'Gypsy' takes city's poetic reins | July 19, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

News - July 19, 2013

'Gypsy' takes city's poetic reins

First action is to publicize arts groups

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Pleasanton's new poet laureate sees herself as a gypsy, but that doesn't stop her from taking a businesslike approach to promoting the cultural arts.

After her appointment by the City Council in May, Sandra Kay's first step was to create a comprehensive list of arts groups and their meetings, which can be found at www.firehousearts.org.

She also organized an Amplified Open Mic on May 23.

"It was a variety show with poetry mixed in," Kay explained. "It was my inaugural event, done by the teen poet laureates. My heart is in open mics and variety shows."

The poet laureate position has evolved as each creative writer brings his or her unique background to the job.

In 1998, Charlene Villella was named Pleasanton's first poet laureate. She was followed by Jim Ott, Kirk Ridgeway, Martha Meltzer, Deborah Grossman and Cynthia Bryant, who served two terms.

"If I accomplish half of what Deborah Grossman did, I will be satisfied," Kay said. "She went above and beyond. I was a beneficiary of the program."

Ridgeway said poetry is ultimately about telling a story, and he noted that Kay tells her stories through "an imaginative gypsy dance of emotion and words that threaten to seduce or con the writer and reader."

"In form and content her artful word dance is at times smooth, sensuous, lovely and then brash, naughty, jarring, grief, humor, hope and despair constantly enter and exit the bustling stage of the non-ordinary structure of her poems," Ridgeway wrote.

"These juxtapositions will resonate with the reader as they mirror the dramatic dance of every human relationship."

Kay said her breakthrough poem is on compassion.

"It took 30 years to write -- then I wrote it in four to five days," she said.

She specializes in "creative non-fiction" and has found blogging a great way to express herself, in more then 2,000 posts. Kay currently has two active blogs: SheSaysWithaSmile, in which she writes about whatever is on her mind that day; and TriValleyGypsyPoet, which is exclusively poetry.

"I found my canvas with blogs," she said, adding that before that, she had "tons of notebooks." She calls the blogosphere, "a wonderful place, a magical place, a place where you can write as much or as little as you want, how you want, when you want."

Kay also has a keen eye for heart shapes, which she photographs as she sees them. She is holding an exhibit called "The Heart Seen," on Saturday, July 27, at Rick's Picks on Main Street, where she works. She will replace the pictures in the frames for sale with photos she has taken since 2006 of heart shapes she has found.

The heart photos and exhibit are in the spirit of independent art, "the same spirit as mob dancing," she explained. For instance, when she was at a deli, she suddenly spotted a heart shape in the sandwich being made for her.

"I said, 'Wait! I have to get my camera,'" she recalled.

People are usually kind as she pursues her photos of hearts.

"They think I'm weird, but I'm used to that," she said.

Kay moved to Pleasanton 18 years ago from Castro Valley to share an apartment with her sister. She knew she wanted to plant her roots here, she remembered, after attending her first Concert in the Park and seeing all the families and picnics. She married and had two children, Taryn, now 16, and Jack, 13. Taryn has applied to be a teen poet laureate.

Kay supports herself by working at Rick's Picks unloading merchandize and serving customers; working the front desk and driving the shuttle at the Courtyard Marriott in Livermore; and occasionally pouring wine at Bodegas Aguirre on Sundays. She said she thrives on this eclectic mix of jobs.

"I'm the richest poor person in Pleasanton. I have no money but I keep managing," she said.

Kay's look is also slightly gypsy, with a tattoo of a Chinese symbol on her right check.

"It's the Chinese symbol for one, courage, and, two, conquer the world one man at a time -- with kindness," she explained.

She had the tattoo done a few years ago after turning 40, and soon afterward moved out on her own.

"I saw my cheek as an empty canvas spot," she said. "When I see others with tattoos, we share ink stories."

Kay has many plans for her tenure as poet laureate, including self-portraits in words, reverse engineering poems, and helping people discover anonymous poets in their families.

"Every family has a poet," she said, "and many have 'closet poets.'"

"My main event will be Maya Angelou-related, she's my favorite poet," she said, although she isn't sure exactly what form it will take.

To learn more about Kay, visit her website at www.writeousmom.com.