Joel Fallon has prepared a proclamation to submit to the city council, naming Benicia as the Love Poetry Capital of California. He’s rallying for the cause by visiting various groups in town. A bit of explanation--
Maria Concepción Argüello was fifteen when she met Nikolai Rezanov, the visiting head of a Russian expedition to Alaska. (A bit older than her to say the least.) They fell in love. He returned to Russia to ask the tsar’s permission to marry her, however somewhere along the line, Nikolai died. Maria never married and eventually went into a nunnery.
From this story, and from the work of Joel Fallon, a former poet laureate of Benicia, a love poetry contest has evolved, with over 200 entries last year. It’s now open to entries for this year (details to follow).
When Joel talked to me about this, he pointed out that Elko, Nevada has a national cowboy poetry gathering and thousands of people come. Could our love poetry contest draw thousands of people to Benicia? In so doing, these folks would rent hotel rooms, eat at local restaurants, and shop in local stores, thereby spending money here. You get the picture.
Now, I admit to a level of skepticism about this. The entire culture of Elko is about cowboys and the west. Gilroy has a garlic festival because that’s where they grow garlic.
It felt to me that our claim to being the Love Poetry Capital of California was a bit more tentative. (Especially after the bordellos were mentioned: what do they have to do with love, I asked. That’s when it was clear to me that men and women have different views on the subject of love.)
I brought the subject up at breakfast with my women friends, some of whom were less than enamored with this old love story.
“She was fifteen! He was three or four times as old!”
Men are more romantic than women. They want to think that women would rather pine away the rest of their lives than, say, move on to another guy.
A discussion ensued about pining and how long it could/should/would last. I don’t think there was anyone at the table that would pine for, well forever.
But be that as it may, several of the women did see a future for Benicia being the Love Poetry Capital of California.
They suggested, perhaps putting up a big tent next to the Benicia Historical Museum where the winners of the contest are read. Have a kissing booth. Maybe match.com would like to have a booth. Have a love limerick contest—the one that was quoted was a bit ribald to repeat here.
Well, it would draw attention to poetry. I’d like it for that.
Details about the Love Poetry Contest are available at the Benicia Library Site: http://benicialibrary.llwip.org/poet