A few days before this year’s Multicultural Poetry event in Sonoma County, I was on an airplane from Toronto returning to San Francisco. The woman seated next to me commented on the book I was reading and we got into a conversation about literature. It turned out she was a high school English teacher living not far from my town. We then discovered we were both poets (it is actually not true that “everyone’s a poet!”), and we even knew some of the same people. She too was on a return flight after a visit to her mother in Athens, Greece. I learned her name was Pandora and she then proceeded to read me a poem she’d written for her 85 year old mother in both Greek and English. What a delightful surprise this was, happening just days before the annual Multicultural poets gathering in Santa Rosa!
“You have to come to our event and read this poem,” I told her and she agreed.
The Poets of the Vineyard in Santa Rosa hold their Annual Multi-Cultural Poetry Reading and Pot Luck Lunch every August. This year was the 13th one, and was held that following Saturday, August 10, 2013, at the Redwood Empire Chinese Association Center in Santa Rosa, CA http://www.dancingpoetry.com/multiculturalpoetry/multiculturalpoetry2013....
During the meet-eat-and-greet time, everyone is encouraged to talk to someone they don't know, choose a poem together so that during the Pick-a-Partner Read-Around, one person reads in one language and the other reads in English. Poems were written and read in Korean, German, Spanish, Mandarin and other languages. It is a great idea to bring different peoples together and discover a real unity with each other.
And so Pandora came and read her beautiful poem in Greek. I read the English version for her. She assisted me by reading the English version of the Ojibwe Prayer, Namewin, (by Charlotte Johnson in Michigan, 1828) that I performed http://www.umich.edu/~ojibwe/community/charlotte-johnston-prayer.html.
“Miizhishin ezhi-minonendaamaan (Give me how to think good about myself), Gaye Miizhishin ji-minobimaadiziyaanh (and give me how to live my life well.)”
The Ojibwe (Oh-jib-way) words sparked an interesting reaction from the Chinese poets especially. In the poem, some of them, poet David Chung particularly, recognized the sound of old Taiwanese dialects. David expressed the thought that it corroborated the story of the Bering Strait migration, a theory which postulates the arrival of the “red race,” later named American Indians, from an original home in Siberia. They traveled across land that emerged when water levels dropped as the Ice Age progressed. Both racial groups, American Indian and Asian Chinese co-existed on the Asian continent before the migration thousands of years ago.
There was a new sense of kinship in the room as if we’d just discovered a deeper understanding of a common heritage. These are the kinds of serendipitous discoveries one hopes for in gatherings of different cultures and racial groups such as the Multi-Cultural Poetry Reading of Sonoma County’s Poets of the Vineyard.