California Quarterly 46, No. 4, Winter 2020
Cover Art: Constant Return II (1965, 39x39) by Julian Stanczak (1928-2017).
Acrylic on Canvas. Stanczak Foundation, Cleveland.
The end of one year, the beginning of another. Calendar pages measure our days and months, spiraling through the years… This issue of the California Quarterly measures the passage of time with tetragrams by Richard Kostelanetz, a two-line poem by Elsa Samkow-Frausto, three sedoka by Margaret Saine, and a variety of longer verse, marking time with the spacing of their layouts.
I like starting to edit a new issue of the CQ with a set of themes. In this case it was the sun, solstice, and myths or folk-tales. Yes, we received a lot of “sunny” poems, for instance, from Saine (“the sun paints /a turquoise ball / behind my eyelids”) or James Tweedie (“The Silence of Sunrise”). Yet, there were far more poems that celebrate oceans, lakes, hues of water, trees, motion, transience, and the perennial themes of love and gratitude. Poets are grounded in the soil of their gardens, calmed by birdsong (Elina Petrova), or by watching ocean waves. “What do you learn when you face only blue?” asks Hedy Habra. On the quest to unravel secrets (Glory Cumbow, Sonya Sabanac), poets are taken “to that edge where / everything disappears” (Pamela Singer), an experience that “still makes you soft with longing” (David Rosenheim). How real was it in the first place?–asks Jane Stuart. “We are the human starfish,” concludes John Grey, blessing alternate universes of reincarnation.
Fittingly, the cover art is Constant Return II (1965) by Polish American painter, one of the creators of the op-art movement, Julian Stanczak (1928-2017). I am grateful to the Stanczak Foundation of Cleveland, Ohio, for allowing us to use this image. Stanczak’s WWII deportation from Poland by occupying Soviet forces, followed by years of imprisonment in the gulag, ended his dream to become a cellist, but opened a new path, that of an artist of vibrant colors & intricate lines. Monumental, carefully crafted paintings juxtapose complementary or contrasting colors that he envisioned for us to enjoy. In this process of transmutation of tragedy and trauma into the sublime, timeless art, Stanczak became an alchemist of vision, transforming “Lead into Gold.” Poets also transmute the “Lead” of their experience into “Gold” of their poems, using words to define and refine what they see, hear, and feel. The quest for artistic truth continues on the pages of this journal, ending the year 2020 with a plethora of real or metaphorical sunrises.