September 2019 Newsletter

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Between living and dreaming
there is a third thing.
Guess it.
~ Antonio Machado

Cutting Bars of Haiku

by Timothy Green, originally published in the Press Enterprise

Every fall, the Wrightwood Literary Festival features a unique publishing opportunity for poets around the world. Sponsored by Whole Life Soaps, the annual Soap Haiku contest prints one winning haiku on a custom line of all-natural handmade soaps, available at the store and online the following year.

The contest is judged by Bill McConnell, the store’s owner. McConnell is also English Department Chair at Ontario High School and author of the novel Saving Xotchil, a thriller set in the Coachella Valley.

And he knows his haiku.

There’s a common myth in the U.S. that haiku is a matter of counting syllables (lines of 5, then 7, then 5), but that isn’t the case. Counting syllables doesn’t even make sense in Japanese poetry, which is a moraic language, metered by time rather than syllabics. Real haiku revolve around the process of “cutting”—known as kiru—where two competing ideas are juxtaposed, often to startling effect. The experience of reading haiku is like stepping into two different universes simultaneously. It’s a brief poem that pushes and pulls at the same time, providing a fleeting grasp of the ungraspable.

“I look for that elusiveness,” McConnell explains, “that contrast between joy and grief. When I started this contest, I made it a point to look for those layers of meaning. I also look for haiku that aren’t simply about my soap, but use soap to express an emotional contrast.”

The 2017 Whole Life Soaps Haiku winner is a perfect example of this contrast. It was written by Cheryl Heineman, a recent graduate of the MFA program at San Diego State University:

My dad held me up.
I smell him almost in the
soap you left behind.

The syllables may add up to 5-7-5, but the haiku’s power is drawn from the subtle shift in tense and subject. The first line is a memory of the past, but the last two exist in a different time and place altogether. It isn’t the soap “he” left behind, but the soap “you” left behind—not the father, but someone else, conjuring, for me, a here-not-here emotion similar to the experience of déjà vu.

This is finely crafted haiku, that fits perfectly on the back of a bar of finely crafted soap. You might even say the Soapku contest itself is an elusive juxtaposition. I wanted to learn more about how it came to be, so I went straight to the source.

Whole Life Soaps started out as a cottage industry in the McConnell kitchen in 2013. Bill and his wife, Laurie, started selling soaps at the local farmer’s market and the business grew from there. Two years later, they moved into their current location at 6013 Park Drive in Wrightwood. As the business expanded, they worked to add a variety of products beyond soap, including lotions, lip balms, bath bombs, and products for men.

When I asked Bill how he got into soap-making, he gave the credit to his wife. “When we were first married and living in Ontario, she was always looking for ways to be more natural at home,” he told me. “At the same time, she wanted a hobby that we could do together, so she started making soap. She watched all these tutorials online and read a bunch of books and articles on the process. One day, a shipment of lye and coconut oil arrived on our doorstep. I was leery about working with it, but she just dived in. It was over a year before I started making soap, but I immediately fell in love with the process.”

“There’s an art to coloring and scenting,” he explained. “Really, I think anyone can make soap, but I think few people can make a soap that lasts a long time, smells good, feels good on the skin, and looks aesthetically pleasing.”

When the Wrightwood Literary Festival began in 2015, Bill wanted to participate and had the idea of stamping haiku into his soap. He figured it was the perfect poetic form for the task: “small, concise, and emotional.”

For the first two years, Whole Life Soaps published the winning poem on every bar that they made. As sales grew to around 700 pounds a month, it became difficult to keep hand-stamping poetry on that many bars of soap. So, more recently, the store is making a special line of soap for the winner that they’ll carry for six months. The winning poet will also receive a prize of $50 and a few complimentary samples.

Submissions to the haiku contest are free, but limited to one haiku per poet. They’re accepted by email or in-person at the Wrightwood Literary Festival, September 28th and 29th.

For full contest guidelines and to read last year’s winner, visit the Whole Life Soaps website—and while you’re there, you can also buy some soap to help support the project!

Fall Dance Classes at Love Roots Yoga Shala

Did you know that in addition to their wonderful yoga classes, Love Roots Yoga Shala is also offering four different dance classes this fall, and some are on going now? With Polynesian Hula, Belly Dancing, Jazz Dance and Groove dance, there is something for everyone. Belly Dance and Hula are already on going in the summer schedule. Groove is being taught by Jan Stevens, and the Jazz dance class will be taught Mariya Harney, who come to Wrightwood from Russia and has 16 years of experience and a certificate in choreography. Hula teacher Robin Stonesifer-Peters has been dancing since she was seven. If you have ever been fascinated by belly dancing, this is the time to check out Ilana Tracy’s class. For more information please go to the Love Roots Yoga Shala website.

This Month’s Events

Wrightwood Book Club
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

(Wrightwood Library, 6011 Pine St)
The book of the month will be White Oleander by Janet Fitch (who will be visiting town for the Wrightwood Literary Festival at the end of the month). Join in the discussion!

Wrightwood’s Got Talent! Finals
2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

(Wrightwood Community Building, 1275 Hwy 2)
The final round of the Wrightwood’s Got Talent! show is presented by the Wrightwood Blues Society. Ten young musicians will compete for the $1,000 Terry “Big T” DeRouen Scholarship. Director/actor Conor O’Farrell (CSI, Game of Silence) will be the celebrity host, with musical guest The Greg Jones Band. Doors Open at 1:30pm. $20 per person. Pay cash/credit at the door or prior through Ticketleap.

