Wednesday, September 1, 2021

CSPS Poetry Letter No. 3, Fall 2021 - Reviews of Books by Stock, Johnson, Gregory, Chorlton, and Trochimczyk & Hitt

Santa Ana Canyon by Anna Althea Hills     

Welcome to the Fall issue of the Poetry Letter for 2021. In the next blog post, you will enjoy previously published poems by Greg Gregory of California, and Franklin Gillette of Colorado. Since both poets have been inspired by natural beauty, I selected California landscape painters of early 20th century to illustrate this issue of the Poetry Letter.  Benjamin Chambers Brown, 1865-1942), Anna Althea Hills (1882-1930) and Selden Connor Gile (1877-1947) are hardly household names. As Californians enjoying the natural beauty of the same landscapes they painted, we should learn something about them. Previously, I picked contemporary landscape paintings by Karen Winters (Annual Contest Winners 2020); this time, we can see the tradition she continues to bring to life. 

In the current Poetry Letter we present several poetry books. Doreen Stock and Caroline Johnson write about caring for parents in their old age and losing them to the relentless passage of time.  David Chorlton sings praises of Arizona desert where he lives. Greg Gregory, featured below, writes about the landscapes and reflections arising from their presence near Mendocino, California. The Village Poets Anthology that I edited with Marlene Hitt celebrates 10 years of our monthly poetry readings at Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga. It is thanks to such local efforts all over California that our poetic landscape is so alive today! Many thanks to the poets and the book reviewers: Jackie Kudler, Anara Guardan Diego, Michael Escoubas, and Alice Pero. Enjoy! 
~ Maja Trochimczyk, Ph.D.
CSPS President & Poetry Letter Editor

Book Review by Jackie Kudler: Bye Bye Blackbird by Doreen Stock

Bye Bye Blackbird by Doreen Stock.  ISBN: 978-1-948461-81-8. ThePoetryBox, 2021.

The loss of a mother, regardless of her age or the quality of the relationship, is a profoundly significant life event. Poet Doreen Stock’s compelling new collection, Bye Bye Blackbird, is a tribute to the indomitable spirit of a much-loved mother as Stock shepherds her through the indignities and triumphs of her waning days.

In the introductory dedication poem, “for Annetta Diamond Winnick” who died in her 94th year, after being “polished by these/ years/ of loving and being/ loved,” the poet contemplates the prevailing strength of her mother’s influence on her own life:

“How were

You brave enough to do that?

I am often asked. . . . .

            Those who ask that question

have never known you.” 

Poets have written about love and loss forever, but few have tried to stand witness to the actual end-of-life experience in their work, an experience so many of us have lived through and seldom forget. Yet here, with the precise pen of a true poet, Stock paints an intimate, vivid landscape of that experience: the rehab hospitals, the ambulances, the gravesides, as well as the portentous dreams that haunt her sleep.

Where, but in a rehab hospital, could a poem like “Your Unbecoming” have been conceived? Here Stock gazes head on at the sombre landscape of the body’s regression back to its own beginnings:

“The urge 

to not soil oneself

laid down during those precious

toddler months with smiles and coaxing . . . .”

    now reversed by the cajoling night nurse:

               “ ‘Don’t you worry about it, just let yourself go’

How do you cross that particular border?

What do you find to say to yourself, no one

there to help you with your unbecoming?”

Anna Althea Hills, “Sunshine & Shadow-Orange Co. Park, California,” 
1915 (Photo via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

“The Poem Geronimo,” one of the true gems of the collection, celebrates the admirable prowess and humanity of Geronimo, an ambulance aide. Here, we see mother once again suffering her “unbecoming,” but this time, ministered to by one of the book’s true angels:

At seventy miles an hour without losing balance, without bumping

his head on the overhanging glass full of life-saving equipment.

At seventy, without losing humane dignity, rolling the 93-year-old

patient back and forth as the job demands and then, 10 minutes later

as the infected bladder squirts, returning with a joke and a smile to do

it again (think angel here, a term I do to use lightly) asking me

meanwhile if I’m OK as we speed past the hawk poised on its

fence post listening, listening in the crosswinds of the cars to

swoop down on the little rustling being under the grass and take her

while the light of love shines out of the eyes of all of us . . .


It is indeed the light of love, even among the most challenging and disheartening of times, that shines through every line of this chapbook and is sure to remain with every reader long after.  “Bye Bye Blackbird,” the name of the song that mother in her “cherry blossom kimono” takes to singing through her end days is, of course, the title of the book as well as the name of the title poem:

              “I couldn’t see in, but could hear you, and all through the desert night

on your last ride you continued, passing cactus, passing sage, your last 

instructions clear in my ear,” You’re the one to be sure I look right

in the carriage, honey” all the way down Ramon Road, past

        Date Palm Drive into Cathedral City where the cemetery lives,

stop lights, go lights, with a wave of your white-gloved hand,

a Liz Minelli smile, black cane tucked under your armpit:

‘I said Blackbird, oh, Blackbird, Bye Bye …’”

Throughout this collection, Doreen Stock asks us to explore with her the many nuances of the pain of loss, but in the end, Bye Bye Blackbird  is a stunning collection of love poems, written in terms we may not have encountered before.

~ Jackie Kudler

Book Review by Michael Escoubas: The Caregiver by Caroline Johnson

The Caregiver by Caroline Johnson. 51 poems, 83 pages.  $16.00 ISBN 978-09986010-3-8. Holy Cow! Press

In 1983, at the young age of 58, my father fell victim to a brainstem stroke. This debilitating event placed Dad in hospice care, where he passed one month later. Caroline Johnson's new collection, The Caregiver, brought to mind my daily visits to the hospice unit, sitting beside him, hoping for a response but receiving virtually nothing that opened the door of opportunity to bid my father goodbye.

