Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Book Reviews from the Poetry Letter No. 2, 2021 - Poetry by Williams, Day, Wilson, & Mickiewicz

Masodik 39, digital integration image by Susan Dobay

The following four book reviews have been published in CSPS "Poetry Letter" no. 2, 2021. 

Book Review by Alice Pero: Birds of San Pancho by Lucille Lang Day

Lucille Lang Day, Birds of San Pancho and Other Poems of Place. Blue Lights Press, November 2020, 126 pages. Paperback, ISBN 978-1421836645

Lucille Lang Day takes us on a journey around the world in Birds of San Pancho and Other Poems of Place. Starting in Mexico we are immersed in the colors of jacaranda and roses; we sit on a red tile floor and feel green. Day is a master of sense; perceptions float through her and then on to us, the readers. We are challenged by her knowledge of birds and stay with our fingers alert to Google: “kiskadee,” “cacique”, “chachalacas,” all chosen for sounds and the colors that move in and out of her poems like music. 

The poet wanders through Central America and as far as the Galápagos before leaping across the pond to Europe. We dine with her in Greece, float on the Aegean, feel the dry air and get dizzy looking over the cliffs at distant villages. The modern and ancient merge as the poet weaves her personal narrative in with that of the gods.

“I order baklava to share with my husband, age

seventy-six, who waits, neither sick nor well,

back in our hotel room, and I complain

to the moon that even the gods are fleeting,

but I like that story. The tree. The goddess

who holds her own against the sea.”

We arrive in France, visit Monet’s “Water Lilies,” “Vincent’s Bedroom in Arles.” The poet has “entered the painting/to stand on the Japanese bridge/framed by bamboo” and so have we, personally involved as if we were reading a novel awash with colors and sensations. “Irises are out/in white and purple ruffles… Poppies swish red skirts/like flamenco dancers.”  In Arles we are in Vincent’s bedroom, imagining the artist going “mad dreaming of sunflowers.”  Again the poet’s own life intertwines with place as she describes trying not to panic when her husband drove away in Sarlat, France, inexplicitly not coming back for hours. We go through prehistoric caves, mourn the death ten-thousand-year child. In Belgium we find Pygmalion. Again art melds with the present reality in a way that never jars.

“A plant sprouts from her head; a flower

floats before her. She is abundance,

a garden. A man in a black hat and coat

hurries by the way men do, doesn’t notice”

We glide through Spain, stopping to view paintings and eat small green olive s.“The Lark’s Wing, Encircles with Golden Blue, Rejoins the Heart of the Poppy Sleeping on the Diamond-Studded Meadow  After a painting at Funació Joan Miro, Barcelona” is only a title, but is a poem in itself. This poem is tight and rhythmic and resonates with beautiful images. “The lark’s wing: a black oval/floating, buoyed by/a patch of blue sky/small as an inner tube/in the sun’s yellow pool.” European voyages, having also visited Belgium and Amsterdam, end in Italy where “White chrysanthemums/bloom on the broken/terrace painted by the bed.”

Part II “Between the Two Shining Seas” no less eloquently sings us through the USA. “Names of the States” is a resounding validation of the Native American roots of our great country: The poet lists the 29 state names that have Indian derivations. As these poems weave through our own country, the love of family, loves and losses come more into them. Yet the power of the natural world permeates throughout. Lucille Lang Day is a wonderful poet who brings shivers of amazement. Her reverence for all that is living and that which has passed away makes us feel more alive.

“I am redwoods and rain,

stomata like green lips opening

for a kiss on the underside of leaves,

a leopard leaping high as a house,

it fur glowing with black-gold roses.”

~ Alice Pero, Los Angeles, California

Book Review by Kathy Lundy Derengowski: 

Flourishing - Florescence by Elizabeth Yahn Williams

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

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. Opening with Flourishing’s backstory:

in mid-winter’s snow

birds eat berries, groundhogs dream

all await spring

Williams and Wong reveal Phoenix Preflight paired with:

from paucity

fresh visions for an era

arise with phoenix

Time comes for this parallel reader’s mascot, Rare Bird, to announce: 

“Victoire, le temps est venu!”

Spring has blossomed, buds appear,

Life renews, the future’s here.

It is also time to enjoy one’s special secrets that may arrive at dawn as in “I Have Loved Mornings.” …And mornings seem to be a favorite theme throughout the year, whether written in Santa Fe at Easter: 

poppies bedeck hills

golden at sunrise

Easter morning

or at the poet’s Oceanside home in Yuletide:

dawn’s rose light softens

fronds that fringe valley’s cradle

Oceanside Christmas

Her senryu on “Mornings at Oceanside Harbor” lead to another frequent theme of water —whether at a dock or on a river where the author contemplates life’s changes in “Celebrating Mid Century” as she writes from a paddleboat

in the wake of years

of white-capped currents;

and, as the stack’s steam dissipates,

our concerns do, too.

Changes occur in relationships, too, as one sees in “Watching the Water” and “My Reign in Spain”:

He’s giving up his hike today

to meet my plane.

I’ve been away

and, perhaps, missed?

