40 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY March 28-April 3, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com FACE TO FACE Patrice Vecchione is a busy bee—a poet, author and a teacher of poetry, especially for youth. She has been holding workshops and talks in Monterey County schools for the last 50 years. Vecchione has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and education from Antioch University. She inherited the love of poetry from her mother. She has published a few books of her own and co-written and edited several poetry anthologies, such as Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience. In 2001, she published her first nonfiction book, Writing and the Spiritual Life: Finding Your Voice by Looking Within. That was followed by Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life and her most recent, My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Guide to Writing Poetry and Speaking Your Truth, which came out in 2020. All the above books are guides to writing poetry, a sample of her in-person workshops, usually directed to young people. Vecchione is ready to start National Poetry Month, which is April. She already hung an art exhibit in Sweet Elena’s Bakery and Cafe in Sand City: Imagination Migration: A Collage Installation by Patrice Vecchione & Friends. She is also throwing a poetry event, Poetry for Peace in Palestine, on April 6 at the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts in Carmel. Participants of the latter will read poetry by Palestinian and PalestinianAmerican poets. Attendees can listen to readings by the community’s prominent poets: Daniel Summerhill, Farnaz Fatemi, Marie Butcher, Elliot Ruchowitz-Roberts, Rana Issa and Vecchione herself. Part of the event will serve as a benefit for the Middle East Children’s Alliance. The event is co-sponsored by The MENA Center, which fosters connections between Arab and American communities throughout Monterey County, and by the Monterey Palestine Solidarity group. Weekly: Tell us about your involvement in National Poetry Month. Vecchione: I think I was involved from the very beginning [April was proclaimed poetry month in 1996]. We need poetry, to speak with our hearts. We need a new way, through imagination, to handle wars and save the Earth. I’ve been a poetry teacher through the Carl Cherry Center and its high school poetry program. But last year they lost the funding. And then you came and saved the day. I helped to fund the program myself, using my own email list, the network of authors, poets, artists and educators. We gathered $4,000. How will you celebrate poetry month this year? I’m putting out an art show, where poetry and art meet. I’m bringing my own installation to Sweet Elena’s. I made 200 paper birds that carry pencils in their beaks to symbolize poetry in motion; other birds are carrying flowers. They are inspired by the quote from To Kill A Mockingbird, a book by Harper Lee: “What good are wings without the courage to fly?” Tell your story to the world; nobody knows what you know. I’ve had people helping me with the birds. During our opening ceremony, 100 birds flew into the bakery and out again. So you are an artist yourself? I will share my artwork, but I’m mostly a writer. We all are the same. James Baldwin’s quote sums up how I see the role of the poet and all artists: “The precise role of the artist, then, it’s to illuminate that darkness, to make the world a more human dwelling place.” Not everybody wants to talk about Palestine these days. Yet, you have decided to have an event highlighting Palestine. Speaking publicly about this situation is not easy, but very important. Never before have we experienced such a split within the “progressive” community. My support for Palestine is unequivocal. The Palestinian people have lived under Israeli occupation for over 70 years. What Israel is doing is a genocide. My hope is that there will finally be a two-state solution. Imagination Migration: A Collage Installation by Patrice Vecchione & Friends is at Sweet Elena’s Bakery and Cafe, 465 Olympia Ave., Sand City. Free. On display until May 29. Poetry For Peace in Palestine takes place from 3-5pm Saturday, April 6. Carl Cherry Center for the Arts, Guadalupe and 4th Avenue, Carmel. 624-7491, tinyurl. com/33bknxnz. Words Matter A poet, teacher and author, Patrice Vecchione keeps poetry at the forefront. By Agata Pop˛eda “What she said helped...with just freeing my mind,” a ninth-grader at Palma School in Salinas wrote after a lesson from longtime poet and educator Patrice Vecchione, shown above. Vecchione has scheduled two events so far for National Poetry Month. 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