The 50th Anniversary Poetry Anthology

Why To These Rocks: 50 Years of Poetry from the Community of Writers

The Community of Writers celebrates fifty years of its annual poetry workshop with an extraordinary collection by some of the country’s most prominent contemporary poets. “Why To These Rocks: 50 Years of Poetry from the Community of Writers” includes over 140 poems inspired by or written in the High Sierra during the annual workshop week.

Edited by Lisa Alvarez, and introduced by long-time poetry director and former U.S. Poet Laureate, Robert Hass. Why to These Rocks tells part of the story of the Community of Writers through work produced in the valley by both staff and participant poets, using three self-explanatory lenses: Over the Mountains: Poems about the Place; Scrupulous Mercy: Poems about the Process; and After Surfacing: Poems Produced by the Process in the Place.

Contributors include both workshop staff and participants, among them Kazim Ali, Don Mee Choi, Lucille Clifton, Toi Derricotte, Rita Dove, Cornelius Eady, Juan Felipe Herrera, Brenda Hillman, Cathy Park Hong, Forrest Gander, Major Jackson, Yusef KomunyakaaSharon Olds, Gregory Pardlo, Evie Shockley, Al Young, Kevin Young, C.D. Wright, Matthew Zapruder, a never-before-published poem by Galway Kinnell, and many more.

View videos of contributors reading poems from anthology.

This collection will begin to answer the question posed by Kinnell in his poem “The Old Moon” and paraphrased here: Why to these rocks do we return? It speaks to the special community nurtured in this stunning setting, one that has inspired poets worldwide–many of whom developed significant bodies of award-winning work in its creative and generative atmosphere.

The Community of Writers, formerly the “Community of Writers at S*** Valley”, was founded over five decades ago by California writers Blair Fuller and Oakley Hall, who wished to foster a literary culture in the West that would be conversant with the publishing establishment of the East Coast. Galway Kinnell re-envisioned the Poetry program as new kind of workshop, where only new work was discussed, and poets were free to try anything in their work.

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Major support for this project has been provided by Ken Haas; the California Center for the Book, a program of the California Library Association, supported in whole or in part by the US Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian; and the alums and friends of the Poetry Workshop of the Community of Writers. Thank you!

Past Virtual Anthology Events

Click on photos below to view bios. Or View as a List.

Click on photos below to view bios. Or View as a List.

The CE Trio
Learn about the CE Trio and other music by Cornelius Eady.

Acknowledgements: We would like to express our deep gratitude to to Meryl Natchez and the Marin Country Poetry Center, and the Mill Valley Library for hosting and producing this event, as well as to our publisher, Heyday Books, for making such a lovely volume. And thanks to our readers this evening: Director, Robert Hass and incoming Director Brenda Hillman, Cornelius Eady, Forrest Gander, Sharon Olds, Gregory Pardlo and Evie Shockley, who created a video for the evening.

Watch Video of Launch Event

(Thanks to the Mill Valley Library and the Marin Poetry Center for providing recording.)

Books & Totes

As you know, the publication date has been delayed for the anthology. The hard-cover book will be available on April 13. You can pre-order your book and/or order your Anthology Tote from the Community of Writers.

Order your book and tote from the Community of Writers

To order a a tote go to the Community of Writers. You can buy books there too. Books and totes will begin shipping out on or after April 15. Patience will be called for.

Go to Online Bookshop

Press

San Francisco Chronicle
Blue Door Magazine

50th Anniversary Slideshow of Poetry Week

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Contributor Videos of Poems from the Anthology

“Hair”

Francisco Aragón first joined the poetry staff in 2017. He is the author of three books and the editor and translator of others, including The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, winner of the 2009 International Latino Book Award for poetry in English. His honors include an Academy of American Poets Prize, a 2015 VIDO Award from VIDA, and the 2010 Outstanding Latino/a Cultural Arts, Literary Arts and Publications Award from the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education. He edits for Momotombo Press, which he founded, and directs Letras Latinas, the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. His most recent book is After Rubén.

“Everybody in the Car We Are Leaving Without You”

Erin Adair-Hodges (’14), winner of the 2016 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for Let’s All Die Happy, is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Central Missouri, coedits Pleiades, and lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Follow-Up Appointment”

Joan Baranow (’90–’94, ’99, ’01, ’03, ’06, ’08, ’11, ’18) is the author of In the Next Life, teaches at Dominican University of California, and lives in Mill Valley, California.

“Aspens”

Dan Bellm (’90, ’92, ’93, ’95, ’97, ’03) published his fourth book of poems, DeepWell, in 2017; teaches poetry and translation at Antioch University Los Angeles; and lives in Berkeley, California.

“Lac-Mégantic”

Ross Belot (’15, ’19) lives in Hamilton, Ontario, and completed a late-life MFA at Saint Mary’s College of California; his first collection was a finalist for the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize, and his second collection is titled Moving to Climate Change Hours.

“American Thrush: Search and Rescue”

Noah Blaustein (’07, ’11), author of Motion: American Sports Poems, Flirt, and After Party, lives in Santa Monica and Santa Barbara, California.

“The Apples of Clare Island”

Judy Brackett Crowe (’08, ’12, ’15, ’18, ’20) is the author of the chapbook Flat Water: Nebraska Poems and lives in Nevada City, California.

