North Bay poets and poetry lovers will gather April 27 in Santa Rosa to hear Sonoma County Poet Laureate Bill Vartnaw and former California poet laureate Al Young.

Young will be the keynote speaker at the evening of poetry and food hosted by Redwood Writers, of which I am a member. The group is a branch of the California Writers Club.

The event, “Poetic Journeys,” also will include readings by Vartnaw and by the winners of the club’s 2012 poetry contest.

The 72-year-old Young served as the Golden State’s poet laureate from 2005 to 2008. A native of Mississippi and a resident of Berkeley, Young has taught poetry, fiction writing and American literature at Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Santa Cruz, U.C. Davis, Bowling Green State University, Rice University, the University of Michigan and other colleges.

His honors include Wallace Stegner, Guggenheim, Fulbright and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships.

His talk is entitled: “Why Poetry Matters.” The event celebrates April’s National Poetry Month.

Hosting the event will be Fairfield’s first Poet Laureate, Juanita J. Martin, winner of the honor scroll award in the 2011 National Senior Poet Laureate competition. In honor of Young, Martin will read her new work, “Jazz Seduction.”

The gathering begins at 6:15 p.m. at the Flamingo Hotel, 2777 Fourth Street. The cost, including dinner, is $40 for California Writer’s Club members and $45 for non-members. The event will have book sales, a raffle and door prizes.

Poetry Night serves as the prelude to Redwood Writers “Next Step” writing and publishing conference, a day-long gathering to be held Saturday April 28 at Santa Rosa Junior College. The conference will help both beginning writers and published authors take the next step in their writing avocations and careers. Speakers will focus on the craft of writing, genre, publishing and marketing for both print and digital works.

To register or learn more about Poetry Night and the conference, go to .

— Robert Digitale