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03.04.09

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Phaedra

Her Vice is Verses: Poet Bernice Rendrick has a new chapbook, courtesy of In Celebration of the Muse.

A Literary Lifetime

In Celebration of the Muse marks 27 years of giving women poets a well-lighted place to read their work.

By Molly Zapp


Women poets in Santa Cruz enjoy a rich literary scene, and they have a generation of their rhyming foremothers' words--and work--to thank for it. Nowhere is this progress more apparent than at the annual In Celebration of the Muse, this weekend's all-women's poetry reading, now in its 27th year.

According to co-organizer Amber Coverdale Sumrall, In Celebration of the Muse is the county's longest-running literary event, one that initially formed to present an alternative to the nearly all-men's club of poetry reading and publishing.

"When it began, there were very few readings that involved women," Sumrall says. "In Celebration of the Muse was started to give a voice to women. Since then, I think there are more women poets in Santa Cruz than men," she says.

Bernice Rendrick, local poet and recipient of this year's In Celebration of the Muse Chapbook Award, remembers the writing classes she took at Cabrillo in the early '80s.

"When I was going to school, you could open a book, and you might see one, two, three women in the book, compared to 15 to 20 male poets," she says.

Rendrick's Chapbook Award includes the publication of Trainsong, her collection of 19 poems. The collection recalls her childhood growing up in rural Kansas in the 1930s. Like endless acres of sunbaked golden waving wheat, Rendrick's poetry quietly haunts with memories of solitude and small-town community, of silent train tracks that hint at an alluring Otherwhere when they roar to life. Sumrall, who has known Rendrick for decades, calls Trainsong "very evocative."

"When I read Bernice's poems, I feel like I'm at the movies [or] something that Steinbeck might have written with the pictures that form her work," Sumrall says.

Rendrick says she has read at perhaps a dozen annual In Celebration of the Muses over the years, the proceeds of which have gone to a variety of local charities and organizations providing services to women. Today, Sumrall and co-coordinator Dena Taylor are conscious to ensure that an encompassing and eclectic array of women's voices are given space at the festival.

"We have [poets] who come back every year or every other year because they're so moved by the audience," Sumrall says. "We want to make sure we include women of color, lesbian women, and we're adding a young woman reader to the series every year."


IN CELEBRATION OF THE MUSE
Saturday, March 7, 7:30pm at Cabrillo College Theater, 6500 Soquel Dr., Aptos. Tickets are $16 advance/$18 door/$8 Cabrillo students; 831.464.8983.


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