Thursday, December 23, 2021

Best Wishes for Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Wonderful New Year 2022!

Look! There are seasons in California. Fall turns into winter for a day, and then it is spring.  Today, we have a real autumn rain, with gold leaves falling to the ground, heavy with raindrops. Meanwhile, the narcissus and daffodils have started to bloom - so, is it really autumn? This year, I have not seen the snow yet; the photo is from two years ago from my favorite Big Tujunga Wash, when the sky was clear of striped artificial clouds, and the air crisp and chill.  

Last year, the monumental gingko tree at Descanso Gardens turned majestic gold. Let this gingko become the Holiday Tree this year for those who do not decorate their Christmas trees, let it shine with the brilliance of  autumn gold through the year of brightness and joy. 

Let us then share our best wishes of all happiness and joy through the holiday season and in 2022. I wish all the great poets and friends of California State Poetry Society and the California Quarterly  the blessings of creativity, inspiration, and delight with life. I would like to share the wishes I received in an email recently from one of our CQ poets. Enjoy!

"May you and yours have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year. 

This is the season when small children write cryptic notes to a white bearded stranger in the North Pole, and dream of lighted Christmas trees with bundles of colorful packages underneath: When the elderly dream of past Christmas dinners packed with relatives and children, and those long past times when the air was pure, and masks were only worn during Halloween. 

This is the season when a mystical atmosphere seems to form out of a sense of wonder and want, and a tiny baby in a stable becomes real again: It is a special time when we attend church in the late night to celebrate the coming of a baby who will become a beacon of hope and light

This is the season when a magical atmosphere develops bringing a sense of peace, and wonder to our hectic lives: When we actually wonder if enemies are really enemies, and if there may be a Saint Nick, that brings happiness into the lives of children.

This is the season when tree leaves fly about like young lads and lassies in their bloom: A time when we welcome the blue moisture of rain, and the whiteness of snow upon the earth to tell us all things can change.

This is the season when husbands and wives fall in love all over again, and the future appears brighter: When families get together in gratitude and love, sharing hugs and smiles. 

This is the season we yearn for all year long to do all those wonderful things we should be doing all year long: It is a time when we see each other in a different light, and candles in windows reflect the wisdom of our dreams. 

Thank you for publishing my poems, I appreciate it!"


James Piatt (published in CQ 46:3 edited by Terry Ehret)

Very nice.  I wrote my own reflection on Christmas celebrations as time for family, sharing, and contentment in my wishes to the Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club, with two older poems I wrote on that theme, so I will not copy those here. You can read them, if you want:

Recently, I have written a new poem on a related topic of solstice, best wishes, and celebrations, but will include it in my issue of the California Quarterly 48: 1, Spring 2022, so here is another 2021 poem, added to the expanded version of my war-poetry book, The Rainy Bread: More Poems from Exile that I decided to enrich with a positive, uplifting conclusion, since the way out of darkness leads into light.


Chaos breaks out in our cities full of noise, 

toxins, radiation. I withdraw into my garden,

compress the sphere of attention, 

intensifying the focus on minute details.

The liquid patterns of finches’ song, repeated 

like a broken record. The sediment lines 

on the layered rock from Big Tujunga Wash.

The translucent oval of a quartz stone, 

smoothed by the Pacific on Oxnard Beach.

The imperceptible motion of leaves 

expanding skywards, while their roots 

stretch down invisibly, moist with dew.

Is it not enough to taste a pomegranate,

really taste each tart aril, bursting in your mouth? 

Is it not enough to turn your face up, 

to be kissed by noon sunlight?

“No fear, no hate, not even a slight dislike” – 

says St. Germain. We clear the rubble 

of memories of past pain, stronger, 

more clingy than the pain itself.

The mind is full of useless knowledge.

The body remembers on its own.

Pitiful. The heart locks itself 

in a hard shell of protectiveness.

We have to conquer this chaos within, polish 

the lamps, wash the windows into sparkling 

translucence, letting the light in, clear, 

diamond light – the antidote to chaos.

(c) 2021 by Maja Trochimczyk

Best wishes for lovely, joyous and peaceful holidays and Happy New Year 2022! Here's my grandson as a baby Santa five years ago. Kids grow up so fast! 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Contents of California Quarterly Vol. 47, No. 4, Winter 2021, Edited by William Scott Galasso

California Quarterly Vol. 47, No. 4, Winter 2021

Edited by William Scott Galasso

Cover Art: Cloudless Sky by Vera Campion, Collage of acrylic hand-painted paper, 11" x 8.5", 2020. From Alice Pero and Vera Campion, Beyond Birds and Answers (Elyssar Press, 2021).


