Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Oakland Tribune Article on Emeryville Poet Laureate Appointments

From Oakland Tribune, October 25, 2010
by Sean Maher

EMERYVILLE -- The city's sculptures and installations will soon be joined by the thoughtful verse of a new town poet.

Janell Moon, a 69-year-old hypnotherapist, was named Emeryville's first poet laureate during last week's City Council meeting, an honor that has her already setting a voracious schedule of plans and aspirations. First on the list, she said, is getting poetry in the hands and from the minds of local students.

"I'd like to work with some of the more introverted children," she said. "And I'd like to bring in a local rap artist to work with some of the extroverts. (The two approaches) make two very different kinds of poetry but they're both very valuable."

Moon finds the metaphors that figure in her poetry come pretty naturally.

After all, she spends her professional life dealing in hypnotherapy and dream analysis, coaxing her patients through the varying levels of consciousness and pulling out the meaning of symbols their minds create.

"My work very much dovetails with poetry," she said. "For example, I might ask someone who's anxious: 'When you wake in morning, what might you think of? Something in your life today or from childhood that would calm you?' Usually when they first wake up they're OK and then a second later they remember all their troubles and then they're anxious."

Their answers, she said, might be that they think of birds in flight, or the bloom and close of morning glories -- an image that conjures a feeling, a foundation of metaphor-based poetry.

In case Moon isn't able to finish her term -- and perhaps to provide a second voice of passion for poetry -- the city named Lisa Bernstein as its alternate poet laureate.

Also known as Lisa B, Bernstein has published two books of poetry, been published in numerous anthologies and magazines, and released four albums as a jazz [note: and soul-hiphop-pop] vocalist.

Bernstein got started as a writer when she was a child; her parents were "artistic folks" and she'd read Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" by the time she was 10.

She lives in Berkeley [note: actually, Oakland] and works in Emeryville, where she is beginning her fourth year as a volunteer running a weekly poetry-writing workshop with second-, third- and fourth-graders at Anna Yates Elementary School.

"You're never too young to be a poet," Bernstein said. "They're loving it, and their teacher is really astonished they're writing so much."

The children recently began learning how to use comparisons, Bernstein said. One young poet began a poem by describing herself as "mad as red glitter," progressing until she was "happy as a garden" by the end of the poem.

Both Moon and Bernstein said they hope to continue working with children and to publish an anthology of local poetry by young authors as part of the laureate program.

Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin said she is delighted with the new program, which reinforces and expands the city's already prevalent outdoor art program and its commitment to the arts in general.

The two poets will do a reading together Dec. 17 at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. in Berkeley. For information on the event, go to or call 510-644-4930.


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