Dear Friends, Celebrating the publication of Dear Traveler and the new paperback and audiobook editions of Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California at Beyond Baroque was great fun!
In addition to playing a selection of “Origins of the Universe” from the Sacred Sites audiobook, I read from the section about the Pliocene, the era when carbon dioxide measured 400 ppm, as it does today–a thought provoking comparison. When I turned to Dear Traveler, I accompanied myself with the dulcimer for the first time! Next: the harmonica!
What a pleasure to celebrate at the renovated Beyond Baroque theater and garden patio with a wonderfully responsive audience, and to share the evening with Tom Laichas, who presented his deeply moving book, Sixty-three Photographs at the End of a War, showed slides of the book’s photographs, and sang a few new poems.
Note: Unfortunately Zoom did not pick up the music in the audiobook selection. Click on the speaker and listen to the reading with the music!
The music composed by Tom Zehnder with contributions by the venerable flutist and Serrano Elder, Ernest Siva, was central to the Sacred Sites audiobook being selected as a 2021 finalist in Sound Production by the Society for Voice Arts and Sciences.
I’m happy to announce the following events celebrating the release of Dear Traveler and the multiple award-winning audio and paperback revised edition of Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California. I’ll also be readingnew work including chants from “The Undertakers.” Please join us!
Sunday June 12, 2:00-4:00 pm — Avenue 50 Gallery, 151 North Avenue 50, Highland Park 90042. I’ll be reading with Briana Muñoz, Tom Laichas, and A. K. Toney. The flier is attached.
Looking ahead: Tom Laichas and I are having our long-delayed publication party! Drinks and treats! I will be playing my dulcimer!
Friday July 15, 8:00-9:00 pm — Beyond Baroque, 681 North Venice Blvd., Venice 90291
Tickets will be available in a few weeks.
I look forward to seeing you!
The Intelligent Beast: A Literary Journal & Reading Series
Avenue 50 Gallery 131 No. Ave. 50, Highland Park, CA. 90042 (Free parking)
June 12, 2022, 2:00 – 4:00 Featured Poets:
Tom Laichas’s recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rupture, Disquieting Muses, Stand, Ambit, Moon & Sun and elsewhere. He is a winner of the Nancy Hargrove Poetry Prize from the Jabberwock Review and the author of Three Hundred Streets of Venice California (forthcoming from FutureCycle Press, 2023), Sixty-Three Photographs from the End of a War (3.1 Press, 2021), and Empire of Eden (The High Window Press, 2019).
Briana Muñoz is a writer from Southern California. Raised in San Diego, she spent a lot of her time at her mother’s Mexican folklore dance classes and at ranches where her father trained horses into the sunset. She is the author of Loose Lips (Prickly Pear Publishing 2019) and Everything is Returned to the Soil/Todo vuelve a la tierra (FlowerSong Press, 2021). Her work has been published in Dryland, the Bravura Literary Journal, LA BLOGA, and in the Oakland Arts Review, among others.
Susan Suntree is a poet and performer whose work investigates the dynamics of science, art, and spiritual philosophies as they engage contemporary life. She has presented her award-winning poetry and performances nationally and internationally, and has published books of poetry, biography, and creative nonfiction, as well as translations, essays, reviews, and book chapters. Awards include the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Award for Nonfiction, the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Poetic Narrative, and a Mellon Foundation Elemental Arts Award, and the audiobook of Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California was a finalist for a Society of Voice Arts and Sciences prize.
A. K. Toney is a poet, writer, educator, and performance artist. As a World Stage Performance Gallery alumnus, he had the honor to be mentored by jazz great, community leader and founder of the World Stage Billy Higgins. Toney’s skills as a performance artist have taken him across the nation and abroad. His experience as a performance artist and educator has allowed him and his organization, Reading Is Poetry, to teach workshops with LA Unified schools, NAMI, and the Natural History Museum. Toney is also a contributing writer to KCET.
From AudioFile Magazine:
“…don’t miss listening to this astoundingly creative exploration of the history of place… Gary Snyder’s introduction, read enthusiastically by Peter Coyote…The emotional nuances of Suntree and Queypo’s delivery will make your ears dance.”
On 16 April 2022, I’ll be reading from Dear Traveler and the updated edition of Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California with the award-winning poet, Tom Laichas.
