Sierra Poetry Festival’s Poetic Crossing

Dear Friends,

Irrepressible spring leans toward summer. Even here, at the coast, inland heat simmers just beyond the fog and ocean clouds. With April comes National Poetry Month and with that come the festivals!

I’m reading in the Sierra Poetry Festival’s Poetic Crossings on North San Juan Ridge (just outside Nevada City), a site of artistic vitality when I lived in Nevada County in the late 70s and early 80s. I am grateful for the long friendships I have maintained with this place and these people who contributed immeasurably to my growth as a poet.  With poppy fields! Susan

Poetic crossings

From the organizer, Bishop Randall: In 1969 Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Dick Baker, and James Walter bought a piece of property along a spur of the San Juan Ridge.  With their re-inhabitation came a slew of characters who would visit or eventually call this place home. This event honors our rich past and present ridge poetic tradition, with a night of history, remembering those who have gone, who we love. Each poet will share a bit of history about the poet they are reading and few of their poems, plus a few poems of their own.

In a letter to Bishop Randall, Gary wrote, “I was trying to say to you, that one does not become a poet or even a writer, without some background scrabbling.  And a lot

of reading and thinking, especially about the curious role “poetry” has in our culture, an inbuilt prestige but also no serious rewards.  You do it for yourself and your artist comrades, but the literary public just gives it a look and moves on. And, as it often is in art, people give poetry lot of respect but then basically ignore it.  When you have real issues, and a circle of lively minds, it gets interesting.  That’s what we have here.”

Poetic Crossings, Past & Present: San Juan Ridge

Doors 6:00. Reading 7:00 PM; $15 suggested donation. Proceeds benefit the

Schoolhouse & Nevada County Arts Council/Sierra Poetry Festival. Here is a link to the Facebook events page,

Dear Traveler


July Fourth    the toy war rages

            on your city streets, in the air

                                    cannon booms

                                                launch floral blitzkriegs

            firecracker artillery fire.

Why fear foreign missiles?

You wage war right here

                        for entertainment

                                    to remember you are free

                                                            from England.

You’ve saved the blockbusters

                                                proudly made in the USA

for export to other city streets and family fields.

Passenger pigeons   breasts aflame

                        ghost wings hammering

                                                            quake the trees.


Puvungna is one of the most important sacred and cultural sites in Southern California. I’ll be reading mainly from my award-winning book, Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California, including ancient narratives about the history of this singular village site.

Located on the campus of California State University, Long Beach, with easy parking. On May 21st at 2 PM.

1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90840

I look forward to sharing this event with you!


Puvunga Poetry Reading

Tom Laichas: Three Hundred Streets of Venice California

Hi Everyone, 

Tom has asked me and others who wrote praises for his unusual, unforgettable book to read with him at the book launch celebration. This collection of prose poems takes us on a walk-about through Venice streets and alleys observed with captivating imagination and historical insight. Come help us celebrate OR watch the live stream note below)! Susan

Tom writes:
On April 1st, please help me celebrate the release of my new collection of poems, Three Hundred Streets of Venice California, just out from FutureCycle Press. 

Joining me will be poets Beth Ruscio, Mike Sonksen, and Susan Suntree. Reception will follow. 

The details7pm Saturday April 1st at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice 90291. (If you live at a distance, you can see the show at Beyond Baroque’s YouTube channel). The evening is free, but tickets are available at Eventbrite or at the door. 

I hope to see you there!



The New Year, A Reading

Dear Friends,

A new sun moves north as the days slowly lengthen toward spring. In Southern California in the Simi Hills, for a week before and a week after the solstice, at dawn a finger of light enters the notched entrance and passes along the length of the ancient pecked and painted sandstone cave. As it moves, it vivifies the images and all they portend.

May the new light also move through each of us, awakening our courage and concern of all beings.


Please join me for my first reading in the new year hosted by the venerable Harry Northup.

Harry’s Announcement: Please join us to see/hear two brilliant poets, Susan Suntree & Tom Laichas, read their poetry on Harry’s Poetry Hour, Creative Chaos MPTF, on Tuesday, January 3, 2023, 1-2 PM PST. Thanks to Jennifer Clymer, Director, MPTF Studios, & the Creative Chaos Team.

