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NPM 2021: The Napa Valley Poets: Poet Laureates of Napa

Introduction

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 (2021- )

Marianne Lyon

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:

Marianne Lyon's Poetry

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

What Are You Glittering About?

               Asleep star verses collect in me

 Awake     I fashion sprigs of poems but
thieving wakefulness
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
            sky alphabet
            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

The Wall

Front page photo
moves me to tremble.
You appear everywhere
teens, tired, nameless
infants, limping-aged
black and white silhouettes.
To see sad sights moves more
than hear them told
Torsos, limbs, stumbling
unable to sit
shoulders frozen
moving statues
chipped carvings
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 
slivered testimonies
how you came to be
mere dots
not exiting
not looking
only staring
from front page.
            When every part 
            a part of woe doth bear
Want to grip your hands
but afraid 
of what I might feel
afraid I will touch
human horror
too heinous
to believe.

Note:  Phrases from "The Rape of Lucrece" by William Shakespeare

Jeremy Benson (Served 2017-2020)

Jeremy Benson

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:

Jeremy Benson's Poetry

Clean Forevermore

I fall and sit,
collide,
and spin.
I pause...
I look deep;
falling onward.
The void is full...
No rhyme,
nor reason,
no sake,
nor pain,
as perception holds me.
This echo hits the universe,
and calls me.
Hallowed be thy name,
o' great and wise to be:
my gain.
I seek you as my own.
I hold the gold;
it turns to sand.
I turn to dust,
and wash my hands.
Clean forevermore...

The Golden Goddess

The golden Goddess—
in which abides the great rive,
sat amongst the pinnacle star.
The ages of her wisdom,
shining bright,
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.

Mechanical Lark

Mechanical lark—

inside my temple,

my home—

I wind up your trinket;

you ramble alone.

You ramble,

and beg,

but no-one will play,

as you play at the stings;

of insanity frayed.

You wheel on your wheels—

squawking,

and grinding—

as you reach your final;

your key is unwinding.

You die...

I pick you up,

with a tear in my eye—

cursing the heavens,

cursing the sky.

Why!?

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 (Served 2015-2017)

Beclee Wilson

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:

Beclee Wilson's Poetry

Books for Purchase:

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! 

Couples

We separate

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.

Brix Reprise

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.

 

In moonlight,

tucked in your arm,

rising on each breath,

dreams are sweet