 'gape-seed' - Uphook Press, NY (Sept, 2011).
Marin poet, Terri Glass’s poem, “Root Cellar”, will be published in Shadow and Light- A Literary Anthology on Memory, due out October 2011, published by Monadnock Writer’s Group.

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Wednesday, Sept. 7th, 8 pm at Bistro, 226 F Street in Davis, Joan Gelfand will be reading, with accompanist Jenny Holland, hosted by Dr. Andy Jones.

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vera-bitting-parade 2
LA poet, Michele Bitting’s daughter, Vera Bitting Abrams at the Pacific Palisades Parade on July 4, 2011

My Heart

a heart is something that
can love but would really
rather not my heart
squeals and snorts pulls and tramples
to get away from love my
heart is an angry horse
a wild thing.
Devon Garlick, third grade
Fieldbrook School, Humboldt County
Dan Levinson, poet teacher
from Parting the Future, 2011 CPITS anthology due to arrive Fall 2011


I was happy every minute
and am, even now,
every minute happy
and should an unavoidable cloud
            appear upon the vast horizon
                        happy I to endure it
and tears, happy
            in this exquisite release
and should there be an ache
            between my breasts
            bless me holy mother
                        for I have a heart!
Will Staple, poet-teacher
Nevada County
from What the World Hears, 2009 CPITS anthology

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California Poets in the Schools


1333 Balboa Street, Suite #3 • San Francisco, CA 94118


web: • phone: (415) 221-4201

toll-free in CA: (877) 274-8764 • fax: (415) 221-4301

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