For approximately 12 years the poet managed the care of both of her parents through the rigors of slow-moving, long-term illnesses: Alzheimer's for her mother, variations of Parkinson's for her father. The 51 poems included in The Caregiver, invite the reader to share in the intimate details of the poet's twin labors of love as she, with the help of Donna, a professional caregiver, learned to care for others beyond all thoughts for herself.

The Caregiver is divided into three sections: Part I, Father; Part II, Mother; and Part III, Grief. In the Foreword Johnson reveals many of the inspirational sources that resulted in her poems. Trust me, don't skip the foreword. It is one of the best I've ever read.

Crossing opens Part I, and features her father's favorite creature:

Today I came across a painted turtle

as I was bicycling near a canal.

He had stopped in the middle of the trail,

head erect, all limbs exposed, waiting.

He seemed stuck in the moment,

moving neither forward nor backward,

trapped in time,

I thought of you, dear father,

moving across unstable ground,

gripping your cane and hovering

for a brief moment

before the storms set in.

Years earlier her father had offered his daughter a piece of sage advice, "Be like a turtle. Let your problems roll off your back." I believe that Johnson tapped into that "nugget" more than once during her caregiving journey.

Joyous Garden by Benjamin Chambers Brown, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

The storms alluded to in Crossings, did set in. Poems such as Life's Melody, Shapeshifting, and Becoming Erudite, illustrate her father's once brilliant mind in slow decline. She remembers his voice, smooth, intoxicating/like the vodka tonic on the side table.

A Good Day, opens the door on Parkinson's in its advanced stages:

     He was having a good day. A nurse evaluated him. He couldn't answer

     most questions, but he knew it was spring. He couldn't sign his name.

     He thought it was January. Still, he was having a good day.

Johnson is candid about her feelings in stanza 2 of A Good Day:

     I wanted to leave. I had done my time—spent hours with the nurse and

     his caregiver. I had to grade papers, buy some groceries, get home to have

     dinner with my husband. But he was having a good day, and when I tried

     to say good-bye, he asked when he would see me again. I told him soon,

     and that I would bring cake.

As the poet moves the reader gently into the world of her mother's long goodbye, we are met with an epigram from Kahlil Gibran, The most beautiful word on the lips of mankind is the word "Mother."

Shut-ins is about Johnson accompanying her mother as she delivered pine wreaths to the less fortunate. Here she learned, my first lesson in kindness.

Coyote employs no fewer than four animals in a touching tribute, awesome and upright, harboring a/deep purpose and an elevated spirit.

Johnson has a way with metaphor; Skiing, showcases the poet's visual skills in this excerpt,

     She stands up from her wheelchair clutching her cane—

     a monogrammed rod, a wooden crutch, a tree branch,

     an extended piece of willow, a bleached crow—

     then plants it like a pole, attempting to descend

     the stairs one more time, each icy step a flag of victory,

     a fast blue slope, a thrilling dangerous carousel ride.

Barbara Crooker opens the door to the grief process, Grief is a river you wade in, until you get to the other side.

What Got Him Here, will touch the hearts of readers with its poignant lines that describe the grief process beginning long before Johnson's father dies.

As Johnson drives home from her mother's funeral, her poem Changing Lanes, begins to form. This prose poem takes the reader along in a potpourri of thoughts. Condensation appears on the windshield, it smears as she wipes it off. She recalls how her mom's grandsons played hide and seek around the coffin, how she fielded questions about what items should or should not accompany her mom to the grave. This poem in itself is worth the price of the book.

As the grief portion of The Caregiver, draws to a gentle close, look for “The Sneeze,” written especially as a remembrance of her father, as well as, “The Gallery,” which pays tribute to Johnson's mother, who loved and taught art. The closing lines stand out through the poet's tears of grief. Her mother's legacy captured,

      You will find me in the dialogue of my students,

      in the cry of my neighbor's baby,

      in the wisp of a dandelion seed.

~ Michael Escoubas

First published in Quill and Parchment, December 2018

Book Review by Anara Guardan Diego: Blue Tin Sky by Greg Gregory

Blue Tin Sky By Greg Gregory. Avenafatua Press, $16.00, 68 pages. 

Blue Tin Sky is clearly a labor of love for poet Greg Gregory. Not only has he written the 54 poems in the collection but also created the cover art, a painting of a storm near Mendocino, which is fitting for poetry so rooted in northern California.

The book is divided into four unnamed sections, and nearly all of these free-verse poems are a single page in length and easy to read and contemplate before moving on to the next one. The title poem, Blue Tin Sky, invites us to “come bathe under waterfalls of words” and indeed, many of Gregory’s poems use cascading words to evoke images, sensations, or emotions. For example, in “Along Drake’s Beach” which describes shells:

     the wonder shell, living in amazement, the rosy harp, lost in its music…

     the cat’s-tongue oyster, mewing for pearls,

     the moon shell, living in mystery,

     the anomia, living without a name –

     all reaching down through spirals…

The poet pays careful attention to nature and his poems are inspired by loons, sea glass, wetlands, cattails, tree frogs, beaches, and trails. At the same time, he captures images from city life, as in “Night Moving”:

        Moon in the mirror,

        dresser in the back of

        an open pick-up

        jouncing down upper Market at 2 am

in which he observes that although the mirror shudders in its frame, the image of the moon always remains still. Numerous other poems also evoke the moon as it rises, gleams in a window, winks or stares like a cat’s eye/ lost in the night sky.

Many of his lines are quite lovely: The thing of the world is/the softness of its secrets in “Loons” and When young, you have promise, when old, history in “Don Quixote, Summer” and the veil most fragile catches the most light. We learn to be quiet about beauty in “By Tomales Bay.”

Other poems are dialogues—with a house:

      My tires crush wild oat and star thistle that have finally grown through the concrete,

      now too broken to stop them.

      I have no business being here…

     The house whispers, ‘Remember me, remember you.

or with “an Ex from the 60’s” which unmistakably references San Francisco:

     City of visions. City of promises….

