Poets and poetry-lovers alike crowded into Cabrillo College’s Music Recital Hall this Saturday to honor local poet Maude Meehan, and partake in what Meehan dedicated her life to. The memorial reading echoed the love of poetry that Maude Meehan exhibited and shared through her teachings.
Poetry Santa Cruz founded the Maude Meehan Memorial Poetry Reading event last year after Meehan passed away in 2007, in order to pay homage to the woman who was known in Santa Cruz to be a generous and helpful tutor for aspiring poets and writers.
“It is a way that we can honor Maude, a way to keep her in our sights and in our hearts,” said Len Anderson, secretary-treasurer of Poetry Santa Cruz, a local organization devoted to promoting poetry in the community.
Meehan’s work includes two novels of poetry, “Chipping Bone” (1985) and “Before the Snow” (1991). She continued writing poetry until her death three years ago.
“Maude really was a beloved figure in the local poetry community,” said Dennis Morrison, program director of Poetry Santa Cruz. “Not just woman poets, but poets in general appreciated her generosity and spirit and work.”
The event was not only a memorial, Anderson said, but also a forum to “expose poetry of great women poets” like California’s current poet laureate, Carol Muske-Dukes.
Last year, Lucille Clifton, a good friend of Meehan, gave a reading of her work at the event, but passed away shortly after. The First Annual Maude Meehan Memorial reading was the last reading she ever gave.
This year’s event was a success — with over 100 people in attendance. Despite the large turnout and the location on a college campus, student attendance was lacking.
“Our events are very poorly attended by UCSC students,” Morrison said. “That’s our biggest challenge. We’re missing out on student presence and students are missing out on some incredible readings.”
Poetry Santa Cruz invited Muske-Dukes to attend this year’s memorial reading.
The new Cabrillo Music Hall reverberated with excitement and laughter while Muske-Dukes read poems from her upcoming book, “Twin Cities,” as well as from “Sparrow,” a book to grieve her late husband.
Muske-Dukes plans to share her love of poetry on a large scale with a younger generation through her current project, Magic Poetry Bus. Her mission is to finish “Magic Poetry Bus Driver’s Guide,” a book focused on poetry learning and memorization, and provide it to public schools in California for free, mostly through an online version.
“There’s a lot of money we have to raise,” Muske-Dukes said. “I care a great deal about poetry. I’ve been a poet almost my entire life. I believe in the power of imagination to change people’s lives.”
She hopes that Magic Poetry Bus will inspire students in public schools across California to love the written word, just as she was inspired by her mother who used to read and recite poetry by heart when she was a young girl.
Muske-Dukes said, “It made a huge difference in my interest in words and books, literature and great conversation.”