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First Place Winner

What Happens Next

by Angelica Vera-Franco

I’m sitting in the other room
staring, waiting, listening.
I hear the chair crash,
the chair slam,
the chair fall.
I sense tension, trouble,
The arguments start.
My past appears.
I hear the phone buzz, flash,
They stare.
They ignore and ignore and ignore.
A minute passes
two, three more.
The room remains still,
remains silent.
Quiet as if nothing ever happened.
The prayers fly,
the crying starts,
pain worsens.
The children stare, wonder,
too young to understand.
My hand shakes, trembles,
my hand is nonstop.
The fight continues and continues and continues.
The words curse,
the words poison.
The melody starts,
and plays and plays and plays
It is a fight
no, a war.
It replays and replays and replays.
The walls seem to close in.
The walls know how I feel.
Teared stain pillows,
smudged back stains,
red eyes.
The lyrics mean more now.
The song speaks words
you are too afraid to say.
The voices speak, yell
the voices take you away.
To the place you fear
to the place you swore you’d never go.
You want the war to end,
the pain to stop,
the hurt you feel inside to stop.
You have trouble breathing,
trouble staying in control.
The imaginary crown falls,
it shatters,
it breaks.
Breaks down far worse than before.
A hit
a punch
you knocked out.
Knocked out by the hundred
no, million thoughts you have.
The thoughts roaming in your head.
The thoughts that bring you down.
The chair shifts,
the chair moves,
the chair scoots.
The voices stop.
You want to believe it’s over.
Then, footstep one
then another one
two more.
I wipe the tears, the stains,
the thoughts.
I look up
then look down.
They stand in front of me
like statues.
Admiring the mess and destruction,
I see the guilt
they know my pain.
They whisper,
they let me know what’s next
after what just happened.

Angelica Vera-Franco is a freshmen student at Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions High School.


Second Place Winner


Miracle from Above

By Julian Hernandez

You found someone to always love you,
now you and he spend all your time together.
He is your reason for seeing beauty in the morning dew,
and you think he’ll be around forever.
He says everything you do is simply amazing,
and supports you, even in your hatred.
His words and your fists were frequent in their raising,
and his good book is to you oh so sacred.
But this unending love is not good,
and it will lead to your greatest downfall.
It lies to you of your perfect fatherhood,
and its promises of a place in his golden capital.
so get your head out of the clouds and see the love,
and stop waiting for your miracle from above.

Julian Hernandez is a junior at Charter University Prep high school


Third Place Winner


Boys Are Better in Books

by Shani Zuberi

Where is my Fitzwilliam Darcy when I need him
My Jamie Fraser with his kilt
My Sir Gawain to save the day
and the wooden steed the Trojans finely built
Where is my Charles Wallace to make me hot cocoa when I wake up in fright
Or those two dashing Hardy boys to rescue me from things that go bump in the night
Where is my true love Othello who will kill me over handkerchiefs and lies
and my beloved Blue Beard and all his secret wives
Where is The Fryer, The Vicar and The Wife of Bath to tell me a wonderful tale
and my daring Jace Wayland to seek me out from the depths of hell
But, I don’t think in real life I’ll even try to look
and fall head over heels for my very next book

Shani Zuberi is a 12th grade student currently attending Visions in Education.


Honorable Mention


Just Kids

by Mirette Ochsner

This room holds America.
Right here we’ve got the world in our hands,
Every skin color, background, more than one native tongue, religions, cultures,
roots so deep you can’t trace them.

This room holds the future.
Young, bright minds tolerating, pulsing, feeling, giving, loving.
We’ve got ideas more buoyant than the clouds,
thoughts heavier than the weight of the earth.

In this room we are infinite.
Strangers become closer than family,
are given permission to glimpse one another’s minds.
In this room we aren’t forced into a jigsaw puzzle
without enough space to fit our pieces.

