Island Poets Share Words, Wisdom

Courtesy photo

Alameda Island Poets vice president Nanette Deetz hosting a poetry reading.

Special to the Alameda Sun

April is National Poetry Month, an excellent opportunity to reintroduce Alameda to its own band of poets. Dozens of local residents join together once a month or more to read their works at local venues, including Books, Inc. and Frank Bette Center for the Arts. There are ongoing poetry series at the Main Library, as well as the Home of Truth and occasional open mic nights at local bars or coffeehouses. (Read the Alameda Sun calendar of events for announcements.)

Alameda Island Poets (AIP), a volunteer membership organization, includes a number of poets from a wide variety of backgrounds. Like many well-known American poets, including William Carlos Williams (who was a physician), and Wallace Stevens (who was an Insurance executive), the group sports equally diverse professional backgrounds. AIP boasts educators, a pharmacist and inventor of health care products, a therapist and healer, a lawyer, a Vietnam veteran and at least three reporters. Many of those poets have day jobs; they work on poems in the quiet hours and on weekends.

One of the greatest challenges facing Alameda Island Poets is reaching out to young poets. "The most important function of the organization is to interest young people in poetry," said Cathy Dana, president of AIP. "At the Alameda Community Learning Center, where I teach, poetry makes its presence known in various community events. It becomes integrated as something that the community wants to have. It can really speak to what’s important to the lives and heart of people in Alameda, as well as in surrounding communities," she said.

"I think it’s important to get young people involved in the community sharing of poetry," said Alameda Poet Laureate Julia Park Tracey. She said she was encouraged that Alameda residents showed "so much respect for the (poet laureate) office."

Poetry has a long history in the city of Alameda. For those interested in investigating poetry in Alameda, they might look no further than Jack London’s Neighborhood, by Alameda Island Poets founder and first Poet Laureate, the late Mary Rudge. This historical guide (which can be ordered from Books, Inc.) is a volume which sustains: "A Pleasure Walkers (and Reader’s) Guide to History and Inspiration in Alameda."

In that book’s vast reach, there is a detailed recording of the many poets and writers who have called Alameda home. Rudge provided a glimpse of the lives of various local luminaries, such as Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Duncan and Alameda High’s own Jim Morrison.

Alameda Island Poets has been organizing monthly readings since 2002, according to Nanette Deetz, AIP vice president. The first readings were held at the Alameda Main Library and a café on Webster Street. Subsequently, the group has read at various bookstores as well as Frank Bette Center for the Arts (FBCA).

Monthly readings are free and open to the public; sign up to read at the open-mic portion of the evening if you have a poem to share. The AIP’s reading series takes place the first Wednesday of every month, 7 to 9 p.m. The next reading, on April 1, will feature Sonoma County poet laureate Katherine Hastings and poet laureate emeritus Terry Ehret as featured readers at FBCA, 1601 Paru St. AIP also offers a free poetry writing workshop at FBCA from 7 to 9 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month.

To learn more about AIP, contact Cathy Dana at or Vince Storti at


Vince Storti is the executive vice president for Alameda Island Poets.