The Percolation Period  — Thomas Sanford Weir — 7

Memory on a Dream of the Future — Dorothy Howe Brooks — 8

When We Gather — Marilyn Robertson — 9

in creek shallows — William Scott Galasso — 9

An Impulse to Believe — Joan E. Bauer — 10

Left with the Sky — Kevin Thornburgh — 11

seven-year itch — Gregory Longenecker — 11

Birth of Venus — Doreen Beyer — 12

a white heron’s plume — Richard Matta — 13

Union Claire Watson — 13

train trestles… — Richard Matta — 13

So Little Time — Cordelia Hanemann — 14

Painting Moreno Valley — Joel Ferdon — 15

midsummer — Gregory Longenecker — 15

Desert Junk — Richard Nester — 16

Ironic Ashes — Claire J. Baker — 17

Breakthrough — Claire J. Baker — 18

Cartography of a Symphony — Ellyn Maybe —18

Air — Mark Newman — 19

The Size of It — Mark Newman — 20

‘Round Midnight — Joanne Sharp — 20

first notes — Renée Owen — 20

sheltering in place — Renée Owen — 20

The Snail Digger — Linda Kunhardt — 21

Transformations — Kath Abela Wilson — 22

Orca School — Jacqueline Schaalje 23

Hagabat, you bring — Lawdenmarc Decamora — 24

Pagoda of Pots — Paul Willis — 24

garden opening — Kath Abela Wilson — 24

Body Count — Dorothy Howe Brooks —25

Intention — Michael Sprake — 26

Here There Be Dragons — Robbie Nester — 27

Magic Time — Bibhu Padhi — 28

Valve Nutrients — Martha Webster — 29

Leave No Trace — Russell Rowland — 30

Standoff — Diane Lee Moomey — 31

indigo tinctorial — Renée Owen — 31

At a Certain Age It Seems …— Jane Hilary —32

Leavings — John Zedolik — 33

Burden — Marc Fisher — 34

Stitches — Michael Meyerhoffer — 35

Selcouth — Charles Wilkinson — 36

lifestyles of loneliness  — ayaz daryl nielsen — 36

I Am Rooted in the Wind — Lonna Blodgett — 37

Taking Flight — Gary Metheny — 38

sometimes — Gregory Longenecker — 38

Men at Work — Tasha Cotter — 39

the nail he was — William Scott Galasso — 39

New Dad — Danielle Lemay — 40

first marriage — Gregory Longenecker — 40

Night Without Walls  — Margaret Saine —  41

String Theory — Gloria Keeley — 42

A Late September Night… — Gabriella Miotto — 43

True Light — Dennis Ross — 44

The Well — Matthew J. Spireng — 45

my smile — Renée Owen — 45

Tatterdamelion — David Prather — 46

Hollow Bones Haiku for You — Joanell Serra — 47

Moving the Stars — Kathleen Gunton — 48

Pilgrimage — Bibhu Padhi — 49

October Trace  —William Scott Galasso — 49

Geochemistry — Michael Sprake 50

Snowmelt — Marianne Karplus 51

Return — Marc Fisher 52

35th Annual Contest Winners, Comments — 53

Three Men in a Boat — Robert Spich — 56

Snow (a tanka) — Bruce Gallie —57

Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Three Men in … David Anderson — 57

Contributors in Alphabetical Order — 58

CSPS Contest Opportunities — 59

CSPS Newsbriefs 2021, No. 4 — 60

Publishing Opportunities with CSPS — 64

2021 CSPS Donors, Patrons, and Membership — 65

CSPS Membership Form — 67

Image by Vera Campion from a poetic dialogue with Alice Pero.


I’m going to start with what might appear to be an odd choice…a quote by North Carolina’s basketball coach Jim Valvano who was suffering from cancer at the time he made it. I’ve never forgotten what he said: You should do three things every day, laugh, think and cry—because that’s a “full day.” 

As poets we do not merely rearrange words found in a dictionary or thesaurus and call that exercise, poetry. We engage heart, mind and spirit, hopefully expressing ourselves artistically through our shared love of language and a certain musicality. Further, we share a sense of community and a desire to be part of the natural world on a unique and beautiful planet now threatened by climate change and our own counter intuitive will to dominate the very force that gives us life.

Clearly, we live in a complex modern world admixed with light and darkness. One of the elements apparent in the work that follows is that we, in contrast to many, are aware of our own contradictions and in search of harmony. Sometimes we achieve it, sometimes we don’t, sometimes we falter,  sometimes we rise. As editor, I wanted to include poems that were at once topical and of the moment, yet timeless. In doing so, I sought to achieve balance between what we must endure and the inspiration that gives us the strength to do so. 