In this room we grow wings.
Wings that the rest of the world can’t see when we walk out of here.
In this room we don’t sink, because no one has to
show us the right way to swim, there is no right way.

In this room there is no set in stone
because we’re all still learning to carve out our story.
We’re just kids.
But we’re also just America.

Mirette Ochsner is a Junior at Visions In Education Charter School


Honorable Mention


Him and Her

by Jenna Turpin

He was a
Foolhardy firecracker
With an itch to toy with lighters.
She was a
Deadpan hurricane
With a curfew.
He could
Explode and destroy everything you ever loved.
She could
Rip up your whole world without a word.
The two would never meet.
The two should never meet.

Jenna Turpin is a junior at Center High School.



Meet Poet April Ossmann, in Conversation with Kate Asche

April Author Photo 2015 High Res Full Size

 Boundaries_Ossmann cover-1







April Ossmann will read from Event Boundaries, her new collection, at Sacramento Poetry Center on Monday, April 24, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.

April Ossmann is the author of Event Boundaries (Four Way Books, 2017), and Anxious Music (FWB), recipient of a 2013 Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant, and former executive director of Alice James Books. She is an independent editor (poetry, essays, reviews) and a faculty editor for the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Sierra Nevada College. Learn more at

This interview is the first part in a series presented in conjunction with Sacramento writer and teacher Kate Asche’s blog, Kate’s Miscellany. Kate interviews April Ossmann in two parts: Part I (below) focuses on April’s brand new poetry collection, Event Boundaries, just out from Four Way Books; Part II focuses on craft. To read Part II and to learn more about Kate, whose poetry chapbook Our Day in the Labyrinth was published Finishing Line Press in 2015, visit

Q: April, to start with, you have some very close connections to the Sacramento Valley and to California. Could you share a bit about these?

A: I was born in Santa Barbara, and lived there and in Richmond (and southern CA, after I left home), but spent my teens on the rural fringes of Vacaville. My mother lives in Vacaville, my niece and her family near Sacramento. I have friends in Woodland, the Bay area and Los Angeles; and my cousin, David O (the composer-musician-musical director), lives in southern CA with his family. I work with poets in northern and southern CA, and teach in the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, so altogether, I have many reasons for frequent visits.

Q: Let’s turn to the book now. “One night,” the first poem in the collection and one that opens with a lone fawn startled by a car’s headlights, echoes (for me, at least) aspects of the story of Saul’s encounter with God on the road to Damascus, as does the final poem in the collection, “O, Chicago, O’Hare,” in which readers glimpse one among “the multitude / of humans en route / through mystery, / to mystery.” In the first poem, the speaker’s point of view is very aware, analytical, and explicitly god-like in relation to the fawn’s vulnerability in that moment. In the last poem, the speaker’s point of view is very much that of a fawn—the airport behavior of humans is even described explicitly as “herding.” What can you tell us about the spiritual development of your poems as you worked on this book?

A: Wow, what great observations and questions! I could spend an essay answering. One my favorite aspects of book publication is the sometimes the out-of-body experience of learning about my psyche from readers of my work. I didn’t realize I had switched roles with animals in the first and last poems until now. I did consciously order the poems throughout the book to reflect my spiritual and emotional growth: in family and romantic relationships, in culture/society, and in nature. Most of the growth as I see it relates to desires and loss (especially mortality), learning to serve spirit rather than ego—or to teach my ego to serve my spirit. One of the benefits of my practice has been an increased sense of personal responsibility and humility, acceptance, compassion, and oneness, including with deer, despite their unflagging appetite for my perennials!

I hadn’t read the story of Saul when I wrote the poems, but I see why you made the connection. I wrote “One night” based on the event I describe, wherein I became an unwitting persecutor of an animal I was trying to save. Perhaps Saul would have claimed something similar for himself in his religious persecutions. I think that many of us intend good, even when others see evil intent because of unintended outcomes or conflicting ideas of good.