WHERE: The Book Jewel Bookshop, 6259 W. 87th St., Westchester CA 90045
WHEN: Saturday, April 16, 6PM
The bookstore will have books ready for signing and enjoying! There is ample easy parking. What a joy to read in person!
The poems in my new collection address a traveler navigating our ordinary world, now grown precarious. Dear Traveler wends its way through the cycles of a year and of a life-time from garden figs and squirrels to freeways, fires, war, and more. Perhaps you, too, are on the traveler’s path?
I’d love it if you could be there!
Praise for Dear Traveler
Susan Suntree powerfully adds her work to the travel poem traditions of her Classical Japanese predecessors, Saigyō and Basho. Dear Traveler is a Postmodern travel diary taking us on a journey through “a fevered civilization.” These poems shine with moments of quiet astonishment as they guide us into the interior of the self during these turbulent times. Her poems remind us “Your wild life is listening.”—Alan Soldofsky, author of In the Buddha Factory andDirector of the MFA Program in Creative Writing, San Jose State University
Dear Traveler is a gorgeous poem-cycle as well as a journey we all must make. —Marsha de la O, author of Every Ravening Thing
This book is a series of poems addressed to Traveler. Immediately one wonders, who is this Traveler? which is a mystery throughout Susan Suntree’s brilliant book, a lyrical tracking of dancing mind in the “oracular present.” “Time is opening its map” Susan tells us at the beginning of the book.
By addressing the Traveler, Suntree reveals our everyday experiences as the mystical inner journeys that they really are. The poems take us through the daily life of figs and squirrels, take us on journeys through the seasons, through fire, all the way through death and disintegration, letting the body go and then, desiring a return, to its reforming, “awakening love’s beloved body.” These are everyday journeys, celestial journeys:
journey of soul, journey of body, journey of mind
Who is the Traveler?
It is us — revealed in these dazzling, dancing poems. —Phoebe MacAdams, author of The Large Economy of the Beautiful
There is a silence at the heart of all things. It is part of the miracle of this world in all its wondrous detail and sometimes frightening potential as each of us travels the landscape of what the zen tradition refers to as the great matter of birth-and-death. The poems in Susan Suntree’s Dear Traveler are true and gifted companions of this journey; they emerge from the poet’s years of deep listening as she made her way on this traceless path, and leave their echo in the reader’s heart. But there is something more here for you to discover; in some mysterious way, Suntree’s poetry itself listens. It listens without ears, and speaks without a mouth. —Peter Levitt, author of One Hundred Butterflies, Within Within, translator (with Kazuaki Tanahashi) The Complete Cold Mountain: Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan
These finely crafted poems map onto the Pacific Coast a quest for balance and self-possession. “This road is a welcome,” writes Suntree, and that’s a fact: whether humorous or bleakly prophetic, they draw us in with considerable clarity and force. These poems remind us that though the journey’s stakes are high and the risks great, every step takes us closer to “awakening love’s beloved body.” —Tom Laichas, author of Empire of Eden, XXXX, and 2022 winner of the Jabberwocky Press Poetry Award
Like the music of the tall grass and dry sticks that Susan Suntree writes about, these poems sing. Her writing here is spare, her economy of language admirable; there’s not an extraneous word or piece of punctuation anywhere. Each tiny poem floods dark corners with light. Tight as a coiled spring, these pieces test the limits of compression. Each is a jewel. —Jana Harris, author of Horses Never Lie About Love (memoir) and You Haven’t Asked About My Wedding or What I Wore (poetry)
A new year arrives as the sun moves higher overhead and a goldfinch couple feeds in the lavender by my front door. After a month of rest, I am reviewing the marvel of our Sacred Sites audio book adventure. I am heart-full with gratitude for your support! Thank you to all who have written to us since the audio book was released. Your praise has kept us steady and inspired!
“…riveted from beginning to end.” ” Thank you so much for creating this beautiful experience.” “… an absolute delight.” And from AudioFile magazine: “…don’t miss listening to this astoundingly creative exploration of the history of place… Gary Snyder’s introduction, read enthusiastically by Peter Coyote…The emotional nuances of Suntree and Queypo’s delivery will make your ears dance.”
We intended to create a beautiful, entertaining, and mind -changing production, and your responses tell me that this is what we accomplished.
