Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - May 28, 2010

Poetic Pleasanton: Remembering Dad with poetry

Ah, June. The end of school and start of summer. The time to say "Thank You" and "Good Luck" to our Teen Poets Laureate, Vivienne Chen and Nick Quan, who are graduating from Amador Valley High School and Foothill. Vivienne will be attending Princeton, and Nick may attend Cabrillo College.

June is also the time to think about fathers.

My Father was Not a Poet

You could say my father was not a poet.

A wallpaper-seller and baseball-watcher,

my father puttered in the backyard

and constructed things, like a fountain.

Other fathers built custom homes

with libraries and coffee table books,

decorated their yards in magazine good taste.

Who but a poet would name

the humble spit of land with homemade

water feature his "Fontainebleau?"

I never saw him near a book of verse

or heard him recite a poem aloud.

When he spoke, he mostly told jokes.

But he knew all about words,

especially the Yiddish words of his native tongue

carried from Russia by his immigrant parents.

He taught me those words,

how their sounds

carry more meaning than any dictionary.

My father was always busy working in his store or in the yard. Though he couldn't take us to his parent's homeland, he taught us about their culture through the elements of language.

Coming soon: Poetry Rocks in Many Languages

At our "Poetry Rocks in Many Languages" program from 2-4 p.m. June 6, you can experience the pleasure of hearing poetry in other languages. Liz Fortini of Pleasanton will host this session, which features accomplished Northern California poets reading in English and Western European languages. Fortini will read her poems in English and Italian. Jabez Churchill of Ukiah will read his poems in Spanish and English. Dublin Poet Laureate Ronnie Holland will read in French and English.

At the Open Mic afterward, we welcome everyone - especially students - to read an original poem, up to 40 lines in length in another language with translation.

Century House is located at 2401 Santa Rita Road in Pleasanton. Cost is $5; students are free with ID.

Deborah Grossman is Pleasanton's Poet Laureate. Email her at


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