Q: How did these poems first accrete into a collection, and how has the process of working with them connected to your own spiritual development?

A: For the first few years of writing after I finished Anxious Music (April’s first poetry collection, also published by Four Way Books), I expected the next book to focus similarly on challenges/growth in relationships, and lesser kinds of loss than death, but then I lost my stepfather, my father, and brother (my only sibling), in three and a half years, and that resulted in a big thematic shift, as I began writing my way toward acceptance and peace with my loved ones’ mortality and my own.

Q: The poem “This Blue” seems to converse with a rich literature of contemporary writings about the color blue. I am thinking of Bluets by Maggie Nelson, moments in Terry Tempest Williams’ Finding Beauty in a Broken World and the first (in particular) of the “The Blue of Distance” chapters in Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost. In all of these, as in your poem, blue is connected with desiring, expressed at all rungs along the hierarchy of needs. Your poem initiates a triptych of poems in Event Boundaries meditating overtly on desire(s), and many other poems in the collection investigate this as well. Here comes the question, and it’s a choose-your-own-adventure: As a writer with a self-expressed spiritual bent toward mindful acceptance and non-dual thinking, how does writing desire inspire and challenge you? And/or: I notice my contemporary writers of blue are all women. Why/how—to you—might this contemporary “literature of blue” engage and extend a feminist poetics? And what is “a feminist poetics” to you? What does feminism mean to poetry now, and/or poetry to feminism?

A: If by “non-dual” thinking you mean “non-binary,” oppositional as opposed to inclusive (i.e., yin and yang), that sounds like me. I talk a lot about relying on both my conscious and unconscious contributions when I talk about writing poetry, and since writing is one way I grow spiritually, I rely on both modes to serve my growth―and my general health and welfare.

On the subject of feminism, I’ll just say that though I’ve identified as a feminist since coming of age amid “Women’s Liberation” in the seventies, my feminist political action has mostly been personal, and expressed more in my private life than in my poetry, i.e., working toward equality in relationships; and forging ahead professionally like a cross between a steam roller and a wood chipper. That said, there are several poems in Event Boundaries that express feminist sentiments using humor, most notably “Celestial Solo, or Divine Funk?,” “3D Feeling,” and “Table for One.”

Q: I am going to allow these words of introduction written by April to stand on their own, as we begin discussing the title: “We finally have name for what happens when we enter a room and can’t remember what we intended to do there―and it’s not senility. When we go through an entrance or exit like a doorway, it’s a signal to the unconscious to clear the decks to prepare for the next event, what psychologists call an “event boundary”—not to be confused with an event horizon, the point of no return where the gravity of a black hole pulls everything into it, including light.”

The concept of the “event boundary”—while not introduced in a direct way until the title poem appears in the third section of the book—permeates the collection, though it manifests in negative ways, in events themselves rather than the moment before them. These events, furthermore, seem less time-oriented and more about changes of various kinds of states. So many poems in the collection play in this space: “The Terror of Doors” explores the emotional life of a door with “an urge to escape its fate / and go winging off / after something / unimaginable in space— / the knob turned beak.” In “Where the Wolves Are,” the speaker’s “eyelashes / are birds” and “hands are wolves” while, in the same moment (or in every moment), “the chickadee’s / homing dives mirror my grasping hands.” In “A City, Like Venice,” the beloved becomes “a city, like Venice, / just barely kept from drowning.” Talk some about your poems’ thirst to capture transformation. How is this thirst a strength in poems, and how is it a liability or a challenge?

A: I didn’t consciously plan to write about transformation, but it is a common theme. In “The Terror of Doors,” I explore how ignorance engenders fear of others and of change/transformation. In “A City, Like Venice,” I explore fear of intimacy, due perhaps to a lack of trust in others and the self, which perhaps is the fear of change or transformation. “Where the Wolves Are,” explores transformation through a sense of oneness in desire. The challenge or liability in trying to write about something as ineffable as emotional/spiritual transformation is its inherent impossibility, which you could say is what all poetry attempts in some sense, expressing the ineffable. Perhaps my poems’ thirst for transformation is a strength in that writing is transformation, and attempting it models curiosity and courage, and hopefully comforts or inspires others.

