Sonoma County's poet laureate Geri Digiorno is excited. Digiorno, the author of four poetry collections including "Rosetta Mary" (Dpress, 2007), can't wait for the annual Petaluma Poetry Walk, an event she founded 12 years ago.
Starting at noon Sept. 23, downtown Petaluma transforms into a poetry lovers' sanctuary. That's when poets and their fans take over, strolling from one venue to the next -- including Copperfield's Books, Bricks and the Phoenix Theater -- to hear illustrious poets such as D.A. Powell, Mimi Albert, Kate Braverman and more recite their lines.
I caught up with Digiorno recently to talk about what she's up to.
Question: As a longtime resident of Petaluma and the county's poet laureate, you're practically a poetry institution. Tell me a little about your life.
Answer: I am a mother and grandmother and a great-grandmother. I was born in Logan, Utah, in 1932 and grew up in San Francisco. I've lived in Petaluma for over 20 years and today work as an artist, collage and poetry teacher. I get excited when I write a poem that I feel works as a poem. It's a wonderful feeling. I love that there are people who love my poetry. When I'm not writing poetry, I paint, do collage and crafts, read poetry and nonfiction, garden, work on my house or go to the city to an art show.
Q: You've been the county poet laureate since 2006. What are some of things you've done?
A: As poet laureate, I've organized children to write poems on the sidewalks in Petaluma. I've hung haiku poems in the trees in Petaluma and Sebastopol. I taught poetry and collage in Petaluma and Sebastopol. I've organized readings at the Petaluma Library with poets reading their work to music. I've read my poetry from Los Angeles to New Jersey, from Point Arena to Oakland. Today I'm also involved with a building project in Petaluma where there will be poems written on the walkway of a shopping area.
Q: What excites you about next Sunday's Petaluma Poetry Walk?
A: I'm excited about the walk every year, but this year is special because there will be music at every venue along with poetry. We've also created "The Poetry Walk" anthology. We have been working on it for a while. It includes poems by Diane di Prima, Chana Block, D.A Powell, Sharon Doubiago, Kate Braverman, Jane Hirshfield, David Meltzer, Shirley Kaufman, Ellen Bass, Judy Stedman, David Bromige, Joyce Jenkins, Eugene Ruggles, Frank X. Gaspar, Judy Grahn, Brenda Hillman, Carolyn Kizer, Kay Ryan, Truong Tran -- all the wonderful poets from the first 10 years of the poetry walk. Plus there's a blurb and a poem by Al Young, poet laureate of California. The anthology will be available at the Poetry Walk for $20.
Q: There is also going to be a poetry walk in Guerneville called Crosswalks of Poetry and Prose on Sept. 29. Are you involved in it?
A: I'm very happy because this poetry walk was inspired by me! I will be introducing Mike Tuggle at Memories That Linger at noon in Guerneville.
Q: In our fast-paced digital, instant-communication era, why do you think we still need poetry?
A: Because we live in grim times, we need poetry. Poetry makes us feel and lets us see, helps us to understand. Poetry can save the world.