The Poet Laureate is responsible for developing literature and poetry programs in the community and for writing poems for civic events and dedications. He or she also serves as a resource and liaison between the City’s Cultural Arts program, local schools, and literary organizations.
Cynthia Patton was appointed as the City of Livermore’s fourth Poet Laureate. She follows Kevin Gunn, who served from 2013 to 2017. Ms. Patton’s term began July 1, 2017.
Ms. Patton, a Livermore resident, is an attorney, author, consultant, and founder of the nonprofit organization, Autism A to Z. She has published two books on wetland protection and restoration, and a poetry collection, Across An Aqueous Moon: Travels in Autism (Finishing Line Press, 2016).
Her award-winning work has appeared in twelve anthologies, including the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series, plus numerous print and online publications, as well as her blog, An Unplanned Life. Two of her stories have been performed on stage, and the Museum of Motherhood featured her work as part of Mothers Are Making Art in November 2015.
Ms. Patton founded and hosts the popular Whistlestop Writers Open Mic at Swirl on the Square in downtown Livermore on the fourth Wednesday of the month. She formerly co-produced and hosted Storied Nights: An Evening of Spoken Word. She is a founding member of the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writer’s Club.
During her tenure as Poet Laureate, she intends to continue the Whistlestop Writers Open Mic, as well as the quarterly Ravenswood Poetry Series founded by the City’s first Poet Laureate Connie Post. The series has featured many nationally recognized poets. Ms. Patton also plans to continue Mr. Gunn’s Teen Poet of the Month program.
Ms. Patton’s goal is to create a literary website focused on local authors and events. She hopes to host poetry slams, launch a wine-related poetry contest, and sponsor other literary projects. On July 2nd, to kick off her term, Patton held an hour-long cowboy poetry event as part of the Livermore Heritage Guild’s community open house at historic Hagemann Ranch. The event featured the work of Livermore poets Lynn Owens (deceased) and Lauren DeVore, as well as a range of classic and contemporary cowboy poetry.
After taking the oath of office on June 26, 2017, Ms. Patton read a poem to the Livermore City Council written for the occasion called “A Place to Call Home” (see below). Ms. Patton, a 1982 graduate of Livermore High School, said she was inspired to write the poem because she was following in the footsteps of Kevin Gunn who taught at LHS when she attended.
A PLACE TO CALL HOME
by Cynthia J. Patton
That’s what we used to say as bored
high school students eager to escape.
It was different then: no hip restaurants,
no outlet stores, no wine bars,
or even coffee shops. We bucked
hay in the quad for Homecoming.
I dreamt of a fast-paced career paired
with big city lights, far from a sleepy
hometown. I got them—for awhile—
but by thirty I found myself, inexplicably,
here, in the one place I’d sworn to avoid.
Which changed more, the place or I?
The Vine serves wine; we have fireworks
downtown. The cowboy bar is gone, replaced
by yoga studios, French bakeries, craft beer.
Now when I climb Pigeon Pass at night,
see the Valley cupped like a sea of stars
in the Earth’s hands, I feel blessed. I hike
Brushy Peak in the shadow of windmills,
mark seasons with vineyards. I pass
Baughman’s and the Donut Wheel, feel
something twist in my head-strong heart.
For both the place and I, things were lost
in the passage of time, but much was gained.
The roots I once sought to sever sink deeper,
drawing me close, weaving a cloak
that shelters in life’s inevitable storms.
Livermore—it’s good to be home.