Here is the Zoom link. Please check in a few minutes before 1 PM.… Passcode: MPTF  Please share.

Here’s the discount link to the Sacred Sites audiobook where you can learn about the Simi Hills sacred sites:


A Three-part Series

Free and open to the public! In addition to my talk and Raven’s observations, I will show slides of places in Southern California that are rarely seen and even more rarely recognized for what they are. Learn the story! See deeply into this amazing homeland!


indigenous peoples and native realities

ANNOUNCEMENT from Duane Bidwell

Can’t wait to attend this Monday night–Susan Suntree is a treasure.

Join Raven and Coyote as they guide us on a tour through the primordial origins of Southern California, beginning with the Big Bang/Great Silence to the present.

It’s the first gathering of a three-part series, “Indigenous Peoples and Native Realities.” Join us for a meal in Fellowship Hall at 6p, followed by the performance at 7p in the sanctuary.

Susan’s presentation, drawn from her book “Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California,” is equal parts Western scientific thought and Native American myths and songs, telling a dynamic and poetic story about the Southern California landscape. Included in the presentation is a full-color slide show of images taken by renowned photographer Juergen Nogai.

Upcoming Reading and Wonderful News!

Dear Friends, On Sunday, October 16, 2022, at 2 PM I’ll be reading from my recent book harvest at the Seven Stars Gallery, 210 Spring Street, Nevada City.  Please join us! Refreshments! Signed books!

Susan Suntree reads from her latest works

Good company brings literature to life!

I will accompany my reading of Dear Traveler on the dulcimer, joined by Tynowyn, Nevada County’s celebrated flute and dulcimer player.  And I will play an excerpt from the audiobook of the new, revised paperback edition of, Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California, as well as read excepts about the ancient era when CO2 was at the level it is now. Though the past does not necessarily predict the future, it helps us understand the Earth’s ways of responding to dramatic changes. If time permits, I may read a few new poems apropos of this critical moment.

I’d love to share this celebration with you! Join us!


PS Your reviews really do help! If you shop on line, I recommend


Recently I was honored by being inducted into the Antelope Valley High School Hall of Fame. Our high desert high school, serving a community of only fifty thousand people at that time, has saluted such alumni artists as Frank Zappa and US Poet Laureate Kay (Pederson) Ryan. I am especially pleased to join my cohort of honorees who have made rich contributions to music (including a founder of Captain Beefheart and His Magic band), journalism, teaching, and coaching. I posted on my website (go to Posts) my short speech and a poem describing how I came to be a student there and how the school and my childhood in the desert became significant roots, nourishing my life path and work.


AVHS HALL OF FAME      MY TALK      September 22, 2022

Thank you for this honor! Your praise and appreciation is deeply moving.

            My grandparents moved to the Antelope Valley when I was six and they soon bought us grandkids a horse that became our transport into the then wild desert. Gramp installed the glass in the new schools and housing for Boeing and Edwards Air Force Base workers. The flood of these new residents generated a real estate boom. When my family returned to California from our stint in the Bahamas, I was thrilled by the prospect of attending a real high school.

            I arrived at Antelope Valley High School as a junior, followed later by my brother Ted and sister Peggy. I’d spent my freshman and sophomore years, along with my older sister, Ginger, at a very strict girls’ boarding school where there were no televisions, radios, or record players. Our mail, in and out, was read and censored, though somehow a few letters from friends in Arcadia, where I attended middle school, arrived with news about high school life: surfing, the Beach Boys, sports, boys, dances! And, oh yes, so many classes! Wow!

            The first day of the fall semester at AV, I was terrified: There would be boys everywhere and such a complex world, one I had longed for but that suddenly looked overwhelming. Quickly, however, it became my teenage paradise, a feast of opportunities. There was a theater program, a speech team that went to tournaments, student government, a newspaper, clubs and classes of all sorts. There was sports for girls as well as boys, and modern dance, and so much more. I loved it even as I suffered my teenage miseries. And there were my excellent teachers, especially Mr. Guzman, my English teacher, who was a foundational influence in my life.

