Making an impact in 55 words

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On March 31 Tuleburg Press released a book of poems titled, “55 and Counting: poems by David Waldon”, authored by Stockton resident and former Delta College student, David Waldon, and assembled by Delta’s Paula Sheil.

Waldon currently struggles with various health issues and was unable to attend the book release at Mile Wine Company.

“I just really don’t believe in posthumous awards, people struggle with their art their whole lives why not recognize them and David is not long for this Earth so I decided I really had to get this book done,” said Paula Sheil, Delta English professor and family friend to Waldon.

booksSheil, the founder and director of Tuleburg Press, spent a year choosing the poems, assembling them into the selections and creating a specific design for the book.

Mile Wine came alive as Waldon’s friends and family came to support his book.

Valerie Waldon, Waldon’s wife of 36 years, addressed the crowd with much emotion.

She not only expressed her love and gratitude for all the support they’ve received, but also did a live reading of select poems from “55 and Counting.”

“He started writing 55-worders in about 2004. He saw the contest in the paper and said ‘oh I can do that’ … Every year went by that he didn’t win and he thought you know, I can do that. I can win this thing,” said Valerie Waldon.
Michael Fitzgerald, the creator of the 55-word poetry contest and columnist for The Record, was also in attendance.

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: Valerie Waldon, right, read from David Waldon’s book. PHOTOS BY MIDORI MORITA
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: Valerie Waldon, right, read from David Waldon’s book. PHOTOS BY MIDORI MORITA

“Some of Dave’s pieces reward the hard work reading you do for real poetry. It’s got depth, economy of means, there’s stuff between the lines. It’s amazing that he chose this forum to do it in,” said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald wrote the introduction to “55 and Counting” and also addressed the crowd.

“The San Joaquin Valley … is completely misunderstood and mischaracterized by coastal California … We have no brand. We have to image. People don’t get us and that is why it is very important … for us to find and describe ourselves organically. We have to have voices that define us from the grassroots up. We have to say who we are because they’ll get us wrong,” said Fitzgerald.

Waldon grew up in Stockton and attended Delta College in the early 2000s where he found his passion for writing.

“He truly loved Stockton … Not only does he show some of the good things, he is also one of the good things of Stockton, one of the products of Stockton and Delta College,” said Valerie Waldon.

The poems in “55 and Counting” are just a fraction of how many Waldon actually wrote.

“One year he did 432 [entries]. Now think about that. That’s entries. He was writing up to three a day. So it was obviously somewhere between a real discipline and an obsession,” said Fitzgerald.

Sheil taught Waldon when he attended Delta and watched his writing evolve over time.

“It’s not just because David is a friend and dying, but because David is a really good writer and he really got this form … When I sat down and read 1,000 of them at one time … I realized I needed to get the book done,” said Sheil.