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Sonoma County Gazette
The Passing of Poet Mike Tuggle

The Passing of Poet Mike Tuggle

Jul 30, 2017


Following a busy day of poetry, farmer’s market and hanging out with his grandchildren, Mike Tuggle went to bed and didn’t wake up on Father’s Day morning. His passing ends his crusade for the word as expressed by poetry and artful prose. Mike Tuggle was a secular evangelist for the written word whose enthusiasm affected all who came under his influence. Meeting Mike, Susan Kennedy and daughter Lilah at Midgeley’s Sebastopol Flea Market in 1982 was the start of a Cazadero literary family whose members grew and whose influence was definitely felt here in the west county. This evolving poetry style featured Cazadero’s natural isolated beauty, the local animal life and how its recent arrivals adapted their lives to be in harmony with our ancient hills.

The Motioning InMike for many years was a goat farmer. This style of agriculture uses the goats organic wastes for fertilizer for your vegetable and herb gardens. It is especially effective with Cazadero hard pan and rocky hills. He showed me how nothing is actually waste; everything has value. This was reflected too, in his writing. Every word was carefully selected – no verbal garbage or frou-frou words. The poems are made to be read aloud especially in his mellow western voice, rich with Oklahoma roots and California vibes.

For many years, Mike and Susan worked with California Poets in the Schools. Elementary school students produced a full book of innovative poetry. This program gave the kids something to be proud of and strengthened their self-confidence as English speakers and writers.

The organization of poetry readings at Gold Coast Coffee in Duncans Mills was one of Mike’s highest achievements. For nearly five years, Sundays on the back deck had scores of fine poets reading their work, introducing tourists and locals to our rich literary tradition. Mike also organized a poetry workshop at the then-open River Reader bookshop in Guerneville, which lately has been held at the Marshall House at the Russian River Senior Center. Here an ad hoc group of local writers shared their recent writings looking for the opinions and support of their fellow writers. Fantastic poetry, interesting prose and artful discussion resulted. These workshops strengthened my poetic resolve and made me realize that that I wasn’t alone in seeing the world in artistic ways and gave me confidence as a public speaker. Mike was very tolerant and patient. We saw dilettantes become credible poets and writers of unicorn/fairy poems became nature poets. Mike was not tolerant of people who wrote the same poem over and over again and he could not stand for any poets being rude tho their fellows.

Mike and I taught each other many things. He called me the Wizard of Magic Mountain for my knowledge of mechanics and history. He was the eternal poet laureate of western Sonoma county. His passing leaves a vacancy to her filled by those whom he taught. Poetry will thrive and grow in Cazadero. His mission is accomplished. — Gregorio Pehrson

Mike Tuggle has lived in Cazadero in western Sonoma County since 1981. He was the recipient of a Sonoma Community Foundation Award in poetry, a Dickens Award in fiction, and the Oberon Poetry Prize. He is the author of Cazadero Poems, a chapbook with the poet Susan Kennedy, and two full-length collections, Absolute Elsewhere and The Singing Itself. He was the poet laureate of Sonoma County for 2008–2009.

Michael Tuggle, our poet and pure inspiration of the written word has passed on. Words were his forte and gift to us all. Looking at the picture on the front cover of his latest book ‘The Motioning In’ with then toddler grandson Jai, Michael had on his signature Stetson hat. After he admired the hand-beaded band on my own hat, I found a wonderful one for him and he proudly wore it for many years.

A recent Cazadero afternoon inspired the following and I dedicate it to Michael Tuggle.

Crystal clear and blue the sky as I sat above the banks of Austin Creek; sipping Champagne and listening to the wind buffet the large redwoods – PEACE. —Natasha Pehrson

The Goat Farmer

Dedicated to Mike Tuggle, Cazadero Poet

By Gregorio Pehrson


In your surrounding vista

you can see directly to

the edge of the woods

with the many layered goat pen

letting you enter your younger world

the redwoods

wait, droplets forming.


Rotting berry vines

grasped from the slurry of rusty leaves

brindle canopies of mushrooms

stems out of ground

with a powdered crack

as the basket fills

a squirrel blasts from the vine

and the toe of your gumboots crush

a pill bug to a slick

on the dirt

(during this the wind carries the

carrion smell of the dead deer,

the cougars warning)


Seeing your younger self

scramble up the hills path

later, would you squirm


that light virility

that innocence?


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