Q: I find it interesting that the title poem appears in fairly close proximity to a five poem series that directly engages with the suicide of your brother. In my experience, suicides are often associated with ideas that I see in your definition of an “event horizon:” “the point of no return where the gravity of a black hole pulls everything into it, including light.” Your book—through its poems’ progression—invites readers to instead examine suicide as an ultimate event boundary, a profound entrance-by-exit into the most unknown next. Here are some possible questions: How soon after your brother’s suicide did you begin to write about it? What in your early drafts surprised you most? Did you ever write anything about his death that made you feel afraid, or lost, or ashamed, and if you did, what did you do with those lines or poems? When you read the poems in Event Boundaries now, what stays with you? Is there anything you wish to say to writers who feel called to engage with family trauma and/or their own in their writing?

A: I had both event boundaries and event horizons in mind during the last couple years of writing the manuscript poems, including those I wrote about my brother’s death. I wrote “After” a few days after my brother’s memorial service, a little over a week after his death, and the other poems in the sequence (except for “Reach”) over the next year or so. I wrote “Reach” after my stepfather’s death and before my brother’s, but revised it to fit both. “After” was the poem that surprised me, in the way it arrived. I listened to “Free Bird” in honor of my brother just before going to sleep, and woke in the morning with the poem nearly fully formed in my mind. I rushed to type it up before I lost it, before coffee or anything. I’m still amazed by how much of the conversation between Lynyrd Skynyrd’s lyrics and mine happened unconsciously, so I had a sense of the poem being given to me.

I encourage writers to engage with their traumas, familial or otherwise, in their writing. Writing what we struggle most with can engender our best writing and growth, painful though both may be. Some need to begin writing immediately, and others need to first take time for non-literary processing. Either way, after the early drafts, I’d advise allowing time for more emotionally detached revision, including peer or mentor assessment, before submitting the writing for publication.

Q: Now, I am going to borrow some moves from Amber Pearson’s great 2008 interview of you for Southeast Review. The following questions can be answered in a word, phrase, or single sentence. Name a writer whose work is currently inspiring you.

A: Christian Wiman’s Once in the West has been inspiring me with its craft, beauty and spirituality.

Q: Name a writer whose work is currently challenging you in some way, and note the way.

A: Dr. Joe Dispenza’s You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, is challenging me to take increasing responsibility for my physical health and well-being, and for what I experience as my reality in general; and challenging me to continue transforming my quality of life by changing what I think and believe.

Q: Describe your relationship with submitting your work.

A: I think of submitting my work as part of the business side of poetry. I think that most of us begin by taking rejection personally, but thanks to having been on both sides of the publishing desk, and learning detachment, I let go of emotional reactions to literary rejection a long time ago. I research journals/magazines, and do my best to submit appropriately, and to keep the faith that I’ll find homes for the poems if I persist, in periodicals and in books.

Q: Which poem caused you to confront and let go of the most attachment? How?

A: “Sigh” is the poem I think most directly confronts and lets go of attachment, not just attachment to a lover, but to all loved ones, including the self: I write “no breath is ours to keep,/just as no body is.”

Q: Which poem surprised you the most in this collection?

A: Since I talked about this earlier in discussing my writing of the poem “After,” I’ll mention another poem that surprised me, in a different way, “Guaranteed Ten-Minute Oil Change.” I used to get my car’s oil and filter changed at a particular shop, and usually chatted with the manager as I waited. One day, when I arrived for an oil change, he wasn’t there. I asked a mechanic about his absence, and something strange happened: all of the men working there crowded around me to tell the story of “Larry’s” stroke, his return to work, and his retiring from work. What surprised me was how angry they all seemed in telling a sad story. I wrote the poem in an effort to understand why they might be angry.