But, as children may observe, it seems some familial relationships never change, as the poet’s dad displays in “Sundays Are for Preying.” (Williams had to keep this fruit-filled petit theft secret until her family had safely moved from Fresno’s Fig Garden, CA, back to their hometown of Columbus, Ohio.) When asked about a favorite poem, she frequently quotes the following, as she loves Dr. Edith’s alliterative translation as well:

finely feathered fog

fluffs away from croaking frog

 morning is broken


brouillard bigrement brouillé

un batracien bigarré se balade

aube brisée 

Williams comments that she especially enjoyed writing to Wong’s Birth of a Sea Princess who backs into adulthood. As to other art besides mascot, Rare Bird, she’s especially fond of Treasure Eddy and Fan  Flair. Also, the author values Marion’s inclusion of her peaceful symbol, Bird with Sprig. It would appear that “winged things” are a theme as well. In fact, a flip through the index of illustrations reveals that one has such a title.

Enhanced by the art and illustration of Marion Wong, as well as the French translations by Doctor Edith, this collection appeals on multiple levels. Returning to pages to recapture an insight,  you will want to rediscover a turn of phrase, or the hint of a memory from this skilled and acclaimed  trio whose idyllic renditions will remain with you long after you have closed their book.

~ Kathy Lundy Derengowski, San Diego

Book Review by Toti O’Brien 

Figures of Humor and Strange Beauty by Kath Abela Wilson

Figures of Humor and Strange Beauty, by Kath Abela Wilson, Glass Lyre Press, 2019, 68 pages, paperback with illustrations. $16.00. ISBN 978-1941783566.

Figures of Humor and Strange Beauty is Kath Abela Wilson’s first full-length collection of poetry, following two chapbooks of political haikus, and a number of poetry anthologies she curated and edited. The poems forming this original and delightful book emerged “inexorably, in this exact order,” and were polished by the author for over twenty years. They describe (in eighteen variations, distinct yet intimately linked), a brief stroll the poet takes from her house to the shore, following an unvaried path, a street bordered by trees, a flight of wooden stairs. On the beach, she is attracted by stones, driftwood, flotsam that she assembles in various shapes, giving birth to strange creatures she sometimes returns to the ocean, sometimes the ocean reclaims.

Twelve drawings intersperse the poems. They are small, yet they enlarge even smaller diagrams the author sketched on her notepad as she planned her sculptures of rocks, algae, shells. Fluid shapes, spontaneous yet accurate, sometimes they are accompanied by a date, or a caption. A location, “at the ocean,” or just the word “ocean,” suggesting a topography, a map. Or else a dedication, an offering, “to the ocean.”

On her way to the sea, on the beach, or on her way back, Wilson pays attention to things. Very small ones… the imprint of a round pebble on sand. Very large… “ocean and sky, unobstructed, as far as she could see.” Beware of the poet who carefully looks, listens, breathes in the world! More seeps into her vision than what meets the eye. If she stares too closely at anything, it turns into a poem. 

There had been a week

of hot clear days 

when things had been all too visible. 

Everything was dry; 

ready to crack open,

like those pine cones

that were popping seeds

all over her doorsteps.

As she walks, as she stops, trapped within an ecstatic moment of deeper insight, her state of receptive porousness leads her to a discovery of voices, a deciphering of calligraphies made of mineral, wood, wind and water. Stones, trees, birds, clouds, waves rhythmically crashing on sand speak a tongue that becomes intelligible by the mere act of tuning, harmonizing with the micro and the macrocosm, letting herself be a diapason. Nature’s idioms, then, become poems spontaneously writing themselves in the notepad she always carries along.

Poems, or rather poem. A sole, delicate song, branching into fresh stanzas but woven with recurrent motifs, coming back to familiar choruses, such as the small stone the poet places under a red-leafed tree in “Spontaneous,” then she revisits, twice, in following poems. Oh, yes, it is still there… And her notebook has the accordion shape that so perfectly lends itself to a continuum. Once unfolded, it becomes a staircase, a road, or a rainbow. 

She had hold of its cover, 

but she saw it sway,

cloudlike, toward the sea.

It seemed almost to disappear.

Her head was full of the sound

of the rising tide, 

and she felt that she too might vanish.

So the secret voices of nature self-write, become words, a book, thanks to the poet’s openness and surrendering. What they have to say is both mysterious and luminous. They explain how creation in its whole interacts, echoes and resonates. They articulate the connections between things, places, moments, demonstrate how all moves and transforms in concert. They bring under-standing of rhythms and cycles. They bring peace.

Something else occurs, though, as the poet, during her walks and stations, deeply listens, letting her senses expand beyond the usual borders. She starts borrowing the point of view of what she is observing... She starts seeing the world through the eye of the hawk, of the heron, in the flashing light of a falling star, from “the thin curved cup of the moon.” And from those levitating, shifting, mobile perspectives, she can perceive herself. A small dot, there, on the beach, shadowed by a solitary bird. Or else, in the past, moving across the maze of her memories. She can see herself as part of the universe, niched, cradled within it, simultaneously abided, and free. 

     Immense above:

the sky, awash with stars. 

She watched until one,

                              with bold stroke, fell

               from sky to sea,   

               And in its flash—

               she saw herself

               on her rock: She was

                an illumination

                in her own book.

The refined, delicate surrealism of Figures brings to mind what Frida Kahlo used to say about her own art, “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” Although Wilson’s verse has “dreamlike precision,” “dreamlike assurance,” it truly belongs “in the dark before dream,” the liminal chamber, the hinge where threads of reality come lose and a richer tapestry is woven, intertwining the mundane with the vision. Like when, at the far end of the estuary, fresh and salt water reunite, stream and ocean converge.