     City of painted ladies. City of mirrors…

     City of Alice’s rabbit holes. City of illusions…

The third section is the most elegiac, as it addresses grandchildren, aging, and memory: …years lose ceremony, importance. Our stories are the important things…The water and sea stay. The waves pass through.

These evocative and simple poems will stay with you long after you read them.

~ Anara Guardan Diego

Book Review by Alice Pero: Speech Scroll by David Chorlton 

Speech Scroll by David Chorlton, ISBN , xxx pp. Published by Cholla Needs Arts & Literary Library, 2020,

When is poetry different from music? When do words transcend the commonplace on the page to the realm of the spirit? David Chorlton’s “Speech Scroll” (Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library 2020), a long poem in a sequence of 158 sections, is a rhapsody, evidence that this poet can get inside of life and feel its ecstatic force. In Chorlton’s poems he is not just an observer, although one senses his keen perception of where he is and what he sees. He is more than that; he feels the causation of things, how they push and pull, how something in nature moves towards and with another and brings something new into being. 

The style in this book is simple, sentences that in their easy rhythm and effortless images, become poems. We feel the weight of the form; each poem is 18 lines, yet there is nothing still or stilted; one thing happens and then another; this style is so wrapped in a surge of energy one cannot feel anything but that movement and the almost noble elements, even of the ordinary.

“It’s a woodpecker’s work to keep tapping

at the edge where sky touches Earth.

He’s loosening the strip

of metal holding

clouds in place, persistent

in the Heavens as he is upon the siding

to a house with demons trapped inside.”

In Chorlton’s world “The wind tosses a hawk into the ragged sky” (155) “On the points of every star/insects are impaled” (142) and “The currency of a lost civilization/glitters all night/between horizons” (112) There is always action, excitement. Don’t read this work if you like pale lines of soft sadness. Yes, there is sadness, death, even extinction, but we always know life will keep surging through. And yes, there are gods and demons and the anxiety brought about by “… mice who live/in the drawer you never open/are nibbling away your rights.”  (93) 

All poets write about the moon but in Chorlton’s vision “The gods dropped the moon/through a slot in Heaven/and let it roll across/the roof of the world all night.”  This moon poem brings us through the ordinary life of convenience stores and television and selling, life on earth, but at the end we are left with the moon as “a silver/coin shining from an open palm” (92) 

Chorlton is intimately connected to the native life of the Arizona desert where he lives, yet we are also jarred into the reality of modern life with humans. “Why is that portable latrine/sanding in the street I can see it all/day is somebody hiding in there?” (120) And there is the persistent heat: “the forecast is a dry cough from the sky.” (121) 

Past and present roll with one another in these poems as we are pushed and pulled with an inner energy that never stops and we never want to stop reading as we discover that “The mountain opens wide its arms/to receive the sun.” (143)  Just as the Native American found life even in the rocks and stones, from this poet’s viewpoint all things are thoroughly alive and as he makes his testimony, we listen and learn with a thrill of joy.

~ Alice Pero

To read more poems by David Chorlton and his biography, and find links to his work, visit:

Book Review by Michael Escoubas: We Are Here – Village Poets Anthology

edited by Maja Trochimczyk and Marlene Hitt

We Are Here: Village Poets Anthology, eds: Maja Trochimczyk and Marlene Hitt. 290 pages (xxvi pp. + 264 pp.) 237 Poems + Biographies. 6’’ x 9” ~ Perfect Bound.  $22.00 Paperback ~ $10.00 eBook. Moonrise Press. ISBN: 978-1-945938-39-9 (Paperback)

In the 1950s my parents took my brothers and me to a science fiction thriller entitled, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Such movies were the “in-thing” at the time. For three impressionable grade-school boys, the whole thing was pretty scary. As our parents came into our bedroom to say evening prayers with us, they sensed our upset. Leaving the room, they touched our hands saying, “We are here, nothing bad is going to happen to you.” Eventually, we got over our fright. I thought about their words as I worked my way through the poems collected by editors Trochimczyk and Hitt. We Are Here, resonates with me on two levels. For over a decade Village Poets of the Sunland-Tujunga community have borne witness to Californians about the magic of poetry. They organize poetry readings, write poetry, and publish books keeping the art and craft of poetry alive for generations yet unborn. On another level, I found myself taking notes on those poems which spoke to me as my parents did long ago. We are Here, became for me, a series of windows which nourish my life here and now.

Organization. The volume is attractively organized under two headings: Part 1. Featured and Guest Poets; Part 2. Poets Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga. Contributor’s names appear in all-caps followed by their poems on successive pages. With some 80 participating poets, the designers have done a masterful job of pagination for optimal aesthetic appeal. At the end, each contributor is featured with an interesting biographical sketch.

Craftsmanship. If the pure love of poetry is your thing, We Are Here, will not disappoint. The Village Poets use virtually every poetic device in their well-stocked toolkits: end-rhyme, alliteration, assonance, consonance, prose poems, wild and exciting indentations such as Peggy Dobreer’s “Exquisite Harmonics.” There are metaphorical connections, which had me smiling with Ah! Ha! moments all the way through. In addition, I was impressed with both the complexity of some creations as well as many poems which featured simplicity on the page. Bill Cushing gets a lot done with his poem:


Slowly circling,

the pelican

drops like a stone

into water.

Then climbing the

air, he stops, and

with a single

motion of wings,

glides on the wind.

Thankful for the ride, I reluctantly dismounted!

We Are Here—Opening Windows to Life. Christopher Askew opened a window to outer and inner “place” in this excerpt from “There Is a Place”: 

there is a place

where sun and wind collide

with towering fortresses of rock and cloud

where time and rivers flowing

carve in ruddy plans deep spaces

vast and clear

in one such deep a hollow curves

a dimple in the palm of God

Humor is a delightful window opened by Beth Baird in “Ode to a Temporary Relationship”:

You documented my existence

We took photos capturing moments

From our 753 days together 

For this and more, I THANK YOU!!