Q: Which poem continues to surprise you?

A: “After” continues to surprise me, in the large contribution my unconscious made to its making, and how thoroughly it questions and subverts the Free Bird song’s lyrics, and in how accurately it captures some of the experience of losing a loved one to alcoholism and suicide.

Q: When you aren’t reading or writing poems, what are you doing?
A: When I’m not reading or writing poems, I’m editing other poets’ poems, my full-time employment. I’m also snowshoeing in Vermont forests, hiking, walking, gardening, lawn-mowing, home renovating, baking, spending time with loved ones, reading news, and fiction and non-fiction, when I can squeeze them in.

Continue the conversation with April in Part II of this interview over at Kate’s Miscellany, the blog of Sacramento writer and teacher Kate Asche, at

Asche Kate_high res COLOR head shot_credit Charlie McComish_web

Kate Asche’s poetry is forthcoming in Santa Clara Review and has appeared in The Missouri Review (as an Audio Prize finalist) and in Colorado Review, Bellingham Review, RHINO and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Our Day in the Labyrinth, debuted in 2015 from Finishing Line Press. A graduate of the UC Davis Creative Writing program, she teaches workshops in Sacramento and is associate editor at Under the Gum Tree.


President’s Message – Poetry Month 2017

Thanks to Ana Castillo for coming to SPC and leading a well-attended workshop to kick off poetry month. And thanks to Nancy Gonzalez for getting Ana here two years in a row! This seems like a tradition well worth repeating.

Congratulations and thanks to Stan Forbes at the Avid Reader – now at the corner of 20th and Broadway – for hosting our Mosaic of Voices series. SPC members, consider checking out the new store – same good people, but more books, better parking!

Many thanks to Linda Collins, who has decided to leave SPC board of directors after nearly a decade of volunteer work: she has served as Membership Coordinator, Editor of Tule Review, and has been a generally clear-eyed supporter of poets and poetry in Sacramento! Most recently Linda managed SPC’s High School Poetry Contest, and she’s helped with dozens of events and projects over the last decade. Linda’s a big part of Sacramento’s poetry scene, and she says she’ll still be writing and reading around town. She definitely deserves a break after all her volunteer work!

Thanks to Laura Martin and the Soft-Offs for organizing and entertaining the crowd at their fifth annual fundraiser for SPC. This year they raised over $300 at a rollicking Saturday night of their inimitable Moetry! Thanks also to Jan Haag, who hosted the evening. The Soft-Offs, led by guitarist Chris Musci, create a rich fabric of music – from free jazz to pop to country – to adorn Laura’s amazing poetry-stories. Good times for a good cause.

Thanks to Rhony Bhopla, too, who helped bring a remarkable duo to SPC for a different kind of poetry-music collaboration in March. Archana Venkatesan and Sikkil Gurucharan performed a remarkable collaboration of live vocal Carnatic music and ancient South Indian poetry. Those who were lucky enough to attend that night saw and heard a unique blend of artistry. We were honored to be there for their world premiere, and hope someday for a reprise! Thanks to reader Archana, who teaches at UC Davis, and vocalist Sikkil, for his unparalleled sound!

It’s been a few months now, but we’re still basking in the glow of Sacramento Poet Laureate Indigo Moor’s big night at California Stage. Thanks to Penny Kline for hosting and organizing, Ray Tatar for sharing the space, bassist Gerry Pineda for musical accompaniment, Jeff Knorr, and yes, Lemony Snicket for joining Indigo on stage. Indigo orchestrated a wonderful evening – it was a great launch to what will no doubt be three eventful years of his laureateship!

Note that SPC’s Hot Poetry in the Park begins in June – on the third Monday of each month (June 19, July 17, August 21) our readings will be in Fremont Park! Bethanie Humphreys hosts this popular outdoor reading. Bring blankets or chairs – there’s strength in numbers!