~ Toti O’Brien, Pasadena, California

Book Review by Ted Smith-Orr: 

London Manuscript by Anna Maria Mickiewicz

London Manuscript, by Anna Maria Mickiewicz, 26 pages, Bristol: Poetry Space, 2014. ISBN 978-1909404182 

The volume London Manuscript by Anna Maria Mickiewicz, which was published by Poetry Space in English, is not an extensive book packed with an unnecessary number of poems only to satisfy the expectations of the publisher. The book consists of twenty-six pages, where Anna Maria shares her reflections based on poetical journeys to France, Warsaw, Lublin, Oxford, London, Arkhangelsk, and many other places. In the poem Summer in Seaford, the readers are offered very subtle expressions: “The sun sheds it’s golden drops / The sea devours them instantly”. Whereas in the poem Another Alexandra Palace Spring, she presents the readers with a panorama of the city and, laying the false trail, she ends: “We embrace”. 

Her profound insight into the English culture finds confirmation in the poem Reflected in Porcelain arguing that everything can be solved thanks to “tea only with milk”. These poems are refined and succinct, which we expect from an experienced writer. The poetess sits us comfortably between the East and the West. In her poem December the Thirteenth, she thinks of this day as a dire prediction, and she lived in Poland then: “A crumbling world order cries out for help”; “The voice of The Subversive faltered and fell [...] / another empire topples, just like that / Not even sheets of paper anymore”. 

The volume also contains a piece titled Chocolate, which could be described as multidimensional poetic prose. Based on an unfulfilled profession of love made to chocolate by a woman, the excerpt starts in the Warsaw of the 60’s, reaches America and Italy, just to go back to Warsaw at the turn of the millennium. It is rich in paradoxes: pleasure and pain, the happiness derived from waiting and the bitter taste of contemporary changes. 

Anna Maria Mickiewicz finished this period of her development as a poetess many years ago and she enriches the world of poetry generously by organizing literary events in London, editing, writing and choosing poems for publication. She accepts the challenge of translating poetry, but she is also inclined to ask Tom Wachtel to translate some of the poems. Nurturing a live memory of Poland, she simultaneously keeps discovering the United Kingdom. London Manuscript is a magnificent study written by a poetess – emigrant, living outside of her country but having a close look at new surroundings. Conscious of her past, she seems not to look back but tries to embrace the present and unknown future. The observations and associations of the poetess-foreigner from the post-dependent country are enlightening and bold. 

~ Ted Smith-Orr, London, England

Sunset, Digital Integration Image by Susan Dobay

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Poems from Poetry Letter No. 2, 2021 - Donna Emerson, Jeanine Stevens, and more...

Immersion by Susan Dobay (1994) 80”x96” 
mixed media on canvas.       

The Poetry Letter No. 2, 2021 has been emailed to members and friends of the CSPS. The PDF of this 11 page newsletter will be posted on our website Meanwhile, we will post sections on this blog, for your enjoyment. I selected paintings by Susan Dobay as illustrations. Enjoy!  


We occasionally receive submissions of poems to be included in the Poetry Letter.  These are previously published poems that the authors would like to see in print again, and the readers would enjoy. This time we received a nice package from Donna Emerson, with the following note: “I came to know CQ in 2007-8, when I had some poems accepted and then a few months later, was asked by one of the editors to send poems for what they called “Best of the Best.”  They liked those poems (chose one) so much the two editors asked me to send to the Poetry Letter and I had 2 more poems posted there.  Terry Ehret encouraged us a year or so ago in Sonoma County to consider sending poems again.”  Ms. Emerson wrote notes to each poem, as well:

1. “The Train to Bath,” published by Ibbetson Press, summer, 2008. This event happened to me as I was vacationing one summer in England. I'd stayed with my cousin at Oxford University, then took the train to Bath because Bath is the name of my grandmother's town in western New York. I wanted to see why the Bath, New York name was chosen. What an adventure. The train trip was most eventful, when I encountered the young man I later wrote about.  

2. “Wild Mercy,” published by Schuylkill Valley Journal, and then by the award winning Sixteen Rivers Press anthology, The Place That Inhabits Us, poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed, 2010.  I also added it to my chapbook Wild Mercy, published by Finishing Line Press. 2011. The poem was inspired by visiting Yosemite Valley in winter, knowing its history for many years.

3.”Vernal Sap,” published by Chicago Quarterly Review, Winter, 2020, was inspired by our family's tapping of our sugar maple trees on the family farm in Bath, New York. We tapped 15 trees to secure 40 gallons of sap, out of which came one gallon of syrup. A tradition begun by earlier generations of my mother's family, in the nineteenth century, when they used horses and a sugar shack. The maple tree is New York's state tree. 

Susan Dobay, Musicscape #4 (1995) 48"x70" mixed media on canvas

Wild Mercy

Our relentless Lady of Mercy
offers none today, makes waterfalls
from three directions across her broad
back, froth on her face,

her force carving Yosemite Valley,
rolling her rapids—Class IV and V
—in spite of Cook's cows and horses,
the railroad, sugar pine logging, dams.

I lose track of her down the thousand foot
drop to Mariposa, lost in the highway's
descent, I don't see her veer north until I feel
the prick of winter almonds near Planada.