But now you lie in state

I felt your energy slipping away

You could not hold your charge any longer

The poem goes on to reveal the poem’s true subject . . . don’t miss out on this one!

Benjamin Chambers Brown, “Poppies, Antelope Valley,” before 1942 
Photo via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain.

An impressive range of subject-matter and depth of thought are revealed by interesting titles: Madeleine Swift Butcher’s “What She Cries,” treats the very personal theme of parental disappointment, Butcher, “carries her mother on her back.” Educator, Don Kingfisher Campbell’s poem “Showing a DVD on the Galapagos to a Ninth Grade Class,” is irresistible in its showcasing of diffident students. Jerry Garcia invited me along, “While Walking the Dog Last Evening.” You won’t believe where this poem takes you. Another title, “The Magic of Mom,” held me at gunpoint:

Oh, MOM, your name’s a palindrome;

it’s letters they form that.

It reads MOM going to the right.

From left? It reads MOM back!

Dependable that MOM word is,

in quality so true.

The YOU we always do count on,

Today, you get your due!

Three hundred sixty-five the days,

just one we celebrate.

We ought to celebrate you more;

perhaps a weekly fete?

A magic MOM in ambigram,

so please, do take a bow!

For even more– –just flip that name,

And MOM turns into WOW! 

In each of these poems and many more, I came because of the title; I stayed because of the content.

Windows opened by the Poets Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga. First off, I was struck by the interesting history of former and current poets-laureate. This section features photos, brief biographies, and selected poems by each. Marlene Hitt’s “Arrival,” displays tender pathos as she anticipates the return home of her first-born son. “I will open my arms / to you, my firstborn child / so long traveling.” Katerina Canyon’s “Feet,” is a riveting poem that took me to places, times, and memories that surprised me all the way through. Wherever I looked among these poems, the windows I opened never failed to nourish my life-sensibilities, adding to my life the fresh air of love and wisdom. Maja Trochimczyk’s “What I Love in Sunland,” provides ample proof:

1. The strong arms of the mountains

        embracing, protecting our town

2. The lights scattered in the night valley

       during my drive to the safety of home

3. How clouds sit on the hilltops

       squishing them with their fat bottoms

4. The river playing hide-and-go-seek under the bridge

       to nowhere: “now you see me—now you don’t”

5. The towering white glory of yucca flowers in June—

       we are Lilliputians in the giants’ country

6. The Mockingbird’s melodies floating above

       red-roofed houses asleep on little sunny streets

7. Armenian fruit tarts sweeter than fresh grapefruit

       and pomegranate from my trees

8. Hot, shimmering air, scented with safe and star jasmine,

        carved by the hummingbird’s wings

9. The rainbow of roses, always blooming

        in my secret garden

It is little wonder that the Village Poets have served their community and the larger world of letters with singular distinction.

~ Michael Escoubas

Desert Gold, Palm Springs  by Anna Althea Hills  (1882-1930) 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Village Poets Present "Blue and the Blues" Anthology and the California Quarterly 47:2, August 22, 2021

California State Poetry Society informs its members and poetry lovers about a reading organized jointly with the Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga. We are thrilled to present a wonderful anthology edited by Carole Boyce, Blue and the Blues on Sunday, August 22, 2021 at 4:30 pm via Zoom. The reading will also present poems published in the California Quarterly 47:2, Summer 2021 edited by Maja Trochimczyk.  Email or to receive the Zoom link to the reading. Two segments of open mic poetry available. Typically we hear two poems from each poet. 

Listen in to the Pisces Publishing anthology, Blue & The Blues on August 22 at 4:30.

You will experience BLUE in all its glory as poets explore the literal color blue, the emotion of feeling blue and the genre of blues music. Within each phase, each poet has a very different spin on the subject. This is a unique collection and after listening, you may have a new favorite color! 

Carole Boyce


"What a Concept! Blue would be more than pleased about this tribute to her essence. This unique anthology brings poets together to glorify the color blue, to write about the emotion of feeling blue and to pay tribute to the genre of blues music. Hues, moods and music; this collection is as varied as poetry can be with a broad spectrum of interpretations, both literal and figurative on each section. The book demonstrates the range and complexity of the creative mind.  The author of More Than A Color makes clear to the reader that the actual pigment is viewed as a safety net; a source of comfort and strength, available as needed. In Blue, she says “there’s a shade for every person” and lists some blue colors and emphasizes in the final lines: “I live blue. I speak blue. It’s a language you know. I love blue.”

From a review by  Adrianne Lawson-Pope  published in the Poetry Letter No. 1, 2021.

More Than A Color

Can you see it?

Do you feel it?

Can you hear its call?

Listen, open up, welcome it

Blue is present

And it presents itself to you; for you

To use as needed

Let it envelop you

Blue song to soothe you

Blue walls to surround and protect you

Blue blanket to warm you

Blue skies to cheer and comfort you

If you find yourself at the brink of collapse

Grab onto Blue

It will bolster you and sustain you

Because Blue is not just a color

It’s music, a mood, a heartbeat

It offers an atmosphere that allows you to choose

Whatever sustenance you need

Its many hues can handle any request

No need to leave the spectrum

Blue satisfies it all

(c) 2021 by Lynn Brown

California Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 2, Summer 2021
Cover art: Susan Dobay, "Butterfly"

More about this volume on

Maja Trochimczyk

Editor’s Note

Mother – the same word in many languages, the first syllable of a baby, the easiest to pronounce: matr. मातृ (Sanskrit),মা Mā (Bangla), मां maan (Hindi),  ਮਾਂ Māṁ (Punjabi), அம்மா Am'mā (Tamil), mater (Latin), mutter (German), màthair (Scottish), móðir (Icelandic), moeder (Dutch), madre (Italian, Spanish), motina (Lithuanian), mère (French), мајко (Serbian), майка (Bulgarian), mãe (Portuguese), แม่, mæ̀ (Thai), mẹ (Viet-namese). It is мама in Russian, mama in Polish, Romanian, Swahili, and umama in Zulu. Most of these languages are Indo-European, but even the Chinese are not free of the omnipresent “mm” in 母親 Mǔqīn, or 媽媽 Māmā. We have one translation from Chinese in this issue, by Yun Wang, and another one, from Italian, by our indefatigable Margaret Saine. People who speak multiple languages gain insights into multiple cultures and are really blessed. They are able to recognize the essential human unity in the delightful diversity of nations and cultures. 

