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Stephen Meadows: California Poets Part 7, Three Poems

Stephen Meadows

July 1st, 2024

California Poets: Part VII

Stephen Meadows

Three Poems


Morning in August

whiskey on the porch

worn nails hot

through the slick boards

the sun high at nine

A slow Rio Grande

near broken adobes

narrow and tepid

under cottonwood shade

the big river

only a glimmer



among the leaves


You delight in the popping

of seaweed pods

your small bare feet

raise bubbles in the sand

in your wake

mute explosions are

commingled with the sound

of the waves falling

back into the bay

Your hand with each new victory

realigns itself in mine

the intermittent sun among

the snatch of clouds

behind us strobing



Long rain

cold winds

over the bones

of the land

In news

to the north

it is frozen


and northeast

Storms howl

out of the arctic


in our year

of warm earth

This morning

coals rise

from the ashes

of my fire

two logs

placed together

upon them

tiny flames

in between


July 17th, 2024

California Poets Interview Series:

Stephen Meadows, El Dorado County Poet Laureate

interviewed by David Garyan

DG: Your collection, Winter Work, was originally published by Nomadic Press in November 2022. The publishing house then ceased operations, but fortunately the work found a new home with Black Lawrence Press in June 2023. That period in between must’ve been full of uncertainty. Can you talk about how the transition worked, the key people behind it, and what you love about the new press.


SM: I was very pleased when Nomadic Press published Winter Work. J.K. Fowler really came through for me. Then when Diane Goettel of Black Lawrence Press took on the book I was thrilled and very relieved.

DG: Let’s continue with Winter Work and your deep connection to California. Above all, this is a book about memory and place—in a sense history but also our existence in relation to it. It’s about our natural world but also our actions moving with it and against it. Can you talk more about your family’s connection to California and how this book was not only a reflection of that history, but also a testament to the relationship we all have to this Earth? 

SM: I am as deeply Californian as one can get, with roots in Ohlone Indian, Early Pioneer (1837 British Whaler) and Gold Rush pioneer 1848. My family connection along the Big Sur coast and Carmel Valley is well known to historians of California studies.

DG: It’s been a privilege and joy of yours to see the success of the students you’ve taught. Do you remember your first role as an educator and how has that shaped the subsequent work you’ve gone on to do? 

SM: Although I have worked with literally hundreds of students over the years, I  was always aware of the many comments from teachers about how all-encompassing teaching could be. I chose therefore to work on the teacher’s aide level so that I could remain a poet.

DG: Apart from teaching and writing, public radio has been an important part of your work. Though there aren’t as many programs as there used to be, radio has managed to keep itself from becoming obsolete. The popularity of podcasts may have something to do with all that but the phenomenon of sound—it’s primacy in the human expression—might also be a reason. What do you enjoy most about doing radio shows and how do you perceive the future of these programs? 

SM: Although I have noticed many of the changes in Public Radio, I am still doing live on air work the way it was done in the Sixties. It is still delightful and I always feel like I am back home with every show.

DG: Let’s stay with sound and music. In collaboration with the musician David Blonski, you produced a spoken word CD called Red Smoke Dawn Wind; in addition to this, you also recorded Under a Buffalo Sun. What was the process like for each album? Do you prefer recording or live performance?

SM: With the CD productions of Red Smoke Dawn Wind and Under A Buffalo Sun I was trying to open my audience up by reaching a few more people with my poetry. Nowadays I prefer live performances because the people who come to hear poems are truly devoted to the art form.

DG: Your Ohlone roots are further testament to California’s heritage and the inclusion of your work in the anthologies Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California and Red Indian Road—both from Scarlet Tanager—shows that these histories are getting the attention they deserve. What are things you admire not only about those anthologies but also about Ohlone and Native traditions in general?

SM: I think those anthologies are extremely important in that they help to widen the amount of exposure that native peoples receive in a medium that is more available to the general public. These works are also excellent because they can readily be used as teaching resources in schools and universities all over the world! One of my favorite places to perform is in the library. Libraries are some of the finest hubs for learning that we have going for us. 

DG: In 2023, you were named the Poet Laureate of El Dorado County. Can you talk about the beauty of this region, your favorite places, along with what you’ve done this past year and what you’re planning to do? 

SM: El Dorado County is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Reaching all the way into the Sierras at Lake Tahoe (one of the most beautiful lakes in the world) the county is breathtaking! Being a naturalist here is about as good as life gets! In my 2 year stint I will be reading in all the libraries and spreading the word to students in the schools as well.

DG: In a Georgetown Gazette article you said the following: “When I was coming through school it was a more traditional study of poetry, of the classics. Often times you didn’t get anything avant-garde, so it’s not surprising much of America is turned off to poetry at an early age.” What are some books you would assign students these days? 

SM: Beat Not Beat is an anthology of California poets that came out in 2022 from Moon Tide Press. It is a remarkable collection of some 365 or so pages, and one of the most diverse and beautiful books of its kind!

DG: Writing outside the traditional LA and San Francisco paradigm must come with a fair set of advantages, but perhaps also difficulties—particularly in the absence of more well-established communities. How do you balance a healthier poetry environment with less institutional capabilities devoted to transmitting the craft? 

SM: Most of the readings that I participate in are in the Monterey and San Francisco Bay Areas. Being a naturalist poet, this is a perfect place for me. I enjoy my visits to cities where I can take in what they have to offer but retreat to my country environment that provides stimulus for what I do best.

DG: Through the years, your wife has been a devoted supporter of your work. How has her guidance been instrumental to you?

SM: Besides being a nature lover herself, our life together has been one of exploring not only poetic but the natural world around us. In addition, her technological prowess greatly enhances my ability to get my work to as many people as possible…and besides she is the love of my life.

DG: What are you reading or working on at the moment? 

SM: I am hoping that Black Lawrence Press will be interested in publishing a 3rd book of poems!

Author Bio:

Stephen Meadows is a Californian poet with roots in both the Ohlone and the pioneer soil of his home state. He was born and raised on the Monterey Bay of Central California and received his secondary education at U.C. Santa Barbara, U.C. Santa Cruz where he earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree and went on to earn a Master’s Degree at San Francisco State University.

Stephen has published poems in anthologies and collections nationwide. The Sounds of Rattles and Clappers from the University of Arizona Press. The Dirt is Red Here from Heyday Books and his first book also from Heyday, Releasing the Days. Stephen is included in; Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California from Scarlet Tanager Books edited by Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan and Red Indian Road West also from the same press. In addition, his poems can be found on the spoken word CD Red Smoke Dawn Wind with background music by David Blonski as well as appearing on the CD from Mignon Geli entitled Under the Buffalo Sun. His latest publication is Winter Work that was released on November 19, 2022 currently available Black Lawrence Press.

Stephen is the current Poet Laureate of El Dorado County, California.



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