This spring a special multi-media poetry project will be produced by Maya Khosla, Sonoma County’s 2018/2019 Poet Laureate and previous poet-in-residence at the Sitting Room library in Penngrove. The project is made possible by a $3,500 grant from the Rohnert Park Foundation small grants program.
“It’s a bit of a continuation of a program that I had, hosting students and also members of the community, for a project called The Legacy Project,” says Khosla. “Legacy primarily because after the 2017 fires, which is when I started the position of Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, there were so many people reeling from the fires. I knew that it would be very important to share with the community the kinds of beautiful recovery we’ve been seeing in the wild.”
As a wildlife biologist as well as a poet, Khosla knows first-hand the way that nature rejuvenates itself after a fire. The Legacy Project brought back a sense of hope and joy, as well as public support for the natural areas that regenerated themselves after the wildfire.
“Most people, when I took them to the fire area, would say, ‘ok so where were the fires?’” says Khosla. “And I’d say, ‘right here!’ That was part of the topic. It was so amazing when you led students through certain ideas and processes, they picked it up so fast and ran with it in a direction you would never expect in a spontaneous way. So, I started recording their readings. When the students recite their own poems, it is so powerful.”
For this year’s video project, Khosla has reached out to Rancho Cotate High School, Thomas Page Academy, and University Elementary School, and will most likely try to collaborate with additional schools in the district. She is hoping to include voices of students in their own words and is leaving the theme open to what resonates with students and how they perceive the world around them. Some might be inspired to write about the fire recovery, others may want to express their thoughts about the climate or other environmental issues, and some may want to recount their own life experiences. The final project will most likely be shown at the schools involved, as well as possibly to the community.
The fiscal sponsor of this project is the Sitting Room, a privately funded collection of several thousand books, where Khosla presented several workshops last year as its writer-in-residence.
“The Sitting Room has been in existence for about 30 years and was founded as a reading room with a focus on women’s literature and art, women’s cultural accomplishments,” says Karen Petersen, Co-founder with J.J. Wilson of The Sitting Room. “Over the years we’ve created a library of almost 7,000 books with novels and poetry and biographies and essays. We have an online catalog as well, which you can connect to through the website.”
The Sitting Room sponsors a variety of public programs throughout the year including poetry readings, artist and author talks, book discussion groups and other workshops. Though the library emphasizes women’s issues, history and achievements, the Sitting Room is open to all members of the community who love writing and reading. For more information visit sittingroom.org.