While editing the CQ, I like finding shared themes among submissions that bind poems with a common thread. This time, I found mothers, daughters, the joy and loss of childhood, but also solitude, pain, resilience, the Earth, Gaia – our Mother, teeming with life… and the wings of a butterfly, that came out of a humble, hungry caterpillar crawling in the dirt. A lovely butterfly graces our cover in a joyous image by Hungarian-American painter Susan Dobay (b. 1937). Back in 1956, she escaped from Hungary after the Soviet crackdown on the nation longing for its freedom. As long as communist repressions, violence and wars continue, refugees will stream out of lands of totalitarian oppression, searching for countries of peace and freedom. Are any such countries left on this planet? Is there anywhere to escape to? Our escape, as poets, has always been internal: the world of poetry and imagination. The world created by our words, our visions that have become a shared reality in the California Quarterly 47, No. 2. Enjoy!

Maja Trochimczyk, Ph.D.


                                waves of the Pacific 
 jade, turquoise, aqua

sea foam                 in the air                
                sea foam             on my skin

I dance on the currents 
       floating with the relentless motion
          to the shore 
                          to the shore
                                             to the shore

sea foam            on my skin
           sea foam                     in the air

Aphrodite comes up from the ocean
               carried on a dazzling shell by dolphins  
                                                      the wisest of creatures

fizzy bubbles on my tongue – 
                        I swim in the champagne ocean

Salt of the Sol – sunshine of vitality
                                   I praise the elemental power of Water –                                                   
Air – Wind – Earth – Fire
                                     always Fire – ogień, Agni

eternal flames stir the waves 
          into dancing 
                    to the shore 
                             to the shore 

                                        on and on
                                 to the shore
                                                              to the shore
                                                                          to the shore

(c) 2020 by Maja Trochimczyk
Published in "Blue and the Blues" anthology edited by Carole Boyce


Mason Bees

 by Maja Trochimczyk

I share my roses with the mason bees –

Iceberg leaves they like the best, cutting

circles and ellipses from the edge, inwards.


Iceberg roses, not iceberg lettuce, mind you,

that’s far too crunchy to make soft beds, wrapping

bee babies in green, white or pink silkiness,


smooth and pliable like we ought to be, smiling

under the merciless gale of time, raging river

flowing backwards, always backwards.


I used to get angry looking at my mutilated

roses – white blossoms, a defense against evil

guarding my front door like bee soldiers in the hive


ready to sacrifice their lives – just one sting

and the miniature fuzzy warrior’s gone – having

lived just to protect and serve us, the worker bees,  


buzzing around our lives, cutting circles and

ellipses in white roses. Bees and humans, we are

all children of the Queen Bee, Gaia, our Mother.


We make honey of our kindness, virtues, character

wisdom, self-reliance. Attentive, focused on the next

perfect circle, semicircle or ellipsis – we breathe deeply,


delight in drinking nectar, carrying pollen of emotions,

sights, impressions – flying back home to make the sweetest

gold, translucent honey of our poems, of our dreams.

(c) 2021 by Maja Trochimczyk

Published in the California Quarterly vol. 47 no. 2, Summer 2021

Pacific Ocean and Iceberg Rose photos by Maja Trochimczyk 

Friday, July 30, 2021

CSPS Monthly Contests Winners, January - June 2021

Congratulations to all the winners of our Monthly Poetry Contests in the first six months of 2021. The prize-winning poems, selected by our Annual Contest Judge, Alice Pero, are posted below. 

The second half of the year will have the poems posted in January 2022. All Monthly Contest Winners will also be listed in the California Quarterly 48:1, Spring 2022, in the Newsbriefs section. All prize-winning poems published in the Poetry Letter No. 1, 2022, Spring 2022.

January 2021 - First Prize Winner


by Emory D. Jones

Bent grasses hint

at the passing of unseen winds

and spirits.

Spires of black spruce,

 rise out of moss

and point skyward,

their broken branches draped

with a haunting thin gauze

of lichens.

Poisonous red capped mushrooms stand

like miniature tables and chairs—

fungus furniture

that some secret night

might have hosted

the “little people”

so important in the folklore

of the native Ojibwa.

Something spiritual lives here,

something dark

something old.

January 2021 - Second Prize Winner

The Summer of Fire

by Marlene Hitt

... only a few clear days to see mountains

that summer of smoke. 

It blew north to south, west to east,

then due westward with a thick canopy

veiling the sky.

That one morning, dawn sun

rose red as a bloody yolk

fiery as those flames 

that devour ridges and ranges

licking them clear of chaparral.

That sun spread orange on the sheets

where we lay while orange flames

covered thickets and nests.


You have such a terrible craving

reducing cedar and pine to

blackened stumps, sumac to ash.

We pray for rain to bear you downhill

to melt the rage of you.

This morning in the orange light

air is pungent;

the smell of black brush,

the fear of live creatures.

After the night of fire 

I do not fret over the smell of

last night's onions

nor do I light a bathroom candle

but gaze out to yellow-grey,

watch the mountains disappear. 

January 2021 - Third Prize Winner

The Coming Snow

by David Anderson

The lone buffalo grazes

            ninety feet away

                        from a single giant pine.

This landscape hangs


                        by the haze of a coming storm.

Coated with ice

            the buffalo

                        continues to bite

the short grass

            we cannot see

                    under the shifting layer of slush.

Spare winter feed belies

            the flourishing tree

                        which, like the buffalo,

stands alone

            and catches the diamonds

                        of the oncoming snow.