Just before Christmas our production team attended the Society for Voice Arts and Sciences (SOVAS) awards gala at the Guggenheim Museum theatre in New York City because Sacred Sites audio book was chosen as one of five finalists for sound design. We were competing with an international slate of entrants, which highlighted all the more our composer/editor Tom Zehnder’s fabulous work. What a delight it was for our team to celebrate our Sacred Sites audio book this way.
Now we continue the adventure of letting people know about this work. Your ideas about how to get the word out are most welcome! Please be in touch. Radio, TV, print, pod casts and social media connections would be great!
JULY 1, 2021 THE ARGONAUT PAGE 17 A R T S & E V E N T S SoCal’s Secret History Santa Monica author releases new audiobook By Haley Beyer
Susan Suntree’s best-selling, award-winning book, “Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California”, was first published in 2010 and describes the origins of the universe, the evolution of plants and animals, migration of humans and much more.
In 2021, Suntree released a new audiobook version of her book, which is available on 41 sites including Amazon, Google and Audible. The inspiration for the audiobook stemmed from her curiosity of how things came to be. “I asked myself how did things come to be the way they are?” Suntree said. “I wanted to see through the palm trees ; and concrete.” Suntree wanted people to feel like they were part of the world they lived in. SoCal expert Susan Suntree’s new audiobook “Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California” features little-known information about the geological formation of the landscape, Native American sacred villages, and the coming of the Europeans, She felt misplaced in Los Angeles because there was no information available about the landscape or indigenous people. She used her experience as a performance artist, teacher and 18th Street Art Center resident artist to start her research and worked with tribal leaders, artists, historians and scientists at major universities and museums.
What Suntree discovered changed the way she viewed her home and she wanted to share that with everyone around her. “Southern California is a dynamic place,” Suntree said. “There is continual transformational landscape. It is a force of life on this astounding planet. It is all intelligence. All alive.” In the audiobook, Suntree covers the history of the Native American people who lived in Southern California for more than 15,000 years. She also shares information about the Tongva and other indigenous tribes with their villages Cahuenga, Tujunga, Topanga and other familiar locations. One fact that most people do not know is that the oldest human skeleton in North America was found in LA. After exploring the Santa Monica Mountains, 16-millionyear-old seashells that were once coastal seabeds were found as well. Earthquakes are responsible for pushing the mountains higher, and after the Ice Age ended, the bay that once filled the LA basin retreated and the region basked in the current Mediterranean climate that LA is known for today. Suntree’s journey began as a one-woman show, which was then made into her best-selling book. Making it into an audiobook “restored it to its native being.” “My worlds didn’t collide, the two worlds became braided together,” Suntree said.
To prepare for recording, Suntree went through voice exercises and lessons. Once the work began, she worked every single day until it was completed. The work was tedious because the layering of the music, voices of the characters, and creating a clear concept of the timeline was essential to creating the perfect interpretation. The music helped move the story along and Suntree enjoyed working with composer Tom Zehnder and featured Ernest Siva. She also worked with actor Kalani Queypo and Peter Coyote, an Emmy Award-winning narrator of documentaries. “It was so important for me to work with these two people,”Suntree said. “It felt right to have the male voice of Queypo, an indigenous person, tell the story alongside someone as brilliant and experienced as Coyote. “To purchase the audio book, visit shop.authors-direct.com/collections/suntree-sacred-sitesaudiobook The audiobook is narrated by Suntree and actor Kalani Queypo, and features Peter Coyote, the voice of Ken Burns’ documentaries. CREDIT: TONY VEREBES
With my heart brimming with appreciation for your support, I am thrilled to announce that we will launch our Sacred Sites Audio Theater via Zoom on Saturday, March 6, at 5PM PST!
Our team has worked for a year, with support from so many of you, to create what we feel is an audio performance that speaks to the heart of the current climate and social crises and summons us to live in balance with all beings. As Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gary Snyder writes in his foreword (read by Peter Coyote): This book “brings us home.”
Please join our celebration sponsored by 18th Street Art Center! It’s going to be a joyful show! Meet the cast and crew, hear clips from the book, experience Sacred Sites presented in the oral tradition which is its source. Though there is much left to do to bring this work fully into the world, now is the time to stir up a party!
In a year of continuing challenges, we have very good news
to report: Phase one of our SacredSites audio theater production is
completed! I am thrilled to type these words!