“The Apples of Clare Island”

Judy Brackett Crowe (’08, ’12, ’15, ’18, ’20) is the author of the chapbook Flat Water: Nebraska Poems and lives in Nevada City, California.

Abecedarius

Brent Calderwood (’11) is the author of The God of Longing, an American Library Association selection for 2014, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Playing Softball after 21 Years”

Farnaz Fatemi (’14) is cofounder of the Hive Poetry Collective, which produces podcasts and events in Santa Cruz, California, where she works as a writer and editor.

“Survival”

Jay A. Fernandez (’18), whose arts journalism has appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Review, is also a fiction editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books; he lives in South Pasadena, California.

Minyas’ Daughters

Ann Fisher-Wirth (’92, ’00, ’09, ’13, ’20) is the author of six books of poetry, including most recently The Bones of Winter Birds; coeditor of The Ecopoetry Anthology; and senior fellow of the Black Earth Institute; she directs and teaches in the environmental studies program at the University of Mississippi.

“Kindness”

Molly Fisk (’92, ’95, ’96, ’98) edited California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology, the culmination of her 2019–20 Academy of American Poets Laureate fellowship, and is a writing teacher, radio commentator, and radical life coach in Nevada City, California.

“Diatonic (gun/bullet)”

Cody Gates (’99, ’10, ’16) has taught poetry, writing, and literature at the University of California, Berkeley and California State University, East Bay.

“In Cleaning”

Leah Naomi Green (’08), the author of The More Extravagant Feast, selected by Li-Young Lee for the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, teaches English and environmental studies at Washington and Lee University, and lives in the mountains of Virginia

“Apes for Pandas”

Ken Haas (’08, ’11, ’13, ’16, ’19, ’20) is the author of Borrowed Light, works in healthcare, and sponsors a weekly poetry writing workshop at UCSF Children’s Hospital; he lives in San Francisco.

“The Sky of Wu”

Judy Halebsky (’06, ’09, ’11, ’14), author of three poetry collections, most recently Spring and a Thousand Years, directs the low-res MFA in creative writing at Dominican University of California and lives in Oakland.

“Coming Down the Mountain”

Christina Hutchins (’03, ’06, ’10, ’13,’16), author of two collections, Tender the Maker (May Swenson Award) and The Stranger Dissolves, has worked as a biochemist, Congregational minister, and professor of theology and literary art; has been the Dartmouth poet in residence at the Frost Place; and lives in Albany, California, where she served as the first poet laureate.

“Olive Leaves Trembled When They Heard the Harp. Grasses Hissed with Pleasure”

Christine Hemp (’06), author of the poetry collection That Fall and a memoir, Wild Ride Home: Love, Loss and a Little White Horse, lives in Port Townsend, Washington.

“They Killed Our President, Kigali City Prison, 2008”

Andrew Kaufman (’01, ’09) is an NEA recipient residing in New York City; his books include The Cinnamon Bay Sonnets, Earth’s Ends, Both Sides of the Niger, and the forthcoming book The Rwanda Poems: Voices and Visions from the Genocide.

“Running the Bases”

Sharon Olson (’97), a retired librarian whose most recent book is Will There Be Music?, lives in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

“The Way She Played”

Jules Mann (’90, ’93, ’97) helped organize some of the early Community of Writers Benefit Poetry Reading readings and annual anthologies, until she bunked off in 1998 with her Remington typewriter to live in London, where she directed the UK Poetry Society from 2003 to 2008 and published her chapbook, Pluck.

“Seven American Sentences”

Ananda Lima (’17) is the author of Mother/land, which will be published in 2021.

“Horse of Another Color”

Meryl Natchez (’87, ’88, ’00, ’05, ’09, ’13), author of four books, including most recently Catwalk, named Best Indie Book”

“What the Poet Does”

Robert Lipton (’94, ’03, ’18) is the author of the collection A Complex Bravery and the winner of the 2018 Gregory O’Donoghue Competition at the Munster Literature Centre in Cork, Ireland, with his poem “Official Story”; he lives in Richmond, California, where he has served as poet laureate.

“I Fail Again to Stay Up & Finish My Poem”

Yamini Pathak (’18) is the author of the chapbook Atlas of Lost Places and the poetry editor for INCH magazine, and lives in New Jersey.

“Discourse on Life in the Hive”

Scott Reid (’83, ’89) types poems on his Smith Corona manual typewriter at art festivals, fairs, and hospitals; teaches memoir writing at Santa Rosa Junior College; and lives in Monte Rio, California.

“Yehi Or (and There Was Light)”

Yiskah Rosenfeld (’01, ’03, ’19) was a finalist for the 2019 Slippery Elm Prize; has poems forthcoming in The Bitter Oleander, Tikkun, and Wild Gods: The Ecstatic in Contemporary Poetry and Lyrical Prose; and lives in Albany, California.

“Into the Poplar Trees”

Robert Thomas (’88), whose most recent book, Bridge, received the 2015 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Fiction, lives in Oakland, California.

“The Village Well”

Sholeh Wolpé (’04) is the author of over twelve collections of poetry, literary translations, and anthologies, as well as several plays, and is the writer-in-residence at the University of California, Irvine.

“Dragonfly”

Maw Shein Win (’02), author of Score and Bone, Invisible Gifts: Poems, and Storage Unit for the Spirit House, was the inaugural poet laureate of El Cerrito, California, and lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.