Paul Willis

Paul Willis

Four Reasons to Harness the Healing Power of Poetry

The Indy List

For those who love the written word, poems are great life companions. We choose poetry as a means of expressing the depth of feeling in profound moments and to communicate our joys. In times of loss and sorrow, poetry can remind us of our shared humanity, and even help to make pain more bearable.

For poet and Westmont College English professor Paul Willis, as for many other Santa Barbarans, the Tea Fire has been a devastating episode, as well as a reminder of what’s most important in life. Along with his family home, Willis lost his extensive collection of poetry by area and contemporary writers. This Saturday evening, December 6, friends and colleagues will gather for a poetry reading and benefit for Willis and other Westmont faculty who lost their houses and belongings to the fire. The reading will take place at SBCC’s Fe Bland Auditorium at 8 p.m. Here are a few reasons to attend and take part in the healing power of poetry and people.

1) Connect with the Literary Community: S.B. writers are a tight-knit community. Upon learning about his loss, Willis’s friends and fellow poets, Lois Klein and Enid Osborn, volunteered to organize this reading, and SBCC teacher and writer David Starkey arranged for the space. Among the other area poets scheduled to read are Chella Courington, Carol DeCanio, Nancy Lee, Perie Longo, Glenna Luschei, Diana Raab, Barry Spacks, and Willis himself.

2) Rebuild a Poetry Library: In addition to the reading, there will be a book drive for Willis to help rebuild his poetry collection, all of which burned in the fire. Attendees are invited to bring copies of books by contemporary and local poets, and to inscribe them to Paul Willis.

3) Listen and Relate: The spate of recent fires has affected all of us in Santa Barbara, and we can each benefit from hearing poems like “Triolet; the Zaca Fire,” by David Starkey:

The world will end this way: covered in ash.
Blackened trees pointing fingers at the sky.
If God could see, he’d look down on us abashed.
The world will end this way: covered in ash.
Some giant with a massive brush blackwashed
the mountains-scent of soot, sable, and lye.
The world will end this way: covered in ash.
Blackened trees pointing fingers at the sky.

4) Support Your Fellow Santa Barbarans: Admission to the reading is by donation. Funds raised will go to support all Westmont faculty members and families who lost property in the Tea Fire. Gifts are tax deductible, and a representative of Westmont College will be on hand to answer questions. For information, contact or call 687-6426.

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