We are so grateful for the support so many of you have
provided. Without you, we would not have come so far. After months of
preparation rehearsing, working with linguists and other consultants, and much
more, we have completed 22 hours of recording. The Media Staff studio, a supporter
of this project, has one of the best recording rooms in Los Angeles. The raw
material sounds excellent. In my next letter, I will share clips of the
It is a pleasure to introduce to you Kalani Queypo
(Blackfoot, Hawaiian) who reads with me Book 2 and the Epilogue. He
is a founding member of the National American Indian Committee at SAG-AFTRA.
Among his many credits are Terrence Malick’s The New World, Jamestown, and Fear the Walking Dead.
I’ve included his headshot and bio plus studio shots at the end of this
Phase Two has begun: editing, music composition and licensing,
mastering, distribution, and publicity. Since we are an independent production,
we must do everything we can to get this timely and inspiring project out to the
To do this, once again I need your assistance. Please reach
out to anyone you feel would love this work and would join our mighty team of
supporters — no amount is too small (or too large!).
Sacred Sites is a
story that weaves the world together. It inspires us to love this earth and,
thus to care for it in every way we can. It is essential that we understand
natural systems and learn the many ways we humans have and can, once again,
live in harmony with all life.
Or send a check made out to Sacred
Sites LLC to 41 No. Logan St., Denver CO 80203.
With deep appreciation,
Kalani Queypo (Blackfeet, Hawaiian) proudly serves on the Native Voices Advisory Council and is a founding member of the National American Indian Committee at SAG-AFTRA. He can be seen in the Oscar-nominated, Terrence Malick film, The New World, Steven Spielberg’s Emmy winning Into the West and Slow West (Sundance GRAND JURY PRIZE). Television credits include Jamestown (producers of Downton Abbey), Saints & Strangers, Fear the Walking Dead, Mad Men, Nurse Jackie, Bones, and HawaiiFive-0. Queypo is currently filming the new CBC series, The Trickster.
Kalani and me at the end of his session.
Director Tom Keegan and engineer Anthony Alfaro
Me on my last day of recording (16 hours over four days!)
Jerry Mayfield, whose Media Staff studio was a wonderful place to work. He is famous for his sourdough bread which he served at every session with his homemade jam. What delight!
I hope you
and your family and friends are safe, well, and steady (enough). I deeply appreciate
all of the support you have given me and my creative projects over the years
and I wanted to give you an update. In the midst of the world being upside
down, I’m pleased to share some good news.
SITES: THE SECRET HISTORY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA was selected by its publisher,
University of Nebraska Press, to be brought out in an updated paperback edition. I am very grateful to the press for
their faith in the book. They feel, as do I, that it will reach more people in
this new format. I’ve attached the
cover which includes some new praise (including Stephen Greenblatt and Glen
MacDonald) and which makes good use of the beautiful design they created for
the hard-back edition.
READINGS: On the official publication date of the paperback edition of Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern
California,June 1, 2020, I
was scheduled to read at the Santa
Barbara Museum of Natural History at the invitation of the Santa Barbara Archaeology Association. It
is postponed. When it is scheduled I will let you know.
presentation includes a colorful slide show of largely unknown cultural and
geographical features of the Southern California landscape discussed in my
book. Please tell your friends
who live in that area to join us when the reading happens.
I am also scheduled to read at 7:30 PM on June 18 at the E.P Foster Library in Ventura at the invitation of Phil Taggart. See next post for information about how to attend via zoom!
If your organization, bookstore, or get-together of friends would like me to read, please do be in touch. I love sharing this work. Yes, one day we will gather again. Meanwhile, we can zoom!
SACRED SITES AUDIO BOOK: A marvelous team has coalesced
around the project of producing Sacred
Sites as an audio book. This has
been a dream of mine for years! And now it is coming to fruition. Based on the
updated new paperback, this production captures the book’s poetic essence.
Epics have always been sung, and though I am not going to sing, the audio book
will capture the sense of the work as a song cycle.
thrilled that Peter Coyote has recorded
the foreword by Gary Snyder and the introduction! It’s a big project
requiring the input of linguists, musicians, consultants, and many others. We
are already in rehearsal via zoom and soon will be
raising money to fund a stellar recording to share with the world. I’ll keep
A CHORAL QUILT OF HOPE: THE
UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
remember that I adapted the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human
Rights as a poem and that award-winning composer Adrienne Albert’s set it as a
choral work (adriennealbert.com). The Preamble of our composition has often been sung, but now the
75-voice Concord Chorale of Concord, New Hampshire will premiere the complete
composition with orchestral accompaniment. Originally scheduled forMother’s
Day weekend, this unforgettable evening is postponed.
