Tag Archives: Dave Denny

Five Poets Laureate: 500 Words

ReleaseReading5Local Inhabitants, (L-R) Nils Peterson, Erica Goss, Parthenia M.
Hicks, Dave Denny, Sally Ashton. Photo courtesy Gwen Mitchell.

Here we are, smirky and perky after our June 15th release reading of Local Habitations, an anthology of poems of the Poets Laureate from Santa Clara County to date.

As part of our release celebration, each poet laureate was asked to write a poem of exactly 100 words, title included, using the theme, “Local Habitations.” None of us knew what the others wrote. After our individual readings we came up front, drew numbers, and read our contributions in that order as one single poem.

What follows is the text, as read, of our collaboration. Strange how it seems to come together as an intentional whole! In case you missed our reading, we do hope to read together again in the near future, so stay tuned. If you attended, we invite your comments below.

Local Habitations

Jacaranda is the tree for us, twice-blooming
in our region, a bold and fragrant purple in spring,
a paler but somehow richer blue in autumn.

Turn any corner in our neighborhood and see them
lined along the parkway in a conspiracy of beauty.
So we, in our youth, were given to the brave pose

or the startling proclamation. And now we have,
how shall I say it, deepened, taken on a subtle
complexity we could not in spring have imagined.

How strange and lovely to find ourselves in
this changing light. We pull the car over to the curb
to gawk in silence. The tree for us is Jacaranda.            


They say we have no seasons
in California. Fall, for instance,

fails to please.
They want our trees

decked out
in garish tones

and frost to grow
on pumpkins like mold

on bread. Perhaps it seems
that summer will never end

as heat swells the Pacific
and small clouds collect

in the uncertain sky.
The land, a little shabby

from summer’s long
dormancy, will never look

like the soft green hills they
left, thinking

that they wanted this much sun.
Now it’s old news

and they long to know
that change is coming

impatient to dig out
their woolen sweaters.


Local Habitations

The old tree in Willow Glen
cracks across the sky
the sound so loud and close
everyone looks up
but no one moves

It takes a visitor
a quiet shy voice
to speak the word

Branches we love to call arms
always heavier than we think
Fall everywhere

Reach for people, dogs
bits of food, benches
corners of blankets
and finally rest
dangling like slings between cars and high wires

Why not now? She thinks.
Now, when the people are so close
And the sky is so blue
And a lovely visitor
With a soft voice
Has recognized me?


A Small Bang.

Syllables pour into a hundred word universe shocked as the first hydrogen atoms. Each has a music. They circle, join, suddenly – word-sounds – “Crew went the curlew as it flew in a curlicue.” They rhyme. “Ache did,” pairs with “naked.” They gather into galaxies, “He did not know who he was until she taught him desire, then he did not know who he was,” until here, in Cupertino, at the end of the Dictionary of the Milky Way, we dangle from a participle, aware of dark matter, what has not yet been seen, so not yet said.



My grandfather would have sized up this crowd with two words: local yokels.

When a stranger moves to town we call him immigrant.

If we move to a foreign country we call ourselves ex-pats instead.

To travel from one place to another we lock our houses first.

To dream, the mind throws the doors open wide.

Either way we leave what we know behind.

To know ourselves better we’ve unlocked the genome.

We discover we’re related to everyone everywhere.

We are also made of star stuff blown from the corners of the cosmos.

Therefore wherever we wander, we’re home.

# # #

1.  including title, Dave Denny, Current Cupertino Poet Laureate
2. Erica Goss
, Current Los Gatos Poet Laureate
3. Parthenia M. Hicks
, First Los Gatos Poet Laureate
4. Nils Peterson
, First Santa Clara County Poet Laureate
5. Sally Ashton, Second Santa Clara County Poet Laureate



Filed under Laureate's News, On Poetry

Release reading: Local Habitations

Next Saturday June 15, 3pm
Celebrating a new anthology of Poets Laureate past and present
of the Santa Clara County


Please join host David Denny, and Nils Peterson, Parthenia M. Hicks, Erica Goss, and me as we celebrate the release of Local Habitations with a reading at Cupertino Community Hall, 10350 Torre Avenue at 3pm. Festivities include all 5 laureates reading from the new collection, live music, refreshments, and (drum roll) a surprise collaboration between all five of us.

Each of us is writing a separate “Local Habitions” poem for the occasion. Each poem is to be exactly 100 words–no more, no less. None of us know what the others are writing beyond that. Come cheer us on this Saturday as we unveil it all. Well the usual amount at least.

Sponsored by

The City of Cupertino, Cupertino Library Commission,
Friends of the Cupertino Library and the Library Foundation,
and Poetry Center San Jose.

Hope to see you there~

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate Emerita


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Poet Laureates in the News: Dave and Erica

Congratulations to Cupertino Poet Laureate Dave Denny who has been awarded an Artist Laureate Fellowship from Arts Council Silicon Valley.


This is a big honor, and I quote, “For over 21 years the Arts Council has annually awarded cash prizes to exceptional individual artists to enable them to continue to pursue their creative work. This year, $5,000 was awarded in each of the artistic categories. The Artist Laureate program was created to not only recognize mid-career artists, but emerging artists who have less than two years professional experience in visual, literary, or performing arts. Artists were selected by a panel of experienced judges based upon the artistic quality and originality of work, community impact within Santa Clara County, and professional development by demonstrating continued exploration of their art form.”

It’s been my great pleasure to get to know Dave and work with him during our concurrent laureateships. The Laureate Fellowship is a fitting acknowledgement of his talent, his contributions to poetry, and his service to the people of Cupertino and beyond. Bravo, Dave!

In the meantime, the new Los Gatos Poet Laureate, Erica Goss , hasn’t wasted any time celebrating poetry in the town. Tomorrow in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, she’ll be leading a Poetry Walk through Los Gatos, ending at C.B. Hannegan’s, an Irish pub that will be hosting a town-wide celebration.


Erica is calling the walk, “A Pint of Poetry, ” and hopes you’ll join the stroll with her. More info can be found here. Brava, Erica! What a terrific idea.

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate

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The Better Part: Poet Laureates read on Public Access TV

Cupertino Poet Laureate Dave Denny, former Los Gatos Poet Laureate Parthenia Hicks, and I were recently hosted on The Better Part, a Cupertino Senior TV Production. It will be Cablecast during the week of January 20, but here it is now as posted on YouTube.

Many thanks to Cupertino Senior TV Productions, and especially to our congenial host, Phil Lenihan, whose interest in poetry made the program possible. Phil added in a recent note that the New Yorker now has the poets reading their poems in the online edition. Good work, Phil!

I hope you enjoy. I’m not sure what my necklace was thinking, something creative apparently, but there you have it.

Cheers in the New Year!

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate


Filed under Favorite Poem, Laureate's News, On Poetry

4 out of 5 isn’t bad: Missing Nils Peterson!

The photographer got around to taking a picture after Sunday’s 5 poets laureate reading(see post below) a few minutes late and a Poet Laureate short, but here are the rest of us, and a solo of that good looking Nils Peterson, below.

Parthenia Hicks, current Los Gatos Laureate; Connie Post, former Livermore Laureate; Dave Denny, current Cupertino Laureate; Yrz Truly, current Santa Clara County Poet Laureate.

And, Nils Peterson, former Santa Clara County Poet Laureate indeed:

And our eloquent hostess with the Mostest, Erica Goss~

Wish you were there!

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate

(note: photos courtesy Vicki Harvey & Lesa Medley)


Filed under Laureate's News, On Poetry