Petaluma Poetry Walk Founder, Geri Digiorno

Geri Digiorno, Poet

Her network included several poets who were either part of or influenced by the Beat movement, as well as contemporaries and followers of the Beat Generation, helping to bridge the gap between the original Beat poets and newer generations of poets. She embraces a multidisciplinary approach to art, blending her poetry with visual art. Her work ensures that the radical, boundary-pushing spirit of the Beat Generation continues to inspire and influence contemporary poetry and arts.

Digiorno has dedicated much of her career to fostering a vibrant poetry scene in Northern California. As the founder of the Petaluma Poetry Walk, she has created a platform that echoes the community-oriented and inclusive ethos of the Beat poets. This annual event brings together poets and poetry lovers, fostering a sense of community and continuing the tradition of public poetry readings that were a hallmark of the Beat Generation.

Digiorno was a celebrated poet, artist, and teacher whose life story reads like a vivid tapestry of resilience, creativity, and community service.


Born in Logan, Utah, in 1932 as Ada Geraldine Mifflin, she was the seventh of nine daughters to Ethel and Ben Mifflin. In 1934, her family moved to San Francisco during the Great Depression, where her formative years amidst the vibrant yet challenging environment of the 1940s shaped much of her poetic voice.

Digiorno’s poetry is a testament to her life’s experiences, capturing the essence of growing up female in mid-century America. Her work reflects the struggles of teenage pregnancy, the isolation of suburban life, the heartbreak of divorce, and the rediscovery of self through art. Her poetic journey began in Daly City in the 1950s, where she found solace and expression in writing during the challenging years of young motherhood.

After an initial marriage and the birth of three children, Digiorno’s life took a turn when she married Tony Digiorno, a tavern owner who encouraged her creative pursuits. Despite Tony’s untimely death, which deeply affected her, she found a new beginning in Petaluma, Sonoma County. There, she immersed herself in writing and art, leading to the creation of her hand-stitched book Marilyn and Me and the publication I’m Tap Dancing.

In 1995, Digiorno founded the Petaluma Poetry Walk, an annual event that celebrates local poets and has become a cornerstone of the community’s cultural landscape. Her dedication to the arts extended to leading poetry and art workshops for the homeless, showcasing her belief in the transformative power of creativity.

Appointed as Sonoma County’s fourth poet laureate in 2006, Digiorno’s commitment to fostering literary arts was widely recognized. Her initiatives included bridging cultural gaps with bilingual poetry contests and encouraging youth participation in poetry.

Her work, characterized by its honesty and lack of conventional punctuation, often drew from her personal experiences, making her poetry relatable and poignant. She was inspired by poets like Ntozake Shange, Robert Frost, and Lucille Clifton, and her visual art often featured symbolic themes, such as Madonna collages.

Geri Digiorno passed away on December 13, 2019, at the age of 87, leaving behind a legacy of artistic and community contributions. Her life and work continue to inspire, reminding us of the power of honesty in art and the enduring impact of nurturing creativity within a community.


one year later

one year later
I will be living
in a home for
unwed mothers
in Oakland

right there in black and white
I am fifteen years old
standing between
dorothy hardy and
john luhring
jim cancella behind us
in a light suit and tie
a mouth full of teeth
like a cold breeze

joan is wearing a white
two-piece dress
with matching heels
her lips open
marilyn monroe style
albino curls oppose
her bony features
dorothy’s dress
sweeps away behind her
outlining heavy legs
thick brown locks
cut short
surround her dimples

I’m the only one
not smiling
dark blondness falls
across my cheeks
my eyes tumble
to the ground
diploma tightly held
in both hands

i’m one of them

i was baptized at sixteen
in my sister mona’s white
two piece bathing suit
and white flannel night gown

laid back onto the water by two men
in alabaster suits
holding my nose
while they prayed over me
pushed me down underneath the coolness
till I came up saved

i believe

in my self
light rain
sudden storms
the moon
polenta and sausage
good sex
red sunsets
a perfect martini
the stars
true love
monet’s garden
cracked crab
long baths
soft jazz
a walk on the beach
and root beer floats

i believe
in quiet mornings
the ocean
slow dancing
the back of a man’s neck
fred astaire tapping across the screen
the magic of the sacramento delta
stone angels in italian cemeteries
growing your own tomatoes
paul newman’s eyes
that writing poetry is telling the truth
ironing is therapy
kissing is an art
and dusting is a waste of time

Poems from White Lipstick
Red Hen Press, 2005
© Geri Digiorno

Translate »