Before I miss her roar, I'm at the neon
Modesto Knife and Saw;
she slides noiselessly under my feet
on her way to San Pablo Bay.

Like ladder rungs from Route 49, the Merced,
Tuolomne, Mokelumne and Stanislaus meet
the wide San Joaquin, pushing their lives
to the sea, long before the orchards with their

white painted trunks, before the first people,
before the people who conquered
those people, before gold, the sprawl
of Modesto, Turlock's blinding lights.
California, easy to lose, bound with rivers.  

~ Donna Emerson, Petaluma, California

Susan Dobay, Paradise One, digital integration image

The Train to Bath

In praise of the boy who
rode the train to Bath
and gazed at me ‘til Wallingford:
he sat tall and straight, his shaggy head
across from mine, higher than mine.

He was England, youth of promises, decrees,
beveled cheekbones of the Royals,
hollows where I could lay my temple.

Arching to see him go, I watched
his long back. Silence. I slumped in my seat.
Then the train whistle, the lurch,
and to my surprise, his return
with an armful of yellow roses.

He will take them to his love.
We looked. Or his mother. We smiled
at the same time, knees almost touching,
jostling along, without words.

We stopped at Bath. We glanced,
our eyes close, as I stood up.

He handed me the yellow flowers.
His smile stretched around me

for the rest of my life.

~ Donna Emerson, Petaluma, California

Susan Dobay, Musicscape 3 (1995) 48"X48", mixed media on canvas

Vernal Sap

We run with our pails to the sugar maples.
Marked last summer, when leaves were easy
to read, tree crowns high and wide.
Daughter taps the spile in place
midst several versions of ahh
as clear sap drips out.

We discover an unexpected bush of sugar maples
across the road from the original trees.
Their seedlings must have blown straight across the road,
so that nine young trees stand equidistant,
most too young yet to tap.

In a day, fifteen trees are tapped, named, embraced
for their beauty and life force, given freely to us,
as long as we protect them from harm.

As did my mother, uncles, grandparents
and great grandparents
over the last two hundred years, in these woods.  

This marks the start of Spring,
when we see water flow for the first time, under the ice
on the road.

Daughter finishes her work, hugs the tree
and names it “Eldest Granddaughter.”

The gushing older tree by the old farmhouse
we name “Grandmother.” Her bark thick,
scarred, lumpy in spots like a darned sock,
holds a frozen bit of sap where a vertical,
waist- high crevice sits.
It must have access to her heartwood.

~ Donna Emerson, Petaluma, California

Susan Dobay, From the Rooftop (1996) 48"x72" acrylic on canvas


We occasionally receive submissions to the Poetry Letter by mail, and it is a pleasure to read through a poet’s favorites; also recognized by awards given to these poems. Jeanine Stevens’s ekphrastic verse is so vivid that it creates images even without being able to see her inspiration, the photographs she writes about. "New Dehli" won First Place in the MacGuffin Poet Hunt, 2014 and was published in The MacGuffin, 2014. "Frida" won First Place in The Ekphrasis Prize, 2009, and was published in Ekphrasis, 2009. Enjoy! 

New Delhi



She is the brick wall that defines her,

the thin arms under the sari.

She is the madras pattern

of marigold orange and olive green.

She is the littered ground,

the ground scattered with bricks and refuse.

One brick is her table. She entertains

simply. There are no spoons,

only hands to mix grains and river water.

The street is her open window,

her furniture, the battered chair tipped

on its side, a cupboard of sorts for bent pans.

She is the smoke stained wall

and crouches under a large sign

in English, “Choice Shampoo.”

She is the big toe that grips the ground.

Nearby, are bits of denim,

foreign labels, and one bright, upright yellow pear.

Back straight, she does not slouch,

looks directly at the camera in a half smile.

She is the pierced diamond

carried in the side of her nose

and the red spice she holds to mix

with her evening meal. She is

the memory of golden flocks on hilly flanks,

the darkness of things being burnt,

surrounded by things already burnt.

Her only book, a book of matches,

her tablet: the wall, her pen: bits of charcoal.

She doesn’t worry if her seeds

are not planted by the spring equinox.


               ~after a photograph, National Geographic

~ Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento, California

Susan Dobay, Reclining Nude (1986) 40"x48"  acrylic on canvas

Frida in a White Dress

~a black and white photo

More beautiful than self portraits 

with monkeys and snakes, 

in pristine lace, like a 

communion dress, you are all 

purity and grace. 

The cigarette, casually 

caught in your left hand, 

the tip rosy, glowing,

seems to mock the girlish

eyelet, the puffy sleeves. 

Overlarge beads mask 

the gorget at your throat, 

reminiscent of the spiraling sun,

iridescent, like the patch of armor 

on the neck of a hummingbird.

You flick grey ash 

into the three-legged bowl, 

a replica of ancient sacrificial 

lamps, the kind now used for salsa.

Dark palms blur

against the stucco wall—

as they must 

from cradling so much light. 

~ Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento, California

Four Seasons by Susan Dobay (1995) 70”X 48” 


It is nice to see generation after generation of poets turn to verse to capture their impressions of the world they live in and co-create.  here's a brief poem by a nine-year-old poet, Sophie Rundus, sent in by her Dad.     