Tim Kahl has once again assembled a great lineup of poets for our annual SPC Poetry Conference, Saturday April 29 from 10 to 4pm. Please see information below and join us that day if you can. If you can’t come to the whole thing, come when you can! Six renowned poets will share their poetry, their process, and their insights. Come and write!

And don’t forget Thursday, May 4 – the Big Day of Giving – Sacramento’s all day online fundraising drive. You can go online and donate to SPC (or many other nonprofit groups), and the funds are incrementally matched by SRCF – last year there was about a 15% match, and SPC earned over $4000 all together. This year our goal is $5,000, so we’re starting to let people know now. I’d tell you that I’m getting ready to open up my checkbook, but it’s an online event, so it’s really my credit card! Oh, and my banjo case, too – there will be a party at SPC from 5:30 to 8:30, with music by Extra Innings Band. Come one, come all!

That’s it for now – thanks to all of you for reading Poetry Now!





P O E T R Y    N O W

2017 – 2

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Insignificant Leaf by Alysa Joerger
Abandoned, Overgrown by Alysa Joerger
Papa in Cabo San Lucas
Papa in Cabo San Lucas by Jeanine Stevens
Graffiti in Florence
Graffiti in Florence
Moon by Donna Pacini-Christensen
Handprint by Donna Pacini-Christensen
nanci woody deer pic
Back Yard Breakfast by Nanci Lee Woody

P H O T O G R A P H E R  S

Alysa Joerger has only begun sharing her creations, yet she has already received awards for her photography and poetry. While she is working in Loomis and attending Sierra College, she continues to paint, write poetry, take photographs, create digital artwork, and otherwise dabble in the arts with her spare time.

Jeanine Stevens is interested in street scenes, back alleys and open-air markets. Recently she was able to scavenge billboards in Arles and Paris for collage materials. In her writing life, Jeanine admires the “city” poems of O’Hara and Baudelaire. She has a poem series based on photographs of women: “New Delhi,” won the MacGuffin Poet Hunt (judged by Philip Levine), and “Frida in a White Dress” received a Pushcart Nomination.

D.B. Pacini-Christensen is a published novelist, poet, and reviewer. She is a vocalist and a photographer with a passion for photographing live performances. In 2004 she started A Starry Night Productions with her husband Tim Christensen. In 2009 they began hosting acoustic music jams. Those jams transformed and are now a popular open mic music showcase series in Woodbridge, CA.

Nanci Lee Woody was a teacher, author of textbooks in business math and accounting and Dean of Business at American River College before she wrote her first novel. “Tears and Trombones” won an IPPY (Independent Publishers) Medal for “Best Fiction in the Western Pacific.” She has also published numerous short stories and poems both online and in print anthologies. Nanci always has her camera in hand, and loves particularly to photograph birds and animals. Her artwork has shown in local galleries and in the KVIE annual on-air fund raisers.



July 2017 at Sacramento Poetry Center EVENTS:
All events at SPC, 1719 25th St between Q and R, unless otherwise noted.
All events are subject to change.

Monday, July 10th, 7:30pm
Joe Braun & Lauren Lavin
Host: Tim Kahl

Monday, July 17th, 7:00pm
Hot Poetry in the Park
Featuring: Stuart Canton & Esti Shapiro
Host: Bethanie Humphreys

Fremont Park
1515 Q St.
Sacramento, CA 95811

Monday, July 24th, 7:30pm
Dale Houstman Book Release with Arturo Mantecon
Host: Tim Kahl

Monday, July 31st, 7:00pm
Cynthia Atkins and Josh Fernandez
Host: Penny Kline

contest flyer


With support of RT Metro, and help from 916 INK, Mary Zeppa, Laura Martin, and Angela Tannehill are continuing to put poetry into Sacramento buses! Based on similar programs in New York and Chicago, our program, Poets on Board, features local youth poets and local artists.