In addition, I am pleased to introduce work by poets not previously seen in the California Quarterly including Mark Newman, Ellyn Maybe, Richard and Robbie Nester, Gabriella Miotto, Jane Hilary and Mike Sprake and I hope you enjoy their work as much as I do. Further, I take full responsibility for the choices made and have no doubt other editors might choose differently, but it is that diversity that enriches poetry and makes us who we are. 

Finally, it was an honor and a privilege to be given the opportunity to read such fine work. And, frankly, it was a challenging undertaking due to the number of quality poems received. To all the poets who submitted and the staff that guided me in the process, my most sincere gratitude.

William Scott Galasso, Editor 

Laguna Woods, California


William Scott Galasso is the author of sixteen books of poetry, including Silver Salmon Runes published in 2016; Rough Cut: Thirty Years of Senryu and Mixed Bag, A Travelogue in Four Forms, a collection of Haibun, Haiku Sequences, Tanka and Short Poems (2018). His most recent book is Legacy: 30 Years of Haiku (Galwin Press, 2020), described as “a collection of over six hundred poems, ranging from classical nature to personal, intimate haiku… This lifetime achievement stands out as a treasure to stir your senses and heighten your awareness of earth’s nature and our humanity.”  In this book, Bruce H. Feingold writes, “Galasso invites us into a world of quietude, beauty and humility and has mastered the art of saying so much with so few words. His images stand out like exquisite carvings, and he demonstrate[s] the hallmark of great haiku…”

An active member of the Southern California Haiku Study Group, Galasso is the contributing editor of the SCHSG anthology, Eclipse Moon (November 2017).  He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Hofstra University, and worked for 25 years as an actor for Kim Brooke Group (1990-2015), while also providing event security for Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks and Sounders FC as a team captain, or staff member.  As a volunteer, he supported the Hopelink Foodbank as the coordinator of collection and distribution of donations, also supervising other volunteers, as well as assisting special needs clients, especially the elderly and the disabled.

one breath
the difference between
I am and I was

The Journey by Vera Campion from a dialogue with poet Alice Pero.

NEWSBRIEFS 2021, No. 4, Winter 2021

By Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President

The English language is taking over the world through its versatility and capacity to mutate. Sort of like a virus. Other more complex and stable languages disappear in the fog of time. Let’s look at new words
in Merriam-Webster Dictionary, that publishes short stories about them twice a year, each time adding about 500 words. In 2019, deep state came out of obscurity, escape rooms became a popular form of entertainment, haircut affected businesses losing value, snowflakes became human, yet we relished fabulosity. In April 2020 among 535 new words, we found verbal horrors: deepfake, slow-walk, microtarget, latrophobia, and truthiness. Among the 555 new words in 2021 there are monstrous succubus types, both in sound and meaning (superspreader, deplatform, bit rot), but also amusing ones (teraflop, oobleck), and the beautiful (digital nomad, and amirite for am I right?). The “amirite” – the new mineral of being right… 

35th ANNUAL POETRY CONTEST. We are happy to announce the winners of the 2021 Annual Contest, administered by Joyce Snyder and adjudicated by Georgia Jones-Davis. The contests are judged blindly, the Contest Chair prepares and sends the entries to the Judge. It must have been a surprise for Georgia to find out that the three best poems she selected were written by men! It does not
happen very often, since we have so many female poets; poetry, like teaching and nursing, seems a very feminized profession. 

Prize Winners
  • 1st Prize: “Three Men in a Boat” by Robert S. Spich, Los Angeles 
  • 2nd Prize: “Snow” by Bruce Gallie, Rancho Cucamonga, California
  • 3rd Prize: “Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Three Men in a Tub” by David Anderson, Lincoln, California
Honorable Mentions
  • “Winged Sandals” by Claire Scott, Oakland, CA
  • “A Snake in Pajamas” by Louise Moises, Richmond, CA
  • “I Don’t Know Why” by Livingston Rossmoor, Modesto, CA
  • “Wish” by Susanne Wiley, Hot Springs, AR 
After managing the Annual Poetry Contest for 2021, the Contest Chair, Joyce Snyder, has decided to step down from her role and leave the CSPS Board. Although it happens just once per year, the Contest requires at least six months of volunteer service, so we appreciate Joyce’s hard work since 2016. Thank you so much! 

LIFE MEMBERSHIP. During its October 2021 Board Meeting, the CSPS Board decided to award Life Membership to Margaret Saine in recognition of her many contributions to the organization during decades of volunteer work as Editor, Board Member, and Secretary. The Board minutes stated: “The Board expressed gratitude for the multitude of services offered by Margaret Saine to CSPS and its publications. For many years, she served as the Board Secretary/Historian, Editor of the California Quarterly, proof-reader, Editor of the Poetry Letter, as well as a frequent contributor of translations to the CQ, soliciting submissions from great poets around the world and translating their work from German, Italian, French and Spanish. She also managed the mailbox of the Society (a time-consuming task), sent contributions to other issue editors, and assisted John F. Harrell with mailings of the Quarterly.” The Life Membership means that the Members do not have to pay CSPS dues and will continue receiving our publications. Personally, I am particularly grateful for Margaret’s dedicated and tireless work for CSPS, since she introduced me to this wonderful organization and helped me learn how to edit the CQ and manage the CSPS. 