                Santa Clarita

                Sunny hot weather

                Wild wind whistles thru valley
                Dry high desert home

                              ~ Sophie Rundus, Santa Clarita, California

Musicscape 12  by Susan Dobay (1996),  36”x 48”
mixed media on canvas


We received a book of poems by Gail Wronsky for review, and I was not yet able to place it (raise your hand, if you would like to review it!). Meanwhile, I wrote a reflection based upon reading that book. Let me just say that I profoundly disagreed with its philosophical premises. So there it is, a polemical screed, almost a poem…

On Reading Gail Wronsky in this Universe
Your blindness is self-inflicted, oh, teacher of generations,
hobbled by erudition – the blind leading the blind –
into the abyss – I’d like to say, but, no, just into a ditch
by the wayside, right next to the straight, white, sandy road
leading due East. As in Easter, or better still, the Sun Rising.
How not to see the world as dying, shrouded in a fog of sophistry?
You simply have to stop cursing. You only have to bless it. Your words
transmute the air you breathe, crystallize in your water.
Have you ever looked at the Sun, oh, poet of a thousand metaphors,
ten thousand accolades? Have you ever listened to that quiet voice,
wordlessly singing Hosanna? The Sun is Born. The Light so Bright.
The rays so full of little hands touching, caressing, smoothing out
each particle of matter twirling in its allotted space?
Yes, I know, you have your themes – Apocalypse, aging, loss,
despair, genitalia…Yes, I know, everything has its price.
But how can you be so blind? Oh, poet of poets, the blind
leading the blind – into the abyss, I’d like to say, but, no,
into a ditch by the wayside.
The path widens. Serene sages with sky-clear eyes
shine as lucid facets of endless, rotating crystal,
the living gem of our well-ordered Cosmos –
ruby, garnet, coral, amber, topaz, jade, emerald,
turquoise, sapphire, lapis-lazuli, amethyst and diamond
light streams swirl around the pilgrims, wrap them
in auroras of the sublime. Their rainbow bodies glow
golden-white – incandescent in morning sunshine.
Each one – a spark of the Divine, dressed in quarks
of the Divine Matter, for a test of the Divine Mind,
on an artery of the Divine Heart, along the ascending
road into the Divine Presence – all are jewels in the Divine
Crown – of the Here, of the Now, of We Are –

                                ~ Maja Trochimczyk, Los Angeles, California  

Susan Dobay, Gate #12 (House of Spirits) - 1995, 30"X48" Mixed media on canvas

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Village Poets Present Nancy Cavers Dougherty, Former CSPS Editor on Sunday, 23 May 2021, 4:30 pm on Zoom

Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga are pleased to present Northern California poet, Nancy Cavers Dougherty as Featured Poet for the Monthly Poetry Reading on Zoom, held on Sunday, May 23, 2021 at 4:30 pm on Zoom. 

Please email and /or if you would like to join us and receive the Zoom link. Two segments of open mic for poets (two poems each) will also be available, before and after the featured poet. Please, provide refreshments to yourself on your own. Alas, we still have to wait for the re-opening of the Bolton Hall Museum where we could provide our poetic guests with tasty treats. 

Nancy Cavers Dougherty, whose love of the creative arts goes back to her childhood in Massachusetts, is the author of three chapbooks Tape Recorder On, Memory In Salt, Levee Town and Silk, a collaborative work. Her poetry has appeared in Westview, The Pinch, the California Quarterly, I-70 Review, descant, Compass Rose, Big Scream, The Timberline Review, West Marin Review, Quiet Diamonds of The Orchard Street Press, and other journals. 

She holds a BA in history from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in public administration from Sonoma State University. She lives in Sebastopol, California where she has been an advocate for teen counseling services in the high schools and art-making in group settings. She is the proud mother of three and grandmother of two. 

Was a Turtle

     after Was a Man by Philip Booth



parasol to sun

Whipped by spring winds

fragrant with love

and song 

blue jays and robins

Was citadel to grooving

down dirt of possibility

so what if grounded 

in scute-ness and angles

beneath Icarus shadow 

Was woman 

with tresses locked 

in turret 

of keratin 

a-moving past muck

glassy-eyed gaggle 

pond of stares 

and squawks

Dome of complacency 



The Boy and Big Foot

The fable has it—the tracks

lead way back lead through

Norwegian Woods under bright day-night sky

echo-less starless like this night 

I close the book, and tuck him in

before the muffled steps of a full-grown Big Foot

will tread into his slumber—my young boy

dreaming   his favorite cotton blankie 

clenched in mouth  the darkness

of his night reflected in window  an ant

crawls upon windowsill the Stephen Kings

await him on his parents’ bookshelves

secure among the volumes  beyond, the stories

rustle  among the eucalyptus

silver crescent of leaves stirring

his night imagination    in mighty excursions

I’d tip toe in and fold his blanket over and 

tug the one out gently, to leave by his hand

Friday, May 7, 2021

Meet Georgia Jones-Davis - CSPS Annual Contest Judge in 2021



The California State Poetry Society is delighted to present Georgia Jones-Davis, our 2021 Annual Contest Judge.  The following is an email interview with Georgia - she had a set of questions to work with and wrote a lively, coherent and fascinating narrative.  You will find her biographic note after the interview, followed by the Annual Contest Submission Guidelines. Enjoy! 