February 2021 - First Prize Winner


by Claire J. Baker

                  I learn by going where I have to go.

                                       ~ Theodore Roethke

My love & I are a blink

in time's polished mirror

a tinkling of bells

a sprinkling of savvy

filled with drama, trauma

& triumph.

In the center of our story 

we gather anise

& rosemary for soup. 

After reading The Waking

we realize we read

each other easily. 


we will love forever,

clinking glasses 

surely makes it so,

& so for now

we gloriously come and go.

March 2021 - First Prize Winner

Just One Thing—

by Julia Park Tracey

Between two trees, a pretty 

patch of light like sun on water, firelight on walls—

like rain against the window, where every gleam’s

a jewel—

Mica in concrete. Ice crystals. My

wedding band with a diamond for each child.

William Carlos Williams’ broken glass

and Lucy in the sky, all shining with that

unbearable beauty, the only thing

that keeps my two feet moving when I should otherwise 

collapse. A sparkle so bright it 

waters my eyes. A light so delicate and sharp

like the first breath on a January morning.

Strange that’s all it takes some days to endure.

So little. So much.

April 2021 - First Prize Winner

Aboriginal Americans

by Colorado Smith

A windblown iris-blue sky,

flint chips and black-on-white shards

are peppered among red-rock spires

where, centuries of centuries ago,

yucca-fiber sandals pressed braided tracks

into this barren barranca

leading down to a sulfur spring.

Summer monsoon mud

and smoldering sun seared their trace

into castellated Cañyon del Muerto

in the Dragoon Mountains.

A fevered history and sacred legends

from the People’s Chantways

speak of spiritual geography:

ancestral burial cists,

shamanic blessings;

of salt-pilgrimages to the Sea of Cortez,

of crossing windswept sands

and silver playas;

of parched, desert dreams:

mesquite-bean mortars,

palo verde,

and Sages.

April 2021 - Second Prize Winner

Plein Air, Oxford

by Teresa Bullock

There. Near the pinking apples

stands a giant chestnut shading the yard.

On the ancient wall crusty with lichen,

a resting cat sits sentry. Plush gray,

a boat cat by trade, he stops by

for a lap of milk and tummy rub

before padding  home

 to his long boat on the Isis.

Downy cygnets paddle around his boat,

bobbing and weaving for slick grasses.

Sculls swoosh by like needlefish.

Look again. Up river

 a cow herd cools under

long lashes of willow. Port Meadow

glows golden in the late sun. The palette:

Mud Brown, Tree-Canopy Green, Sky Water Blue,

Shadow Black. For the cows -

quick strokes in white and rust.

April 2021 - Third Prize Winner

Praxilla's Folly

by Ruth Berman

Sicya — a fruit like the cucumber

Or the gourd

Eaten ripe.

In Cucumber Town

In Sicyon near Corinth

Praxilla mourned Adonis in the spring.

Her Adonis, sprouting in the garden,

Spoke of what he missed,

Being dead:




     Ripe cucumbers



Silly as Praxilla's Adonis!"

Men in other

Cities hooted

Shocked that an idiot woman dared

Put cucumbers on a par

With the celestial glories

In Cucumber Town


Ate fresh salad

Her bite of immortality


With earth-born flavors.

In the land of death, Adonis

Waiting for the spring

Remembers sunlight on the garden.

May 2021 - First Prize Winner

Is that a Bird? 

by Luise Kantro

Well, Joan Miro.

I don’t get it.

A moon.  A star.

Five, maybe six, wacky, tilted heads.

I see no birds.

Crazy gymnasts, birds are.

The air.  The cloudless sky.

That weightless sensation.

Really, I see no birds.

Why call your painting

Women and Bird in the Moonlight?

As for the heads –  

mere faces with eyes

nose and mouth. 

Are they the women?

Where are the boobs

the painted nails

the wombs?

The shapes part I get.

Round, pointed, curved.

Shapes are cool.

      Oh my, is that thing a bird?

And those colors, orange and gray.

I can almost feel sun’s warmth touch my skin, 

loamy earth crumble in my fingers.

Best of all, through memory’s eye,

I see the marvelous drawing my son,

at five, made of a child sitting at a table

watching his orange juice fly across the room.

May 2021 - Second Prize Winner

Mending its Own Business

Elaine Westheimer

Mending Its Own Business

Slick, midnight black, big as Poe’s 

imagination, bird claws wood

where leafy tears flutter like 

green crystals under a jay-blue sky.

Seems nothing like a writing desk* 

as I spy its folded span amid tree 

sway and sprawl, a warrior hunter 

alert for prey and insurrection.

Beak snaps off a sizeable twig, 

I guess for a nest, and then takes

flight; my wild-thing thoughts 

turn to domesticated musings.


 *Why is a raven like a writing desk?" 

is a riddle proposed by the Mad Hatter 

during a tea party in Lewis Carroll's classic 

1865 novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  

May 2021 - Third Prize Winner

The House Knows 

by Elizabeth Kuelbs

The house knows this baby’s zipping her bags 

bound for some wild place riddled with termites 

or leaks or views of cracked bricks. 

All the babies are the house’s favorite 

so she sings remember like a circus at the end of the world 

tumbling lavender Easter eggs from under the sofa, 

sunshining the floor with golden nap patches, 

percussing the stairs with ghosts of first steps and high heels, 

breathing fresh sourdough and butter from the kitchen, 

cajoling flocks of orioles to trill in the backyard poplars, 

and plinking scraped knees and triumph on the worn piano. 

But this baby, bound for some wild place, 

just kisses the front door, then rolls her bags down the walk 

where the weeping cherries froth blossoms at her nonstop 

and the grass greens so hard, stretching pluckily skyward—  

you hear me, baby? the house calls,

you stretch skyward always, 

lawnmowers or no damn lawnmowers

June 2021 -  First Prize Winner

The Ghost in the Restaurant 

by Gail White

If I'm not fit for heaven, let me haunt 

Venice, I prayed. And now I have a front 

Row seat at Florian's, facing St. Mark's square, 

To start again my oldest love affair. 

