I've been scanning and organizing old files. Yesterday's gem. Once upon a time we were an extraordinary group of poets who met each summer in Napa. Organizing poets for this photo shoot was like herding cats. My photo traveled far and wide, so I made a parody drawing of it. Can you recognize any of the poets? It's 1985. Some of the poets no longer walk with us.
Napa Valley College English Chair, Dave Evans founded the Napa Poetry Conference in the summer of 1981. It began as a collective of Berkeley poets and students who came together to share their expertise and perfect writing skills.
I'm not sure how I got roped in, probably to do a potential story. But I attended most. if not all, the conferences through 1987; Dave kept the tuition low. In my case, he waived it entirely in exchange for photographic documentation. At first, I merely observed, but then, Dave brought me in as a participant and presenter. My writing life was irrevocably changed.
Word got out and poets from all over the US and beyond attended the workshops. Several came from the Bahamas, of all places. So during the spring of 1985, we all packed up and flew south—to Nassau, for an international conference. Extraordinary times.
One of the unique aspects of the Napa Poetry Conference was that we were all housed within the community, no motels. I stayed as some extraordinary homes, one place on top of Mt. Veder, another ranch in the Mayacamas, replete with lake and rowboat, our hosts were a medic and a combat helicopter pilot, each was carrying on a secret affair, so life was intense. Because we were all poet-roommates, we made deeper bonds.
After Dave died, John Leggett took over, and the direction of the Napa Poetry Conference drastically changed. It became the Napa Valley Writers' Conference. Some of the old guard were invited back; Frank Bidart, Robert Pinsky, but the flavor had changed, with Dave Evans gone, there was no community housing offered, and tuition was stiff. A tony new era was ushered in. I never went back.