The quick answer would be that I cannot NOT write poetry, I am compelled.  A phrase might hook me.  Sometimes reading poetry suddenly suggests a thought, a feeling I must put on paper (or in the computer).  

The longer answer goes back to my college days in the 1970s. In a class on contemporary poetry, one day I was suddenly taken by a small, lyric poem —maybe three stanzas of four lines each— floating in the white space on the page. 

The words of that poem lifted me into a stratosphere of a new, mysterious emotion, almost like hunger.  The imagery beckoned toward a wordless world of shape and shadow that I suddenly knew existed between the syllables of our spoken language. The poet was speaking words that could not be expressed or even heard in everyday conversation.

 The poet was Denise Levertov.  I don’t recall the exact poem.  But that was the moment I knew what I wanted to do with my life:  fill a small portion of the white space on a page with tightly packed words expressing the unsayable with “truth and beauty.”


I do not show up to my desk on a daily basis.  I wish I did, and I had a great friend who was a novelist who wrote 1000 words five days a week, no matter what.  She admitted, though, that was poetry is a strange and elusive critter and maybe not a good candidate for such formal rigor. 

I read about three poets or books of poems at a time, nightly.  I write, two or three a week, in the mornings.  

Rumi said to pick up an instrument and play before settling down to write.  So I fiddle around a bit  (not literally), neatening or organizing my writing space, listen to birdcall or music or wind or a neighbor’s voice.  Then I reread the poems that I read in bed the night before. 

Sometimes I encounter a poem so powerful I have to literally copy it into my notebook.  The act of copying a poem by hand has a magic slowness to it, an absorption of the poem’s properties and energies.    It can be a a good way to begin to write. 

Poems seem to arrive wordlessly and quickly.  I just start writing and something comes. Or it doesn’t. Sometimes simply nothing happens and the words and the feeling go away and poetry feels like a huge mountain I’m not capable of ascending. Where do my poems come from?  I have often asked myself.  They can seem like vague little visitors from another world.

Cover of Georgia's first poetry book, Blue Poodle (Finishing Line Press)


What I most enjoy in a poem is surprise — a newly encountered image, an unexpected verb, a phrase that I don’t think I have encountered before, a point of view or narrative that is just different.   I like when the poet steps away from the spot light and lets the poem and the poem’s narrator take over.  From my years in journalism, I have to come to value succinctness and never using too many words if the words aren’t needed.  I like lyrical poetry and free verse, and I enjoy internal and slant rhyme. 

I am drawn to short lyrics and the “workshop or anthology” length poems that are no more than one or two pages long.  I love brevity. I like to be left at the end of a poem with a sensation of the mysterious power of language and its impact on our imaginations.

 I like poems that do not preach.  “We hate poetry that has a palpable design on us,” Keats phrased it something like that in his brilliant, beautiful letters that tell us so much about writing poetry. 


Yes and yes, depending on your needs.  Community, constructive editing suggestions,  making contact and friends with other poets, learning from the masters — these are the benefits of such programs.  MFAs might help a poet get a job as a creative writing teacher (so many poets are academics these days). 

 I would like to see more poets from “out in the field,” — poets who work at all kinds of jobs— from plumbers and farmers to wine-makers and Amazon staffers to school nurses …. veterans and scientists … I’d like to hear more voices from outside university English departments. 

Sometimes one’s best teacher might still be found between pages of a book— an outstanding voice from another time —Countee Cullen, Elizabeth Bishop, William Carlos Williams, Sylvia Plath.


American poetry today is a widely cast net of voices of all background and ages, men and women, straight and gay and trans, native born and immigrant — from Ocean Vuong to  Terence Hayes to Nobel Prize winner Louise Gluck.  When I pick up the Kenyon Review or Poetry magazine, I’m introduced to unknown voices with each issue.  Poetry is rocketing far ahead of my own knowledge of the contemporary field.

Cover of Georgia's second book of poetry, Night School 


The pandemic year has been a time of much house-bound quiet and I have been reading and learning about the great masters of Haiku, Basho, Issa and Buson.  I love the translations of Robert Hass and Sam Hamill. 

I grew up in New Mexico and again am living in the high country again, but spent most of my school and working years in los Angeles. 

 In Los Angeles I was reading the poems of many Angelenos I was meeting and came to discern a particular LA tone—, urban, noir, cool, Hollywood, beach-town, canyon, tough, competitive voices from many cultures all swirling in the same humongous urban pot, inspired by many similar sources but translating them in distinct ways. 

The poetry scene in Santa Fe is very different from LA.  We live at the edge of vast, dangerous wilderness, and the poetry reflects the onslaught of nature right outside one’s front door, a reminder of the earth’s geologic history,  a spirituality outside of traditional Western religious 

traditions, the verbal rings of Spanish, Tewa and Navajo languages. Poets are more forgiving of emotional vulnerability.  The natural world and its ferocity dominate.
In addition to Haiku,  I’m currently reading the work of  Native American poets such as U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo, M. Scott Momaday, Luci Tapahonso;  also 2020 National Book Award winner and Santa Fe poet, Arthur Sze.


… I would have become adept enough at a foreign language to read it and understand its subtly, humor and cultural references so well I could translate poetry from that language.  W.S. Merwin pointed out how useful a tool translation is in learning to write well in English.


