San Diego's Top Weekend Events: Remembering Poet Steve Kowit
In 2015, San Diego lost one of its most beloved and prolific writers.
Steve Kowit was a well-known poet, political activist and professor who inspired generations of writers. To honor his legacy the San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild created a poetry contest, the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize.
On Saturday, the prize-winning poets will be honored at a public celebration in the Southwestern College Art Gallery.
"This event isn't so much to honor Steve's life but his legacy — a tribute to what he's given us," said William Harry Harding, publisher of the San Diego Poetry Annual and creator of the Kowit Prize.
The top three poets — Molly Larson Cook, Joseph Milosch and David Denny — will receive a cash reward, and many of the contributors will be at the South Bay event to read their poems.
The contest received hundreds of entries from writers from San Diego and beyond. Starting in June, the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize will begin accepting entries for its second year.
"We aren't looking for imitations," Harding explained. "But we're looking for poems that capture the essential Steve — his humor, his pathos, his philosophy."
Of course, when it was time to plan an actual event for Kowit, Harding went directly to one of Kowit's most popular poems for inspiration.
"I Attend a Poetry Reading" is about a hellish poetry reading that never ends. This is the poem organizers had in mind when putting together their own Southwestern College event.
So this reading will also have jazz music, free snacks and a general merriment.
"I'd want Steve to think that this really is what a poetry reading should be," Harding said.
The Garden by Steve Kowit
Years ago we owned two cats who hated each other.
When I said we had better give one away
you wouldn't hear of it - you
were adamant, outraged ...
relenting only weeks later when it was clear
they were going to tear each other to shreds.
I remember the speech you made:
if it came to that we would give away Sluggo,
our lovable Calico,
who could purr his way into anyone's heart.
For in less intolerant hands, Mphahlele,
our difficult, misanthropic gray
might be abused, or abandoned ... or worse — whereas
if he lived with us he would be loved always.
& of course you were right,
tho God knows you have paid dearly
for a compassion as absolute
as the copper sheet of the Mexican sky
rising each morning over that house
high in the hills of Chiapas
that you loved so
with its eleven rooms,
those great hanging bells of datura,
that courtyard, tangle
of wild vines
that you would never let me weed
to begin a garden,
insisting in that quiet way of yours
that every creature
has as much right to live as we had,
& that it was a garden.