It's true the waiter never comes to take 

My order - understandable mistake 

Since I'm not visible - so what's the use 

Of showering the servants with abuse? 

People sit down around me. I don't care­

Catching the pageant from my vacant chair, 

I see the paving stones grow bright with rain, 

The pigeons cluck and stutter, twilights wane 

To starry nights. I watch, while thanking God,

God, the changing lights that turn St. Mark's facade

from gray-green stone into a sheet of gold. 

Don't sit down suddenly. You'll feel the cold. 

Southern California photos by Maja Trochimczyk: Venice Beach, Hermosa Beach, Big Tujunga Wash

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

New Book by Elizabeth Yahn Williams, Dr. Edith Jonsson-Devillers, and California Quarterly 47:1 edited by Bory Thach on July 25, 2021, 4:30pm Zoom

For its July Monthly Reading on Zoom, the Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga present a new book by Elizabeth Yahn Williams, Flourishing - Florescence,  including her poetry published with French translations by Dr. Edith Jonsson-Devillers. The reading will also feature poetry from the California Quarterly 47 no. 1, Spring 2021, edited by Bory Thach and published by the California State Poetry Society.  

The Monthly Reading will take place on Zoom, on Sunday, July 25, 2021 at 4:30 pm. will forward you the invitation, when requested.

Elizabeth Yahn Williams flourishes as a poet-playwright, educator, speaker, and emcee. A native Ohioan, she has earned grants for studies in several states and foreign countries. Through a Ford Foundation grant at UCLA, she became a California Lifetime credentialed English educator and was named a “most distinguished honorary lifetime member” of the Phi Theta Kappa Chapter at MiraCosta Community College in San Diego for mentoring their honor students.  A graduate of Loyola Law School,  Elizabeth is recognized as a Marquis WHO’S WHO Lifetime Achiever in law and writing. She has enjoyed an imaginative life, from directing in her community’s theatres to teaching creative problem-solving and poetry at  libraries, colleges, and churches. Often performing with Bob Lundy, her Partner-in-Rhyme, she can be reached at and seen on their site:

Dr. Edith Jonsson-Devillers taught as a professor of French and Spanish at U.C. and other universities in the U.S. and Europe. She first came to this country on a Fulbright fellowship and eventually founded and ran her own language school and translation company. As a scholar in Comparative Literature, she wrote or translated and published many works in French, English, and Spanish. Her poetic translations include works by Mexico’s Octavio Paz and Guadeloupe’s French poet, St-John Perse, both Nobel prize winners. Her expansive interests have led her to translate Latin America’s Helena Araújo and Nela Rio, as well as works of Indian mystics.

Flourishing – Florescence by Elizabeth Yahn Williams with Art by Marion Wong and French Translation by Edith Jonsson-Devillers. Guidelights Productions, 2020. 130 pages. ISBN 978-0-9967170-4-5

About this book: "Poet and California State Poetry Society member Elizabeth Yahn Williams is premiering her new bilingual collection, written in English and French in collaboration with  her gifted translator Dr. Edith Jonsson-Devillers.  A display of the mastery of free verse and rhyme, Flourishing – Florescence includes evocative haiku and senryu, along with other poetic forms. Here, Elizabeth Yahn Williams investigates the many ways that life, enhanced by poetry, encourages each of us to FLOURISH. Whether, as a reader, you are looking for inspiration or for motivation, one or more of her offerings will speak to you in words both lyrical and stimulating. With vivid imagery Elizabeth creates poignant vignettes that will relate to your own life in unexpected ways. You will find humor in the rhymes of “Perusing the Parrot,” pathos in “Grand Piano,” and a mix of emotions from haiku that capture, with brevity, illusions of time and space. With haunting and vivid language, Williams  has a gift for choosing the right word for the right place."

(from a review by Kathy Lund Derengowski, published in CSPS Poetry Letter No. 2, 2021, reprinted on the CSPS blog.

Chagall, "Peace" - stained glass at the United Nations, 1964

 Marc Chagall: One Man Opera

Chagall recalls history in rainbow-filled hues.

Above lovers’ heads, angels fly with acclaim.

His art reveals levels of multiple views.

To Homeland Russia he repays his dues.

Its churches and temples he paints into fame.

Chagall recalls history in rainbow-filled hues.

His fables, myths, scriptures, and circus revues

show farmlands and towns from where he came.

His art reveals levels of multiple views.

Always his brides are veiled in virtues

and, bearing Godivas, his burros are tame.

Chagall recalls history in rainbow-filled hues.

His acrobat-cocks wear little soft shoes

while tap dancing fiddlers invoke La Fontaine.

His art reveals levels of multiple views.

His works for great cities often début

in etchings, ceramics, and glass that is stained.

Chagall recalls history in rainbow-filled hues.

His art reveals levels of multiple views.

 Marc Chagall, l'opéra d'un seul homme 

Chagall rappelle une histoire aux couleurs d'arc-en-ciel.

Des anges volètent autour de la tête de ceux qui s'aiment.

Son art révèle les facettes d'un multiple regard.

Il rend un hommage légitime à sa Russie natale,

et rend célèbre ses églises et ses temples.

Chagall rappelle une histoire au couleurs d'arc-en-ciel.

Ses fables, ses mythes, ses sculptures, ses critiques de spectacles

représentent les terroirs et les villes natales.

Son art révèle les facettes d'un multiple regard.

Ses nouvelles mariées sont toujours voilées de vertus

et ses ânes porteurs de Godivas sont très doux.

Chagall rappelle une histoire au couleurs d'arc-en-ciel.

Ses coqs acrobatiques portent de petits chaussons

tandis que des violonistes faiseurs de claquettes invoquent La Fontaine.

Son art révèle les facettes d'un multiple regard.

Ses oeuvres pour grandes villes souvant débutent

par ses gravures, sa céramique, ses vitraux.