Georgia Jones-Davis grew up in northern New Mexico and southern California.  She attended UCLA, where she studied art history, film and graduated with a degree in English and History.
Georgia worked as a writer, reviewer and editor at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and Assistant Book Editor of The Los Angeles Times.  Georgia freelanced for many publications, including The Washington Post,  New Mexico Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Chicago Tribune.
She is the author of two chapbooks, “Blue Poodle” (2010) and “Night School” (2015), both issued by Finishing Line Press.  Her poems have appeared in numerous publications including West Wind, Nebo, Brevities, The California Quarterly, The Bicycle Review, Eclipse and South Bank Poetry, London.
Georgia currently lives and writes in Santa Fe, New Mexico.



The contest submission period is now open, from March 1st to June 30th, 2021. We are delighted that a distinguished poet and experienced editor, Georgia Jones-Davis, agreed to serve as CSPS Annual Contest Judge, while Joyce Snyder continues in her role as the Annual Contests Chair.

The cash awards are $100, $50, and $25 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places respectively, plus publication in the California Quarterly 47: 4 (2021 Winter).  Winners will be announced in September.

Please upload poems and pay the contest reading fees via our website  


Send a cover letter with all poet information and a list of the submitted poems, plus one copy of each poem with no poet identification to:

CSPS Annual Contest Chair
3371 Thomas Drive Palo Alto, 
California 94303

Reading fees: Members of California State Poetry Society and/or all member societies of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (please indicate which Society you are belong to), $3.00/poem; Non-members of any NFSPS-affiliated societies, $6.00/poem. You may also send fees for the contest to PayPal, to,

Requirements:  The length of poems should not exceed the limit of 80 lines (two-pages) per poem. Up to now, we did not have a limit on the numbers of poems submitted, but, please, do not send whole books!  For the California Quarterly, the limit is 6 poems, so we might keep it at that. 


Thursday, April 29, 2021

CSPS Newsbriefs No. 1, 2021 - CSPS Annual Contest Entries Due by June 30, 2021

 NEWSBRIEFS 2021, NO. 1 (SPRING 2021)

This issue of the California Quarterly (vol. 47, no. 1) is filled with great poems selected by Bory Thach, our newest CQ Editor, from hundreds of poems submitted via Submittable and by mail. We appreciate Bory’s insight and taste! 

The cover of CQ 47:1 is a painting Harmony, by Sylvia Van Nooten, that was recommended by the former Editor, Margaret Saine. Van Nooten is an asemic artist living in western Colorado. Asemic art, with its pastiche of ‘language’ and images, allows her to merge texts and painting creating a hybrid form of communication which is open to interpretation. Her work has appeared in The South Florida Poetry Journal, Experiment-O Issue 13, The Raw Art Review, Spring 2021 and she has a painting on the cover of the summer 2021 edition of The Raw Art Review.

Monthly Contests – 2020 Winners. Alice Pero, the Monthly Contests Chair and Judge, selected the following poems as winners of our Monthly Contests. The prize-winning poems are posted on our blog, Congratulations to all!

January: 1. Jane Stuart - Our Winter Garden, 2. Jane Stuart - Early on a Winter Morning, 3. David Anderson - The Apple Spy; February: 1. Pamela Shea - Rosebuds and Lovers, 2. Jane Stuart - Dancing Into Love Again; 

March: Dorothy Skiles - The Coyote’s Howl; April: No award.

May: Marlene Hitt - Enlightenment; 

June: Joyce Futa – Kumquat Marmalade; 

July: Jackie Chou – Cerulean; 

August: Joan Gerstein – Self-Portrait as Clark Gable One Liner; 

September: Louise Moises – Empty Chairs; 

November: Charlene Langfur – Meandering; 

December: Ambika Talwar – Losses into Treasures.

To submit poems to contests, send them to Monthly Contest email, and pay fees via PayPal to 

CSPS Annual Contest 2021. 

The contest submission period is now open, from March 1st to June 30th, 2021. We are delighted that a distinguished poet and experienced editor, Georgia Jones-Davis, agreed to serve as CSPS Annual Contest Judge, while Joyce Snyder continues in her role as the Annual Contests Chair. The cash awards are $100, $50, and $25 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places respectively, plus publication in the CQ 47: 4 (2021 Winter). 

After 25 years as a journalist, Georgia Jones-Davis turned to poetry with publications in Westwind, Brevities, Nebo, Poets Against War, Ascent Aspirations & South Bank Poetry, London. She authored two chapbooks, Blue Poodle (2011) & Night School (2015) published by Finishing Line Press. A former board member of the Valley Contemporary Poets in Los Angeles, she was honored as a Newer Poet by the Los Angeles Public Library ALOUD series.  

Please upload poems and pay the contest reading fees via our website  


send a cover letter with all poet information and a list of the submitted poems, plus one copy of each poem with no poet identification to:

CSPS Annual Contest Chair: 

3371 Thomas Drive 

Palo Alto, California 94303

Reading fees: Members of California State Poetry Society and/or all member societies of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (please indicate which Society you are belong to), $3.00/poem; Non-members of any NFSPS-affiliated societies, $6.00/poem. You may also send fees for the contest to PayPal, to,

Requirements:  The length of poems should not exceed the limit of 80 lines (two-pages) per poem. Up to now, we did not have a limit on the numbers of poems submitted, but, please, do not send whole books!  For the California Quarterly, the limit is 6 poems, so we might keep it at that. 


