The Squaw Valley community of writers brought a night of charitable poetry to San Francisco on Friday night.
All who gathered at the First Unitarian Church bought their tickets toward fundraising financial aid for the Squaw Valley community of writers workshops in the California Sierra Nevada.
The workshops are for writers to spend time away from their environments and escape into the quietude of Squaw Valley with others of the same mission. The poets then create new work within these workshops and aid each other in composing new material.
Jen Siraganian, a former student at Squaw, mentioned that these workshops were the “root in what solidified (her) in creating poetry.” Siraganian organized the fundraising event and opened the night with praises toward the school of workshops that influenced her love of creating poetry.
A piece shared by the acclaimed poet Robert Hass, “Death in Adolescence,” particularly engaged the audience after a silence that fell in the room once the first words were read. The poem depicted a glance at what may be dancing in some of the minds of the youth today as his words wandered through the subjects of teen suicides and cyber bullying. He projected an earnest and vivid account of someone from an older generation watching the current one with a panoramic view of questions for the society that is the largest influence over the juvenescence of today.
The elegant and captivating language created a heavy atmosphere in the room during readings. Especially that of the poet C.D. Wright, who shared four of her works: “Imaginary August,” “Imaginary Rope,” “Imaginary June” and “Imaginary Mexico.” “Imaginary June” wonderously played with lines like “she could see into her very cells / with her unassisted eyes even into extremophiles / even with the light dispelled until the mind sets sail /
into its private interval of oblivion” and engrossed her audience with her subtle transitions from poem to poem.
Matthew Zapruder, the author of four collections of poetry, lightened the evening with an opening of humor and humble jokes. As the last of the speakers, he honored them all with warm and adoring words before beginning his readings.
The annual benefit is simply for gathering poets in the community to support others who are devoted to creating beautiful work and sharing in a literary form. All the money, although no specific numbers were mentioned, goes straight to the school of workshops and financial aid for those who can’t afford it completely. The successful benefit honored living poetic giants in the literary world and aided those who may soon become a part of that circle.