Writer and artist Jory Post
Writer and artist Jory Post died in January, but the literary endeavors that he devoted his life to will continue on.
(Courtesy Hannah Hutton)
City Life

After death of its creator, literary event ‘Zoom Forward’ stays true to its name

Artist and writer Jory Post established a virtual gathering of the Santa Cruz literary community amid the pandemic, something granddaughter Hannah Hutton is carrying on in partnership with another local institution, Catamaran Literary Reader.

Before he died in January, artist and writer Jory Post had established what might be a first in Santa Cruz County arts circles: a pandemic tradition.

“Zoom Forward” was a kind of virtual gathering of the local literary community, to celebrate the work of Santa Cruz writers with readings and Q&A interactions with readers on Zoom. And for many, it became a kind of lifeline to a community that couldn’t safely gather for readings in public places.

It still is.

Even though Post died last winter of cancer at the age of 70, “Zoom Forward” continues as a series of readings from local writers. Post was also the editor of the online literary journal phren-Z and the nonprofit Santa Cruz Writes. All of Post’s efforts to give shape to local literary culture are continuing, in his absence, thanks largely to his granddaughter Hannah Hutton, and a new partnership with Santa Cruz’s other (print) literary journal, Catamaran Literary Reader.

The “Zoom Forward” series picks up again Friday with poet, critic, and translator Stephen Kessler discussing his new volume of poetry, “Last Call,” and fellow poet Dion O’Reilly to read from her debut book of poetry, “Ghost Dogs.” The series is co-presented with Bookshop Santa Cruz.

“I am trying to keep similar to what Jory was doing and to his original intentions,” said Hutton. “He was doing it weekly, and I intend to do it maybe three times a month, as often as possible. But we do seem to have the audience for it.”

At the time of her grandfather’s death, Hutton had been volunteering to help with his various literary endeavors and she became his successor. Before he passed away, Post struck an alliance with Catamaran, which has provided the support network needed for Hutton to move forward with phren-Z and “Zoom Forward.”

Santa Cruz poet and journalist Stephen Kessler.
(Joel Leivick)

For the Friday “Zoom Forward,” longtime Santa Cruzan Kessler will read from his new collection. Kessler, 74, has lived and worked in Santa Cruz for more than 50 years; as a poet, he dates back to a golden era in Santa Cruz for poetry, with such contemporaries as Morton Marcus, Joseph Stroud and poet/publisher George Hitchcock. He was also a central figure in the blooming of the alternative press in Santa Cruz, and still writes a weekly commentary column for the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

“Last Call” is Kessler’s 12th book of poetry, and it covers his life experiences from the past few years, beginning in January 2017 when, he said, he was faced with a triple whammy of unsettling realities: his 70th birthday, the breakup of his marriage, and the election of Donald Trump as president.

“The way I know a book is done is that there’s some sort of landmark event in my life,” said Kessler. “So this book starts when I turn 70 and Trump gets elected, and it ends with my vaccination (from COVID-19) and the Jan. 6 events.”

The book was originally scheduled to be published in 2020, but the pandemic gave Kessler an extra year in which to write.

“It’s very personal in the sense that, I hope at least, it transcends the personal in going deeper than just talking about myself,” he said.

The new book is divided into seven thematic sections, from the gloom and doom of the winter of 2017, to writers and friends who inspired him, to favorite California bars, to the appreciation of women.

“If I were a creative writing teacher in some MFA program, I would probably get fired for writing these poems,” he said. “I just don’t care whether I’m accused of having a male gaze or not. Women have been an important part of my life, and if I have a love poem, I’m going to write it.”

“Zoom Forward” featuring Stephen Kessler and Dion O’Reilly takes place online Friday. Things get started at 5 p.m., and it’s free.

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