Maura Harvey edited the California Quarterly 46:2 (Summer 2020) that elicited the following reader’s comment: “As I look over that Quarterly from last summer, I realize there is so much of nature in it, so many writers talking about living things outdoors, the seasons, the passage of time—as if we were especially aware of the natural world because we were so confined inside. I don't know if you were aware of that, if you intended that, but of course, poets should be more attentive and it seems this collection bears that out.” ~ Liz Dossa, Foster City, CA. In January 2021, Maura was a featured poet for the Monthly reading of the Village Poets of Sunland Tujunga, on Zoom. She sent the following comment from a listener: “Wonderful opportunity to stop and listen. To connect with poets around the state & get a glimpse into their diverse approaches. Enjoyed Maura’s use of local flora and fauna in her poetry and the ever present voz latina.” ~ Madeleine Wood, Fairfax, CA, High School Teacher of Spanish.

The California Quarterly 46:4 (Winter 2020)  that I edited, featured a painting by Julian Stanczak on the cover. Barbara Stanczak, the artist’s widow, commented: “I just received a copy of the California Quarterly. It is beautiful, sophisticated and so very elegant with Julian's Constant Return # II, 1965. It graces the clover and gives the edition beauty and the weight of quality. Thank you for sharing.” Poets were also pleased with the issue: “Honored to be with such great writers.” ~ Cindy Rinne. “I am happy, grateful and excited to be included in this wonderful issue of California Quarterly” ~ Stefano Bortolussi. “The poem “Aquamarine” is wonderful. It reads like a song. I love the cover too!” ~ David Rosenheim. “I loved reading the editor's note – I think you did a wonderful job on it!! I also love the cover. Admittedly, I was not familiar with Julian Stanczak, so thank you for introducing me; it will be something enjoyable to look into.” ~ Ivan Amaya Hobson. “The whole issue looks just wonderful. I am happy to be included.” ~ Karen McPherson.

California Quarterly Editors. We are now looking for new Editors to work with us on the CQ Editorial Board. If interested, send your bio to the President,

Membership Dues. Please note that individual dues for 2021 have been increased to $40. Other dues are listed on the following pages. CSPS membership includes four issues of the CQ, access to contests with lower fees, and access to the National Federation of State Poetry Society contests – their newsletter, Strophes, is found on the NFSPS website. 

Maja Trochimczyk 

Los Angeles, California

CSPS President

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

CSPS Monthly Contest Winners January - March 2021

California State Poetry Society is pleased to announce the winners of the Monthly Poetry Contests for the first quarter of 2021. Alice Pero, Monthly Contest Judge made the selections.


  • Dr. Emory D. Jones,  "Sanctuary" - 1st place
  • Marlene Hitt, "Summer of Fire" -   2nd place
  • David Anderson, "The Coming Snow" -  3rd place


Claire J. Baker, "Speculation" - 1st place


  • Julia Park Tracey - "Just One Thing - " 1st place





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.



Summer of Fire

... 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 blood yolk,

fiery as those flames

that devour  the 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.


The Coming Snow

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.




        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 & go.



Just One Thing—

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. 



California State Poetry Society encourages poetic creativity by organizing monthly contests. The contests are open to all poets, whether or not they are members of the CSPS. Reading fees are $1.50 per poem with a $3.00 minimum for members and $3.00 per poem with a $6.00 minimum for non-members. Entries must be postmarked during the month of the contest in which they are entered. They must consist of a first page with all contact information (name, address, telephone number and email address) and the titles of the poems being submitted. 

At this time there are two ways to submit, by regular mail (enclosing check) or by email (using PayPal and email to make a payment  - adding $1.00 for PayPal fees if submitting by email.

CSPS Monthly Contest – (Specify Month)
Post Office Box 4288, Sunland, California 91041

Alternatively, poets may submit their work by email to: (Specify Month) and simultaneously pay their contest fees by PayPal to:, adding $1 for PayPal fees.

All contests are judged by Alice Pero, CSPS Monthly Contest Judge. The 1st place winner receives half of the prize pool for pools less than $100. For pools of $100 or more, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners receive $50, $10 and $5, respectively. If there are insufficient fees submitted, the minimum prize is $10. There are no exceptions to the prize disbursement rules. The monthly contest winners are announced as they are awarded and the winners are notified by mail. All of the winners for the year are listed in the first CSPS Newsbriefs of the following year. In addition, the first prize winners are published in the CSPS Poetry Letter (PDF, email, posted on website) and posted on this blog. 

Please note: Do not send SAE’s. We do not return poems. If you win, we will let you know. Otherwise there are no notifications.

CSPS Monthly Contest Themes (Revised)

  • January    Nature, Seasons, Landscape
  • February  Love
  • March      Open, Free Subject
  • April        Mythology, Dreams, Other Universes
  • May         Personification, Characters, Portraits
  • June         The Supernatural
  • July          Childhood, Memoirs
  • August     Places, Poems of Location
  • Sept          Colors, Music, Dance
  • October    Humor, Satire
  • November Family, Friendship, Relationships
  • December  Best of Your Best (Winning or published poems only. Indicate name of contest or publication and the issue/dates of publication/award.)     

To find out more about our Contest Judge read ALICE PERO's Interview on ShoutoutLA website:

NOTE: Photos of Big Tujunga Wash and a Central California Orchard
 in bloom by Maja Trochimczyk