Sacramento Benefit A Grand Success!

2016-Writer-Benefit-gridNatalie Baszile, Meg Waite ClaytonFrances Dinkelspiel, Marian Palaia, and Josh Weil joined us for the Community of Writers Benefit Reading in Sacramento last week.

Natalie, Josh, Meg, Frances and Marian

These authors — alums and staff — read from new work, and and introduced the Sacramento area to the Writers Workshops and the Community of Writers.

The event was in good hands with our emcee, Capital Public Radio’s Beth Ruyak. Her perspective on each of writer’s work effectively framed each reading for the audience.

After the readings, with roughly 170 people in attendance, Executive Director Brett Hall Jones auctioned off a complete set of signed books (the winning bid was $325,) followed by a wine and cookie reception along with book sales and signings.

Attendees browse the pop-up bookstore
Attendees browse the pop-up bookstore

Many thanks to the authors and Beth Ruyak for participating in this event. We are also grateful to our volunteers and Board members, who helped out tremendously.

Special thanks to our sponsors: Beers Books, Stories on Stage – Sacramento, and Verge Center for the Arts.

Our own Brenda Hillman Named Academy of American Poets Chancellor


We are delighted to report that in January the Academy of American Poets has named Brenda Hillman, a regular Community of Writers staff poet, as its newest Chancellor. Other distinguished poets who have held this honorary position include W. H. Auden, John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Robert Hass, Galway Kinnell, Yusef Komunyakaa, Adrienne Rich, Mark Strand and C.D. Wright.

Hillman with 2005 Poetry Staff: Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, Robert Hass, Galway Kinnell and Kevin Young.
Hillman with 2005 C.W. Poetry Staff: Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, Robert Hass, Galway Kinnell and Kevin Young.

According to the Academy, “as a member of the Board of Chancellors, Hillman will consult with the organization on matters of artistic programming, serve as a judge for the organization’s largest prizes for poets, and act as ambassador of poetry in the world at large. Hillman was selected by the fifteen members of the Academy’s Board of Chancellors, which includes U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. She will serve for a period of six years, filling the seat vacated by Naomi Shihab Nye, whose term as Chancellor has concluded.”

For more than three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world;, the Academy’s website; American Poets, a biannual literary journal; an ongoing series of poetry readings; and the annual award of its American Poets Prize.

Brenda Hillman at the Poetry Workshop in 2015
Brenda at the Poetry Workshop in 2015

Brenda, who is the Olivia C. Filippi Professor of Poetry at St. Mary’s, is the author of nine collections from Wesleyan University Press, the most recent of which is Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, which received the International Griffin Poetry Prize and Practical Water which was the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Other collections from Wesleyan include Pieces of Air in the Epic, CascadiaLoose Sugar, and Bright Existence which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Brenda has been an essential staff poet at the Community of Writers since 1988, and has served as guest director on several occasions.

For more information, visit

C.D. Wright: 1949-2016

WRIGHT_CDC.D. Wright was born in January 1949 in a small town in Arkansas and, as most of you probably know, she died in her home in Barrington, Rhode Island this January between the night of the 12th of the month and the morning of the 13th. She and her husband Forrest had just returned on a long flight from Santiago, Chile, where they had spent New Years and visited with the Chilean poets Raul Zurita and Nicanor Parra. C.D. went to bed that night and never woke up. She was in good spirits and, we all thought, good health. A new book of her essays, thoughtfully entitled The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, A Wedding in St. Roche, The Big Box Store, The Warp in Time, Spring, Midnights, Fire and All, was just out, and a new book of poems, Shall Cross, and a prose book, Copper Beech, are forthcoming.

So she was working in the full force of her very considerable gifts, but she had from the beginning of her life as a poet worked at full force. Anyone who doubts it can pick up her fourth book and second full-length collection, Further Adventures With You, published thirty years ago, and read the first few pages. There she is: fierce, spiky, unexpected and incandescent. She had been a member of the Community of Writers for almost twenty years. Many of you will have worked with her and will remember her stunning craft lectures, some of which were gathered in Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil, and her readings from the astonishing set of books she produced in those years: Just Whistle, Tremble, Deepstep Come Shining, Steal Away, One Big Self, Rising Falling Hovering, and One With Others. She was an original, a description I notice that has showed up in the many tributes written about her in the past week, which I take to be an acknowledgement of the fact that she made herself up on her own terms out of the possibilities that existed for poetry in the English language in the last decades of the twentieth century as completely as anybody who has been writing in those years. Her death was a shock and an awful loss. She is—in the present tense–a gift to everyone who knew her and who has read and will read her.

Two powerful tributes have appeared since her death that you may want to take a look at, a blog by Ben Lerner in The New Yorker and an essay by Stephen Burt in The Los Angeles Times. The Community of Writers will be celebrating her work and her time among us this June in the annual Benefit Reading of the poetry program.

—Robert Hass
Director, Poetry Workshop