April is National Poetry Month and a month when Spring is in the air. Many a poet lends his words to celebrate spring, such as Robert Frost in “A Prayer in Spring,” which begins:
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Or as E. E. Cummings wrote in the first lines of his poem:
Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere.)…
Or Robert Burns who begins:
O WERE my Love yon Lilac fair,
Wi’ purple blossoms to the Spring…

A few other poets whose words can capture the essence of spring include James Wright (“A Blessing”), Gerard Manley Hopkins (“Spring”), D. H. Lawrence (“The Enkindled Spring”) and Claude McKay (“Spring in New Hampshire”). These and others can be found at poets.org, poetryfoundation.org, and many other sites online.

Carole Firstman leads off the Valley Writers who will participate in the Respite by the River this year. Firstman will be discussing her adventures in writing on April 26 from 7 to 8 p.m. at the River Center on the San Joaquin River north of Fresno. Book sales and signing will follow Firstman’s reading of her works. Music will be provided by Stomata from 6 to 7 p.m.

Tim Z. Hernandez will be reading from his latest book, All They Will Call You, on May 18. Through exhaustive research and with emotionally wrenching storytelling, Hernandez has put names and personalities to victims of the plane crash at Los Gatos, which took the lives of 28 farm workers who for seven decades were known only as “the deportees.” Music that evening will be by Lark.

The spring and summer events are sponsored by the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust, Inc. The events are free of charge. Wine and desserts may be purchased.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a picnic, lawn chair and blanket. It can get chilly, even when the days are hot. The address is 11605 Old Friant Road (down the hill from current Friant Road).

Deadlines for this summer’s California State University Summer Arts program, to be held at Fresno State, are in May. The in-residence program is designed to build professional skills, gain new insights, and make life-changing shifts in perspective. Fresno writer Armen Bacon is an alumna of this program. “It really fueled my passion for writing and really taught me enough of the craft so I thought I could be dangerous,” she said.

The writing classes include “Hybrid Poetics and Narratives,” which is described as “a mingling of images and texts to break open narrative desires.” The class will be held from June 26 to July 9. Deadline for application is May 1. “Visual Storytelling: The Art & Craft of the Graphic Novel” will be taught from July 10 to July 23. Deadline for application is May 15. “Sexuality and Love in Creative Writing” will be the topic for July 10 to July 23. Application deadline is May 15. Scholarships are based on need and talent. Details at: blogs.calstate.edu/summerarts/program-details.

Entries for The Malahat Review Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction are due by May 1. Authors who have not published in book form (includes self-publishing) are eligible to enter. The entry may not have been published elsewhere. Maximum length: 3,500 words. Entry fee is $30 for Americans. The prize is $1,000 Canadian. Details at: malahatreview.ca/contests/far_horizons_fiction/info.html.

The Writer’s “Spring Cleaning” contest deadline is May 8. This contest encourages entrants to spring clean their draft folders and polish up stories they have been hanging onto. Maximum word count is 2,000. New stories from the “idea bank” are also allowed. No theme or genre restrictions. Grand prize is $1,000 and publication. Details at: writermag.submittable.com/submit.

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter…to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring—these are some of the rewards of the simple life.” – John Burroughs, 1837-1921.