For over a decade, the Napa County Library, in partnership with the Arts Council of Napa Valley, has appointed a "poet laureate" for the Napa Valley area. The poet laureate generally serves a two-year term and often attends local events and advocates for the arts. Check out the last three winners.
Marianne Lyon not only is a poet, but taught music for decades before settling down in Yountville. She even instructed students at Hong Kong International School. That international experience influenced several poems based on her experiences. Lyon sees poetry and music as inextricably linked and has ambitions to form a “Revolutionary Poets Society” group to encourage Napa Valley residents, especially Spanish-speakers and local students, to utilize the unique power of the written word in order to give voice to their lived experiences. She also plans to encourage a series of concerts about once every two months to showcase new poetry and instrumental music based on those poetic works. Lyon has also entered different poetry contests and earned second prize at the 2017 Dancing Poetry festival in San Francisco for her poem, “If the Beach Could Sing She Would Sound Like a Cello." She was also a nominee for the Pushcart Prize in 2016 for her poem “Major to Minor."
For more information on Marianne Lyon, check out the following:
Sleeping in the Sun
Autumn brushes twisted Oaks
A rim of dawn lingers in the east
She wishes to walk the full length
of the day crushed by radiant sun
young grasses bristle beneath her feet
she hears a whisper, unsaid feeling
soft surrender from deep inside
a picture of herself smiling flashes in her mind
then disappears into aching weariness
Used to sleepless nights
moon and glittering stars
coax her to stay awake
lecture her with endless legends,
but this morning sun’s golden disk
splashes into her face
rises from her unshielded eyes,
slides over tightly braided hair
creeps down her softening shoulders
She follows an easy stream
watches a knife of sunshine
slice the ripples overs smooth rocks
she continues to soak up the journey
Her walking slows
Sleep beckons from somewhere in her memory
A few more steps and she may find
A husky tree to lean against
An oasis to watch the yellow afternoon
make its way across the cloudless sky
She leans her head against sappy bark
light softens, air is sweet
sun beings to dip behind the far mountains
it’s warm receding arms press down, send
a loving invitation; she accepts and
in these last oozing hours
the Salinas Valley witnessed a quiet miracle
when she stretched a yawn
when Her eyes closed and she slept
Asleep star verses collect in me
Awake I fashion sprigs of poems but
steals first prize images
Asleep a star cavalcades melodies
I traverse his notes
pulled along like a kid at a carnival
look at every ride
every sweet taste
every hidden curtain
every strange phenomenon
Awake I search for metaphors
to describe his dazzling dream song
Asleep he teaches me a new language
a blinking Morse code
Awake I fashion a disappointing sonnet
search for words that rhyme with star…
Asleep ask him why he glitters
Awake remember not his answer
but could swear I glistened
throbbing in his arms
Asleep I am Aphrodite looking into his eyes
Awake I see polished darkness between us
Asleep I am moved by his closeness
Awake bewildered by his distance
I keep night vigil at framed window
with “glittering” question
my expectant heart beats
eyes fix on the pulsing sky
I wait and wait and wait
for his answer
Front page photo
moves me to tremble.
You appear everywhere
teens, tired, nameless
black and white silhouettes.
To see sad sights moves more
than hear them told
Torsos, limbs, stumbling
unable to sit
of eternal servitude
astound my eyes.
For then the eyes
interpret to the ear
Let me pour broth
inside your parched mouths,
eavesdrop on stories—
hear only scared silence
your fearful gapes say more
than a million pages of words.
The heavy motions
that it doth behold
Desire to devour
how you came to be
from front page.
When every part
a part of woe doth bear
Want to grip your hands
of what I might feel
afraid I will touch
Note: Phrases from "The Rape of Lucrece" by William Shakespeare
Jeremy Benson is an organic farmer who also writes poetry. He began writing in high school and continued in college, taking classes at Hope College in Michigan. He often combines his love of language and his love of nature when he writes. Prior to the pandemic, Benson held "office hours" at local venues, such as the Napa Main Library, attended poetry slams, and judged the Napa Valley County library's teen poetry slam. In 2017, he was appointed by the Napa County Library, in partnership with Arts Council Napa Valley, as Napa's poet laureate. In this capacity, Benson wanted to share his love of poetry with young folks and get them writing.
For more information on Jeremy Benson, check out the following:
I fall and sit,
I look deep;
The void is full...
as perception holds me.
This echo hits the universe,
and calls me.
Hallowed be thy name,
o' great and wise to be:
I seek you as my own.
I hold the gold;
it turns to sand.
I turn to dust,
and wash my hands.
The Golden Goddess
The golden Goddess—
in which abides the great rive,
sat amongst the pinnacle star.
The ages of her wisdom,
sought to take the seers far.
They dranketh from her well,
and called upon her power,
as they walked upon the way,
to set their stone upon the tower.
inside my temple,
I wind up your trinket;
you ramble alone.
but no-one will play,
as you play at the stings;
of insanity frayed.
You wheel on your wheels—
as you reach your final;
your key is unwinding.
I pick you up,
with a tear in my eye—
cursing the heavens,
cursing the sky.
Why must I regret your final,
the last note that you played,
and meet in your demise my loneliest day?!
One last time,
as the time before,
I wind up your key,
and put your wheels to the floor.
Beclee Wilson is a resident of St. Helena and was selected as the Napa poet laureate in 2015 and served until 2017. A graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Speech, where she earned an MA, and a graduate of the University of Michigan with a PhD, Wilson is no stranger to the power of language. She understands the performative power of poetry and the impact that hearing, rather than simply reading poetry, has. She has shared her love of the written word with fourth and fifth graders at St. Helena Elementary School, helping them access their inner poets. She is especially interested in making April's Poetry Month a much more visible and important part of the local elementary schools' language arts curriculum. Wilson also attends the Napa Valley Writer’s Conference almost every year. She is passionate about providing more opportunities for local poets to publish their work, advocating for poetry to be published in local newspapers.
For more on Beclee Wilson information, check out the following:
Your Place on Main Street
(Penned to celebrate the St. Helena Post Office turning 80)
Your place on Main Street
can't be beat. As we patter
on the street with baby stroller,
or helpful cane, with dogs
leaping and straining,
just coming in is a treat.
We view your beautiful façade
with its murals high above,
steps with boxed flowers on each side,
two great doors that open wide.
We thank planners and builders
and the city leaders for this great design.
What makes a post office
in which we take pride
are the people who bring us
mail to homes and businesses
and greet us so friendly
at the counters inside.
Some of us come to collect
mail from boxes each day.
Others to get boxes and stamps
then touch the brass shutters
to mail things far away.
If only Napa Valley vineyard
workers in the murals
on each side, could talk and tell us
stories of those who saw each other here
and biding time shared
with friends life's joys and pain.
Places to meet each other in person today
become more precious each day.
Thank you for eighty years of moving mail in and out of our lives.
And for all who are so helpful every day, we give a big hurray!
in a show of independence,
I to my garden, you to practice piano
Knowing that we go our separate ways
we travel inside each other
closer than the pause between each breath.
Turkey vultures twist above in solitary circles,
butterflies rarely flit in pairs,
They find each other.
Balance of sugar and acid
measure of ripeness,
determine the moment of harvest.
Positioned to intercept light
leaves closest to clusters
produce the most sugar.
tucked in your arm,
rising on each breath,
dreams are sweet