Chagall rappelle une histoire aux couleurs d'arc-en-ciel.

Son art révèle les facettes d'un multiple regard.

California Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Spring 2021)
Cover Art: Harmony (ink and watercolor on paper, 11 by 15 inches) 
by Sylvia Van Nooten, Montrose, Colorado

Editor’s Note

Being a new member of CSPS I find that this is a learning experience for me. Maja Trochimczyk calls poetry a “cure for chaos” and I agree with her.  Many times we go through periods of difficulty and sadness, but it is important to remember that these dark times will eventually pass by like the seasons. With winter comes spring. The universe has a way of balancing itself out in the end. I, for one, have to remind myself constantly how lucky it is to be alive and every day is a new day to see the world differently. From the mundane to the extraordinary, each experience that we find ourselves learning whether it be through obstacles at work like in Richard Matta’s “Another Play Day” where he wishes that he could be a kid again, or the act of simply giving a little boy a bath before bed in “The Completeness” by Alice Pero, an insight into childhood innocence. The joy we find in our daily activities allows us to overcome grief with a brighter outlook when disaster strikes. It is a reminder to never give up hope no matter how difficult the loss. Therefore, nothing should be taken for granted not even our struggles. For the obstacles we defeat and the fears that die away become our strength, teaching us more about ourselves than any college or university.

After wildfires we can learn “To Plant A Tree” as a gift, to “put down roots” and “stand our ground” the way Miriam Aroner does because this is how the world grows anew. Mother Earth has a way of healing herself. Animals possess sacred knowledge in their simplicity, knowing what they know we too may survive the ravages of time. To live in the moment, that is true enlightenment through mindfulness. Claire Scott captures this in her poem “Cedar Waxwings” where hundreds of them are observed landing in the backyard. She describes watching the “show from the window, a kaleidoscope of colors, sound and motion.” Even after they have flown away, she continues to stare at the empty Privet tree in silent serenity. A journey of self-discovery, chaos and turmoil threaten us, but the wisdom of the ancients survive throughout the ages.  We live and learn from personal experiences.  What better way to discover one’s true self than to go through failure and heartbreak, reaching our breaking point and knowing that we can continue on further. I hope that you will also find these poems enjoyable and insightful to the soul.

Bory Thach
San Bernardino, California

Contents of the journal with the list of poets/poems is found on California State Poetry Society blog:

Bory Thach was born in a refugee camp located on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. His family immigrated to the United States when he was four years old. He served in the U.S. Army and deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has an MFA from California State University San Bernardino. Fiction and creative nonfiction fall under the art of storytelling, while poetry for him is more of a study of language, an art form in itself. His work appeared or is forthcoming in: Pacific Review, Urban Ivy, Arteidolia, Sand Canyon Review and We Are Here: Village Poets Anthology. He recently completed a book of poetry dialogues with Cindy Rinne, Letters under Rock (2019) that has been presented as a quasi-theatrical performance in art galleries and museums in Southern California. He joined the Editorial Board in July 2020 and started his duties from volume 47 no. 1 of the California Quarterly.

Photos of Yucca Whipplei in Big Tujunga Wash (c) 2021 by Maja Trochimczyk 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy Independence Day 2021 to All Poets and Poetry Lovers!

 Happy Independence Day!

We call it the "4th of July" but it really is Independence Day. A celebration of freedom, joy and truth. A holiday of individual and national sovereignty, a celebration of human rights. . . As an immigrant from Poland living in America, I enjoy the freedoms that we lacked in the past in the Polish People’s Republic (PRL) with a puppet government controlled by communists in Moscow – freedom of speech, faith, assembly, the right to build your own life, pursue your own happiness, create your own companies, publish your own ideas...

Our founders, the Founding Fathers, won these freedoms in the American Revolution, in which Polish heroes – Tadeusz Kościuszko and Kazimierz Pulaski – also took part. The model of the American republic inspired Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, who came to America as Kościuszko's secretary in 1796, straight from a Russian prison, released by the Tsar after two years behind bars, after the fall of the Kosciuszko Insurrection. They liked equality, having no aristocracy, living in a country of everyone's hard work. They didn't like slavery. Kosciuszko even designated his estate to buy out slaves and grant them freedom. Poet, historian, politician, teacher of the nation, Niemcewicz decided to take the American model as an example for the patriotic education of the nation after the fall of the country and its partitions. Out of this idea emerged the Historic Chants, describing the history of Poland's national heroes, with music and illustrations.  During 123 years when Poland was erased from the map of Europe by its neighbors, Russia, Prussia and Austria, the poetry of Niemcewicz remained in the homes, was read and sang in families, continuing the great national traditions of shared history and culture. 

Poetry has long played an important role in the definition of the nation. There are many poems praising the beauty of America, of our country. Among my favorites is "America the Beautiful" with a lovely flowing melody. I printed it on cards I gave out along with my poems during the Independence Day Parades where poets rode in a convertible, and celebrated the national holiday with the whole neighborhood. Half of the town was in the parade, the other half was cheering from the sidelines... Alas the city of Los Angeles refused to allow the parade this year. It would not have looked so festive, anyway, if half of the participants would have dressed up as masked bandits... 

We have plenty to celebrate and be joyous about. All the best wishes to all poets and poetry lovers on the occasion of Independence Day!

Dr Maja Trochimczyk, President

                   INDEPENDENCE DAY

                   Red - are the rocks of the Grand Canyon
                      White - are the mountains, shining with snow
                          Blue - are the waves of Pacific Ocean

                                 Red, White and Blue - colors of all.  

                                    Red - is the Earth from which we come
                                       White - is the Air that fills our lungs 
                                          Blue - is the Water inside us, with Stardust

                                             Red, White and Blue - connected in all. 

                                                Red - is pure Love, deep in our hearts
                                                   White - is the Brightness of our clear minds
                                                       Blue - is the Peace of well-lived lives

                                                           Red, White and Blue - freedom for all.