            My two years at AV, junior and senior, shaped my life in ways that have become more and more clear to me over the decades. In fact, my first one-woman performance, “Origins of Praise,” was based on my experiences in the Antelope Valley desert.

I’d like to share with you the poems I wrote and presented at my class reunions which starts with the year of my graduation. I think it describes the world I experienced and that deeply shaped who I am and how I have lived:  

For Antelope Valley High School’s Class of 1964


High desert children

                        migrants to Lockheed payroll

                                    to Edwards Air Force Base

            to test pilot’s BOOM banging into windows

                        to Yes it’s gonna BOOM next year

                                    real estate jumping up and down

                                                            with a speculator’s wink

Oh beautiful for spacious skies

                                                wide ocean skies

            wind blown into waves across the Great Basin

                        the ancient dust stirred

                                     from dry lakes’ once blue green shores

Joshua forests made farmland

                                                alfalfa, hogs, cattle, horses, and wheat

Wildness around the edges

                                    coyote’s cry heard in the housing tracts

Kids working on their algebra look up

                        smell dust in the wind

                                    worry about their hairdos

Dardenelles, LaDonnas, Debonairs

            Spartans Barons Lettermen

                        our tribal collection

                                    practicing everyday

                                                who we thought we wanted to be

            each the most lonely

                                    most likely to say the wrong thing

Cruising the Drive In, A&W, Denny’s, cafeteria odors

                                                drift from sandwiches all day in paper bags

                        trays rattling with the jukebox beats

  Angel Baby my Angel Baby   He’s a rebel and he never does what he should 

  Do you wanta dance and hold me tight?

Our dreams

            spread out so wide

                                    the moon is no limit

Burst from our simple desert socks

                        Right on! Sisters and Brothers

                                                into George Orwell’s arms

We, so finely shaped

                        and sent to the streets to change.

20th Reunion–1984

“I had a good time at my 10th when I went with my wife.

Going single to my 20th was different….”

20 years making lives

To explain atom bombs to step-children

                        our short hair

                                    coifed to fit an uneasy era.

How do we look?

How do we feel?

Deaths, broken homes,

                                    sagging or sharp successes

                                                new loves, knowing our work well

Those of us who are happy with small things

            happy with layers and layers of things

                        never happy

Alma Mater, nourishing mother, the reliable desert wind

                         reveals our bond:

                                                it is not this year

                                                            these memories

                                                                        this paraphernalia of the past

Our bond: death and the dreams

                                                we measure against our youth

Dancing at the Antelope Valley Inn

                                    awakening the dreamers

                                                                         for another 20 years.

50th Reunion–2014

“All paths are the same: they lead nowhere…I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use.”  Carlos Castaneda

Since we met, thirty years

            to get it right

            or wrong, to fit our lives to

            old dreams new dreams no dream


                 dawn to dusk

the wind still blows,

                        dust clutters the windowsills

ravens turn across the sea blue sky.

Our memories toss their burdens, bright

                                    or fraught, into the present

We fray and bag in familiar places

                        old Levi’s fade, stitches loose at the seams

Yet we are sturdy in spirit

                        children unto grandchildren

                                    careers unto beguiling vistas or debt and worry.

There are no recliners for our lot

            the fuse of history lighted under our hearts

            sent us flying into our lives

            with rockets to the moon, space shuttle to the space station,

            classes to teach, newspapers to edit, pipes to fit, gardens to tend.

            Vapor trails of Endeavortomark our passage

            through wars, assassinations, climate threats, cycling boom and bust

Wherever we go, our inevitable interior landscape:

                                                                        desert simple vistas.

If all paths lead nowhere,

                                        here we are

Our bond: death and the dreams we measure

                        against the spaciousness of our hearts

We 60s dreamers

            this year more dining than dancing

                                    at the Embassy Suites Hotel.

Susan Suntree

Beyond Baroque

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.

Here is the link the book party recording:

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.

Here’s our discount link to the audiobook:

I hope you enjoy the party! I’ll keep you posted about readings scheduled for the fall season.

With mid-summer heat!