Guide to the Sonnet Club Collection – History

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The following history notes are taken from the California Federation of Chaparral Poets website.

The story of the California Federation of the Chaparral Poets began in 1939 when the city of Glendale organized its First Annual Festival of Arts. The Poetry Committee’s display included a brochure, “In the Chaparral.”

On February 9, 1940, the Glendale Poetry Chapter was formed, followed in March by the Pasadena Poetry Club. From these two groups California Federation of Chaparral Poets was organized.

The first conference was held in 1940 at the Glendale YWCA, with more than 300 attending. By January 1942, the Federation had grown to 11 chapters across southern California, and continued to experience steady growth throughout the state.

By 1963, when the conference was held in Sacramento, CFCP had become the largest poetry group in the world, with 30 chapters from both northern and southern California, as well as members from more than a dozen other states. Since then, the conference generally alternates between northern and southern host chapters.

The Name: Symbolically the name ‘Chaparral’ was chosen because it is typically Californian, as the low growth of chaparral that covers the hillsides and desert wastes of California, adding beauty and fragrance to barren country sides, might be applied to poetry singing its way into a war-torn and barren world today.

The Sonnet Club of Santa Cruz

On 27 November 1949 the Sonnet Club of Santa Cruz was officially granted membership to the California Federation of the Chaparral Poets (CFPC).  In 1949 the CFPC was ten years old and still a relatively small organization with a handful of chapters scattered primarily throughout Southern California.  Although its members were few in number, the CFPC had certainly grown beyond its humble beginnings as the poetry committee for the City of Glendale’s First Annual Festival of the Arts, and it had created an ambitious mission for its chapters: 1) to promote the teaching and writing of poetry, 2) to strengthen the appreciation of poetry, and 3) to develop fellowship among poets.  As a sign of eager acceptance of this mission the Sonnet Club voted in January of 1950 to change its name permanently to “Santa Cruz Chapter, California Federation of Chaparral Poets.”  The Santa Cruz chapter made great strides in promoting the ideals of the CFPC by organizing both student poetry and member poetry contests, in addition to encouraging the chapter’s members to publish as frequently as possible.  By April 1956 the club had already published two anthologies of its members’ poems – “Seedling Verse” and “First the Blade.”  In celebration of Poetry Day in 1954 there was a radio program while in October 1955 a television program was broadcast.  Books of poems by individual members – Katherine Wallis, Grace Glenway Hayward, and Reva T. Jensen – had also been published.  Moreover, members’ poems appeared in publications such as The Oregonian, Christian Home, Kaleidograph, American Bard, Carmel Pine Cone, The Denver Post, Author & Journalist, Desert Magazine, and several more.