Noted writers Alan Lightman, Jill Bialosky and former Poet Laureate of the United States Rita Dove held a packed room at the Pasadena Westin silently in their hands on a rare rainy Sunday afternoon, as Red Hen Press, celebrated 22 years as one of the most acclaimed small publishers in Southern California, if not the nation.
Some of the area’s most luminous literary lights—Ron Carlson, Janet Fitch, Judy Grahn, Eloise Klein Healy, David St. John and Anna Journey, Afaa Weaver, Brendan Constantine, Amy Gerstler, Douglas Kearney, Sandra Tsing Loh, Alice Quinn, and Luis Rodriguez—shared tables with patrons, supporters neighbors and friends at the group’s benefit champagne luncheon.
Red Hen Press Managing Editor Kate Gale welcomed and thanked the full room, and told of her earliest efforts to become a poet, recalling the poetry editor who told her as a young college student, in so many words, “Keep your bad poems, Bad poems sink to the bottom of the pool, to clear the water.” The admonition became an inspiration.
Physicist, writer, and “social entrepreneur” Alan Lightman, who studied at Caltech, and is the author of the international bestseller “Einstein’s Dreams,” read a tale of a lonely Muslim, alone with a religious faith that he feels is somehow slipping away from him.
Bialosky read poems of baseball and more solitary subjects, while Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States Rita Dove shared tales drawn from her childhood and given new meaning as a mother herself , tales of families and barbecues, champagne, and time spent alone, “breathing.”
Former Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard and recently retired City Librarian Jan Sanders also joined the packed ballroom as the power and weight of words and only words permeated the afternoon, heady with insight, and no doubt inspiring the two young elementary school poets who opened the afternoon event.