2020 has been a year of changes. At the beginning of 2020 it didn’t seem like much was going to change. After all I had gigs scheduled well into May…
Since my previous summary I performed Hanukkah poetry at Oy to the World! Kosher Chinese Food on December 25, 2019 at Vallejo Oddfellows San Pablo Lodge and read at Jewish and Proud! Solano County Standing Together on January 6, 2020 in Fairfield. On January 12 I was honored with a party by my colleagues, friends, and community members for my service as poet laureate. I attended Vallejo Poet Laureate Jeremy Snyder’s stellar debut at the Empress following our proclamations on January 28, and performed at Rodef Sholom’s Beit Cafe on February 7. Poetry by the Bay had its first and only show at the Empress theatre on February 27, 2020. This would be my last time on stage in front of a live audience.
The entertainment sector was the first to fall.
When the first round of stay-at-home orders hit in March, I watched my scheduled features and expected income turn to dust, and the four Bay Area county fairs that I usually enter each year cancelled contests and refunded submission fees.
In April I focused on completing a poem a day for National Poetry Writing Month which helped round out my most recent book This Festival of Dreams. In May I expanded my ebook catalogue, adding more of my titles to Smashwords and other retailers, and I ran several free promos this year on both Smashwords and Kindle. I programmed my blog to post throwback poems from previous collections every Wednesday in the coming months.
I performed 36 times this year, mostly from the comfort of my home. I’ve been a bit MIA from performing compared to recent years. In June I was invited to record a video set that was live streamed for the Solano County Virtual Fair, and I prayed with “There are Seven Blessings at the End of the Rainbow” for Congregation B’nei Israel’s first Rainbow Shabbat via Zoom. By August Poetry by the Bay had returned as a Zoom open mic every Thursday at 9 PM which I’ve attended twice.
I performed at outgoing Benicia Poet Laureate Tom Stanton’s celebration on July 7th, and for Benicia Poet Laureate Mary Susan Gast’s opening event Poetry….Where does it Come from? on September 13th. I also performed via Zoom for Benicia Poet Laureate Emerita Johanna Ely’s For This Moment event on October 25th.
I performed at a handful of virtual Beit Cafes over the summer, and pretaped audio for DJ Lala’s Art Beat Poetry Hour on KZCT. I was honored with another radio interview in November. I read a set of Jewish poetry primarily from Paradise Collectors for Hope in Deep December on December 13th.
I read “Everyone Deserves a Home” at the October 25th and November 21st online promotional events for Colossus: Home.
I’m guessing I’m around 277 total lifetime performances. I lost count when the world shut down.
In September I began concentrating on getting published more widely, which means a lot of my newest poetry cannot be revealed until after publication. In some cases not until this time next year. As a result I haven’t attended many Zoom open mics in general, and it will delay publication of my 14th poetry collection as well.
I made 66 submissions to publications and contests this year, more than all other years combined, and surprisingly, I have had around a 50% acceptance rate thus far. I am still waiting to hear back about 25%, and the other 25% were rejected or withdrawn. In addition to the 10 released this year, there are 16 upcoming anthologies that will include my work. I’m super grateful.
My poem “Tyranny or Humanity” tied for 3rd place in City Limits Publishing’s Poems of Political Protest contest, and my poem “The Flight of a Lifetime” received an honorable mention for the Marin County Fair’s virtual poetry contest. I also had the honor of judging the poetry portion of the Solano County Library’s teen writing contest.
I’ve been primarily focusing on submitting to themed anthologies as I had become well practiced at writing on specific themes during my tenure as poet laureate. You can find my work in the following anthologies released this year:
- August 2020, Biel, Sara, & Brundage, Karla, ed. “Everyone Deserves a Home.” Colossus: Home: An Anthology of Lives in and out of Place, Colossus Press, Oakland, California.
- September 2020, Wallis, Alexander & Wild, Nicole, ed., “Knowing” Introspective, BloodRedStar Publications, Great Britain.
- November 2020, Focks, Red, ed.,“On the Eve of the Revolution,” The Alien Buddha Wears A Black Bandanna, Alien Buddha Press, Phoenix, Arizona.
- November 2020, Focks, Red, ed., “Hanukkah Time,” Happy Fukkadays 2 U from the Alien Buddha, Alien Buddha Press, Phoenix, Arizona.
- November 2020, Okemwa, Christopher, ed., “Hart Island,” “Only Ghosts May Gather,” Musings During a Time of Pandemic: A World Anthology of Poems on COVID-19, Kistrech Theatre International, Kisii, Kenya.
- November 2020, Musiyiwa, Ambrose, ed., “Dear Vallejo,” Black Lives Matter: Poems for a New World, Civic Leicester, Leicester, England.
- December 2020, Martin, Robert, ed.,“Tyranny or Humanity,” Poems of Political Protest, City Limits Publishing, Nashville, Tennessee.
- December 2020, Lufkin, Kas and Thornley, Katrina, ed., “Enid’s OK,” From the Soil: A Hometown Anthology, Exeter Publishing, Exeter, Rhode Island.
- December 2020, Yilmaz, Hülya N., ed.,“Goals for a New Year,” Poetry: The Best of 2020, Inner Child Press International, State College, Pennsylvania.
I contributed some lines to a community poem edited by Gillian Wegener called “This Steady Beat of Days: A community spread poem during the time of Covid-19” for the Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center.
I contributed three pieces to Benicia Poet Laureate Mary Susan Gast’s Going the Distance column:
- April 24, 2020, “What Remains is Love” Benicia Herald, pg A9
- July 26, 2020, “July 4th, 2020” Benicia Herald, pg A3
- September 30, 2020, “Pandemic Mismanagement” Benicia Herald Yearning to Breathe Free, pg A3
These three poems appeared online:
- March 19, 2020, “No Other Planet,” Poetry Expressed, Vol. 5
- April 1, 2020, “A Thousand Per Day,” Frost Meadow Review, Pandemic Poetry
- September 1, 2020, “Pieces” San Francisco Public Library Poem of the Day
I even had a bit of prose published:
- August 2020, Kumar, Ajit & Pickering, Dustin, ed., “A Collective Experience to Learn,” Global Pandemic Crisis: a series of literary essays on quarantine, Transcendent Zero Press, Houston, Texas.
- December 3, 2020, “Hanukkah at Home,” Motherwell Magazine newsletter and Facebook.
I cut the cord with social media in October. Since then I’ve been arising most mornings before sunrise, seeking out new submission opportunities and writing while the world is still quiet. When the sun comes up I mask up and go on a walk. I come home and watch the birds and squirrels in my back yard. I find contentment in these simple things. They are a consistent buoy against the loss and heaviness of current events.
I hope you all continue to stay safe, and I hope to see you on the other side.
Hi! Enjoying what you’re reading? Please consider buying a book, or using the making a donation. Poets aren’t always compensated for our performances and writing. Doing so would help out greatly and ensure this website stays around for years to come.