Santa Barbara is celebrating National Poetry Month all April in grand style. The Santa Barbara Poetry Series, in its 10th year of showcasing regional and national poets, has slated four accomplished readers for its third and final event of the season on April 5: Lois Brown Klein, A.J. Ford, Paul Lobo Portuges, and Jackson Wheeler. Hosted and organized by Carol DeCanio, this free event, titled Poetry, Print & Jazz, will be held from 7-9 p.m. at the downtown public library’s Faulkner Gallery. In the spirit of National Poetry Month, I asked the featured writers why poetry mattered to them.

Lois Brown Klein, host of the popular FAVES monthly poetry gathering and faculty member of the Santa Barbara Poetry Conference, will be reading from her recently released book, A Soldier’s Daughter (Turning Point Books, 2008). Her poems are searing reminders of how a little girl’s world is affected and the rest of her life impacted by the sudden disappearance of her father during WWII. Consequently, her work reminds us of orphans of all wars, as in the poem “A Family Minus One”:

Wrapped in cotton batting,

each of us drifted through

our four small rooms,

our separate dreams and sorrows.

Like pupae, frail and faltering,

eyes squeezed shut

to the world which had stolen

our husband-father-soldier

and never returned him.

On why poetry matters, Klein said, “I write about what I don’t clearly know in order to discover it. It draws the circle of our being larger.”

Paul Lobo Portugues, once a creative writing teacher, now teaches screenwriting at UCSB. The author of many books, his latest volume, The Body Electric Journal, was recently featured in this column. The proud father of two sons, he wrote, “Poetry is life worth living is the love of children is the Kiss of Death.”

Jackson Wheeler, a widely published poet as well as a manager for a social work agency, said, “Poetry provides balance in my life; it is that to which I turn when I feel the need to be lifted up and restored.” Since 1989, Wheeler has been the host of the Arcade Poetry Series held at the Oxnard Carnegie Art Museum, which currently schedules six readings per year featuring published California poets.

A.J. Ford has published poetry in the Bay Area as well as in Ojai’s Rivertalk and Pearl magazine. Last year, she received the Ohio Award for outstanding poetry. She is at work writing a collection of short stories about life in southern California in the ’60s and ’70s. “Poetry has the ability to plumb the depths of human experience, and quickly-concisely,” Ford said. “Every poem is a love poem.”

On the topic of why poetry matters, Carol DeCanio asked, “How do we make sense of our world, and ourselves in the world, in a way that is not prescribed? We can listen to a poet who can bring us back to life, reconnect us to the Whole without relinquishing our individuality.” On Saturday, DeCanio will debut her letterpress accordion book Giants as well as a broadside of her poem “Shelter.” Table space is available for those who wish to sell books at the April 5 event; email

OTHER NATIONAL POETRY MONTH EVENTS: On Sunday, April 13, from 1:30-3 p.m., young poets from area elementary schools participating in the California Poets in the Schools program will be featured at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in Now and Then: Children Respond to Over the Rainbows and Down Rabbit Holes. On Thursday, April 17, winners of the Teen Poetry Contest (sponsored by the Santa Barbara Public Library) will read at the Faulkner Gallery from 7-8:30 p.m. On Sunday, April 20, from 1:30-3 p.m., the public is invited to Identities: A Bilingual Reading of Poems Inspired by or from Latin America, held at the Museum of Art’s Davidson Gallery. On Thursday, April 24, from 6:30-8 p.m., there will be an open mike at Good Cup Coffee, and on Friday, April 25, Mart-n Espada, Poetry Pulitzer Prize finalist, will read at SBCC’s Fe Bland Auditorium at 8 p.m. All events are free. More can be found at


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