Downtown Santa Barbara's 1st Thursday poetry event on September 7, 2023 | Photo: Courtesy

One question that I’m often asked is “Why poetry?” or “What does poetry contribute?” Last week’s typewriter poetry event helped me offer an answer. Simply put, poetry is the best friend you didn’t know you needed or have already had all your life. Poetry allows you to look at the same road, flower, person, or thing with new eyes in a unique way that’s all your own. Poetry offers a celebration of the everyday world, sometimes comfort for situations that seem difficult, such as a bittersweet final sendoff for a loved one or ways to heal from an injustice.

Downtown Santa Barbara’s 1st Thursday poetry event on September 7, 2023 | Photo: Courtesy

September’s 1st Thursday typewriter poetry event presented five poets typing up free poems, along with music provided by the local duo The Gruntled, Mark Zolezzi and Jesse Felix. Poets included two poets laureate, myself and Emma Trelles, as well as Steve Beisner, Diana Raab, and Simon Keiffer of the Typewriter Lending Library. We wrote love poems, tribute poems, haikus, and several poems for grandchildren. I had the pleasure of writing a poem for a recently born granddaughter. The young grandma was so proud about her daughter’s daughter that I have no doubt the folklore of the child’s first poem will be a story the girl will hear for the rest of her youthful life.

All of the poets agreed that the event exuded a therapeutic aspect. In fact, when I proposed the idea to the Downtown Organization in charge of 1st Thursday, I almost titled the event “Poetry Therapy.” I changed the title because I didn’t want to scare anyone away or have them feel as if they needed to lie on a therapist’s couch. Yet, many people received a nurturing, poetic hug that helped reveal what was, at the moment, most important to them.

Sharing space with a fellow human and offering them a free typed poem was a magical experience. I’m still in search of a good title for this event, as there was much demand for a repeat of the evening.

A true connection happens when you have the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation about the birth of a poem. The poets found the spontaneous demand for a poem an intellectual exercise. Also, I can say I’ve been spoiled by the act of composing on a computer. The keys are butter to the touch, and while they don’t make the special clack of a typewriter, a keyboard is much easier on the wrists and mistakes are easy to fix. However, there’s something thrilling in knowing that you need to think ahead of your fingers when you press down on a typewriter.

Although I brought a ream of scratch paper with me, due to time constraints, I didn’t write any rough drafts by hand. In my everyday writing life, I write a draft by hand and then go to computer to rewrite the handwritten draft and this process is repeated after I print out what I have. At the same time, the time constraints meant there was more of a freedom to the writing than I would allow myself had I more time, a typewriter conundrum and mystery. With typewritten poems on demand, you must accept your mistakes and typos and offer yourself a bit of kindness.

While it’s not every day you can find a poet on State Street to write you a poem, the marvelous thing is you can perform a similar act of kindness by typing yourself a letter or writing down your feelings or observations on pen and paper. If you think you need a bit more guidance, I have a free workshop coming up at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art on September 21, where you’ll have a chance to respond to the Inside/Outside exhibit currently on view. No previous writing experience is needed, but you need to sign up as space is limited. See details below.

Upcoming Poetry Events

The Blue Whale Reading Series, Wednesday, September 13, 5:30–7 p.m., Chapel, Unity of Santa Barbara (227 E. Arrellaga St.). Featured Poets: Perie Longo and Rox Alexander, followed by an open mic. Suggested donation $5.

Writing in the Galleries, Thursday, September 21, 5:30–7 p.m., Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1130 State St.). Free, but reservations are requested at Bring a notebook and a favorite pen or pencil.

This week’s poem comes from Deidre Peterson, who reads the Independent from Humboldt County and is a 2013 awardee at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. She says she is fascinated by the effects of myths passed down in family and community. If you want to see your poems published in the Independent’s Poetry Connection column, send your poems, along with a bio, to You will receive a link to the Poetry Connection Column with your published work if accepted. 

I Am

by Deidre Peterson

I am from Redwood

From Humboldt Gold and organic oyster shell

I am from the Pacific, Organ of a pulsing land

I am from trillium, alder, mouth of the golden bear

Four pawed salmon carcasses

I’m from white blood chaos

From Adam and Ireland and Azores

From invisible and silent

Bloody Mary and Shirley Temple bar stools

I’m from Father Charles, Santa on the cross 

From Crescent of the Bay, Del Norte explored

Catholic oatmeal and tarot cards and words of Christ in red.

From the Trees of Mystery, the dentalium shell 

Distorted merchandise along the California coast.

Captive to identity of false truths, 

I have no need to keep the dead.


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