I will let you know when it is rescheduled.
about the UNDHR when I compiled and edited, Wisdom
of the East: Stories of Compassion, Inspiration, and Love (Contemporary
Books) for which the Dalai Lama wrote the foreword. One of the essays recounts
the connection between the Roosevelts’ encounter with the Dalai Lama and Eleanor’s inspired shepherding of the document to
international ratification at a meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco on
December 10, 1948. When I first read the document, I knew that a choral work
would allow it to resonate in the hearts of all who sing and hear it.
am so very pleased now to have a studio at 18th Street Arts Center. It’s an
honor and a boon!
like the Sacred Sites facebook page and check for it on Instagram. I’ll be
posting lots of updates on my soon to be updated website: http://www.susansuntree.com/.
I breath the cleaner, bluer air here in Los Angeles, I am reminded of what is truly
possible when we act on behalf of the community.
Attached is the flyer for our Writers Circle reading at Beyond Baroque Literary Center on 6
September, 8 PM, in Venice. We four writers meet weekly. Each of us has developed
a body of work, both poetry, storytelling, memoir, creative nonfiction, and
fiction that demonstrate a range of styles and voices We are eager to share.
Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California will be
published in a paperback next spring
which will include a few updates in the science section. I am thrilled about
this! And there is an audio book in
the works which I will report on in the fall.
In November, I will be reading on the creative writing panel
at the Pacific-Asia Modern Language
Association (PAMLA) conference in San Diego.
11th Street Historic
Bungalow District: Our indefatigable
committee has regrouped after the intense effort that led to our success in
establishing this district. Now we are preparing for negotiations about the
rules that will govern its ongoing care.
I am ever grateful to all of you
who helped along the way. Every single contribution mattered!
The Santa Monica Conservancy honored me and my co-chair,
Diane Miller, with the 2019 Preservation Advocacy Award. They also honored Mid
City Neighbors for their essential support of our project. I felt truly honored
to receive this recognition which not only honors me but all the many people
who contributed to the establishment of this historic district.
I’ve finally completed my notes and sorted the slides about
my grueling and utterly fascinating journey last August to WesternMongolia which I
am happy to share with you. I held a screening for a few people last week and
am happy to do so again. Meanwhile, I’ll
soon set out on the Norwegian mail boat from
Kirkenes, a very far northern Norwegian town,traveling south through the fjords. My sister and I will disembark
at the Lofoten Islands for a few days before completing the journey to Bergen.
Thereafter we will take the train over the mountains to Oslo. We are promised
spectacular scenery and wild weather.
Summer with its heat and light, bumper crop of crises, and
garden vigor presented itself with the lengthening and now slowly shortening
days. In the afternoon when it’s time to stretch and walk, I look out my studio
window here at 18th Street Art Center with increasing wonder at the earthly
beauty of the Holocene, lately named the Anthropocene for the human hands and
minds that want to overtake that beauty while some of us work to restore and
support it. Our work is ever present.
CHANGE OF DATE: My reading at Britt Marie in Albany is happening on Sunday, 20 May at 3:30 (see the poster below)!
Sorry for the confusion! I hope to see you there. Britt Marie is one of those beloved restaurants that people regularly return to. It was bought a few years ago by a former student of mine. Timo Rodriguez was a memorably smart, lively unto wild young man attending one of my remedial writing courses at East Los Angeles College. He went on to earn a PhD at UC Berkeley, but tiring of academic life, bought Britt Marie and introduced a poetry series among other lively additions to the restaurants great food and ambiance. Plan to stay for dinner!
Good News: My adaptation as a poem of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, set as a choral work by award winning composer Adrienne Albert: A Choral Quilt of Hope, will be sung in Kansas City this summer. They will sing the Preamble and plan to present the complete work later this year. We hope to see this work sung across the country and, in translation, around the world, so people will embody the UNDHR’s vision, articulated so long ago, of peace and community benefit for all.
Good News: Our efforts to create an Historic 11th Street Bungalow District moves forward. We received a strong letter of endorsement from Pasadena Heritage, one of the foremost conservancies in the country.
May! The month of Green Grass. Upcoming: June, “The Little Month of bright summer air/when the young eagles fly.”