Pine Needles Quilt Guild General Meeting
6:30 p.m. (start)

(Wrightwood Community Building, 1275 Hwy 2)
General meetings of the Pine Needles Quilt Guild are open to the public the second Tuesday of each month. September’s meeting will feature guest artist Dora Cary’s “Make It Modern Trunk Show.”

Opera in the Garden
4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

(A private residence in Wrightwood)
Join us Saturday afternoon, September 21, for Opera in the Garden, for late afternoon appetizers, wine and popular songs from opera, musicals and art songs. You’ve heard Christa and Marco before, they LOVE performing for us in Wrightwood and are coming back for a fall performance.

Soprano: Christa Stevens
Tenor: Marco Antonio Lozano
Producer: Joyce Wonderly
Florals: Brier Rose Design

Bring a friend, a “dramatic” attitude and your favorite bottle of wine (when everyone brings their own, we don’t have to pay extra insurance, thereby reducing ticket cost). Be prepared to relax, listen to some of the best music and enjoy pre-dinner appetizers.

The address of the venue will be sent to you via email, as the concert is being held at a private residence in Wrightwood. Tickets $50 – Deck seating; only 20 deck seats are available. Tickets $45 – Garden seating; only 10 garden seats available. This is a special event and is not included in season or patron tickets. For more information, visit the Opera in the Garden webpage.

Wrightwood Literary Festival (Day 1)
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

(Camp Mariastella, 5701 Acorn Drive)

The 5th annual Wrightwood Literary Festival kicks off at Camp Mariastella for a day of writing workshops and discussion. Guest faculty this year include poets Kim Dower, Raquel Vasquez Gilliland and Pavana Reddy, and memoirist Antonia Crane. The keynote speaker will be Janet Fitch, international bestselling novelist and author of White Oleander, which became a major motion picture. Registration is $60 and includes two workshops, the keynote address, and lunch. For more information on the festival, and to register, visit

Wrightwood Poetry Slam
7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

(Village Grind, 6020 Park Dr.)

For the 4th straight year, we’re bringing the lively spirit of slam poetry up into the mountains! Slam turns art into a competition, with poems olympic-style by volunteers from the audience. These are not your typical quiet poetry readings—the audience is encouraged to react, and the beer will be flowing as swiftly as the lines. The winner at the end of the night will earn $200. This event is free and open to the public, and always one of the highlights of the festival.

Wrightwood History Talk
8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

(Wrightwood Museum, 6000 Cedar St.)

Dennis Felgar, docent of the Wrightwood Historical Society and 48 year resident of Wrightwood, will be conducting an introduction to significant historical locations in Wrightwood’s history. The talk will be held at the museum and historical photos and documents will be shared as well as local history stories and legends, including Aldous Huxley’s time living in Wrightwood. The buildings are widespread and often uphill, and visiting them on foot as a group would be difficult, so at the end of the presentation, a brochure of the historical locations will be given to the participants. They can then walk or drive to them at their own convenience. This talk is sponsored by the Wrightwood Literary Festival, and literary guests will be attending, but it is free and open to the public, so anyone is welcome to join.

Wrightwood Literary Festival (Day 2)
9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

(Camp Mariastella, 5701 Acorn Drive)

Sunday’s session is free and open to the public, featuring readings by the guest faculty, book signings, a children’s poetry workshop, and an award presentation for the winners of the annual young poets competition.

Looking Ahead

Wrightwood Book Club
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

(Wrightwood Library, 6011 Pine St)
The book of the month will be Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz. Join in the discussion!

Pine Needles Quilt Guild General Meeting
6:30 p.m. (start)

(Wrightwood Community Building, 1275 Hwy 2)
General meetings of the Pine Needles Quilt Guild are open to the public the second Tuesday of each month. September’s meeting will feature guest artist Linda Anderson’s Trunk Show.

Haunted House Fundraiser
6:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.

(Studio K Dance Center, 11327 Oasis Rd, Piñon Hills)
Snowline Players in conjunction with the Serrano Choirs will be presenting a haunted house fundraiser. Come get your scare on! Entry is cash only and is $7 per person or $30 for families of five or more.

Chet Noll’s “The Creative Process”
3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

(Wrightwood Arts Center, 6020 Park Drive, #5)

Award-winning artist and composer Chet Noll has announced a solo show, “The Creative Process” to be hosted by the Wrightwood Arts Center. Chet Noll is nationally known for his work in wood, be it butterfly sculptures or musical instruments, and for a repertoire of original music. His art has been offered at various outlets including The Huntington Library in Pasadena, the Denver Museum of Natural History and The Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park. Chet Noll creates his work in Wrightwood, where he has lived for more than 25 years. Regarding this show Chet says, “There is no better artist than Mother Nature. I enjoy the challenge of turning wood into delicate art in motion. My goal is to capture the symmetry, graceful lines, and color found in Nature.” With this in mind, Chet patterns much of his art after wild, living species. Using still and video images, as well as augmented reality, the exhibit features Chet’s art, while making connections with the environment and nature.

Poem of the Month


by Erik Campbell

The sum of evil would be greatly diminished if men could only learn to sit quietly in their rooms.

He sits in Union Station so that you don’t have to,
Covered in metallic paint, not moving, like applied

Pascal taken one step publicly further. The tourists
Patronize him; put money in his gold painted fedora,

And encourage him not to explain. The homeless wish
They had his strangeness, his calculation, his economy

Of gesture. The writers know he is a fleshed out
Character worthy of 200 pages or more, a catatonic

Knight-errant appearing everywhere in full armor.
The philosophers see him as a meta-symbol,

A shimmering sage who sits better than the Buddha.
Look how he sits and stares, they say. Observe how

Nobody dies because of this.

from Rattle #22

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