The CSPS may bestow one Life Membership per year. Our organization, so far, has recognized few other poets with this honor: Gwen Castilli, Torre Houlgate-West, Joyce Odam, Kate Ozbirn, and Russell Salamon who died in 2018. In 2019 we recognized the distinguished Los Angeles poet Suzanne Lummis as our first Honorary Member.  

AMENDMENTS TO CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS. The distinction between Life and Honorary Membership was finalized in the Amended Constitution and Bylaws, that were approved by all Members after a long editorial process initiated by the Board in 2019. Most of the amendments correct the language to adjust it to the actual practice, like changed dates for Board meetings  and elections, or expanding the number of CQ Editors to a maximum of eight (we currently have four Editors, so we have ways to go!). There was information about the CSPS no longer mailing the Newsbriefs, Poetry Letters, or NSFSPS Strophes that used to be inserted into each issue of the CQ. Another item was to formalize submission requirements, raising the limit from five to six poems. 

The first new idea in Amended Constitution and Bylaws was the separation of Life Membership from Honorary Membership in the Article III of the Constitution, as follows: “a) Subject to the approval of the Board, one Life membership per year may be bestowed upon an outstanding person who has made substantive contributions furthering the purpose of the CSPS. Life Members shall be exempt from payment of dues. b) Subject to the approval of the Board, one Honorary membership per year may be bestowed upon an eminent poet to honor contributions to poetry in California. Honorary Members shall be exempt from payment of dues and are invited to contribute poems to the CQ in the year of their recognition.”

The second new idea in Amended Constitution and Bylaws was the removal of the position of Editorial Chair that had duties overlapping with that of the Managing Editor. Instead, the responsibilities of the Managing Editor are described in detail. The Managing Editor oversees the production, publication, and
distribution of the CQ, and all tasks associated with this process. The President may also serve as Managing Editor with the Board approval, as is currently the case. The confirmation of this role is scheduled every two years. 

CSPS ELECTIONS. The bi-annual CSPS Elections of Officers took place in October 2021 and the ballots included option to approve these Amendments, the full text of Amendments, along with original versions. The Amendments were approved by 100% of voting members that returned their ballots. Amended version of our Constitution and Bylaws will be posted on our website.  The CSPS Elections confirmed the currently serving CSPS Officers for the next two years, to the Fall of 2023:
  • President, Maja Trochimczyk, 
  • Vice President/Communications, Richard Modiano; 
  • Vice President/Membership, Richard M. Deets; 
  • Secretary/Historian, Ambika Talwar; and 
  • Treasurer John Forrest Harell. 

We thank CSPS members for entrusting the Society to us for two more years.

CQ EDITORS. When I joined the CSPS Board, there were only women serving as the CQ editors. I decided to add some younger men of diverse backgrounds and as a result we now have three new editors who have published their first issues of the CQ: Bory Thach (a Cambodian refugee from Vietnam, U.S. veteran with an MFA) edited No. 1, Konrad Tademar Wilk (Polish bilingual poet, grandchild of Righteous among Nations) edited No. 3, and William Scott Galasso (a “refugee” from Seattle, author of 16 poetry books) prepared for print the CQ No. 4. It has been a grand adventure to work with them and read the poetry they selected.

THE POETRY LETTER. In the world of words, poets are digital nomads and our journeys take us far and wide. In 2021, I started sending the Poetry Letter to our email list, so this quarterly publication of poems and book reviews has expanded its reach – in addition to being posted on our website and in sections (book reviews and poems separately) on our blog, In its previous incarnation, edited by Margaret Saine, the Poetry Letter was printed and inserted in the California Quarterly mailings, along with the CSPS Newsbriefs and the Strophes, the NFSPS newsletter, now available only on NFSPS website.

PUSHCART PRIZE 2022 NOMINATIONS. Finally, the editors of California Quarterly selected six poems published in 2021 for nominations to the Pushcart Prize, a tradition of small presses and poetry journals. You can read these poems on our blog.
• Vol. 47, No. 1: Sheer Optimism by Lavina Blossom and Blue Fantasia by Ruth Holzer
• Vol. 47, No. 2: Providence by Diana Donovan and Tree Songs by Dana Stamps II
• Vol. 47, No. 3: Quantum Birds by Ida Marie Beck
• Vol. 47, No. 4: Intention by Mike Sprake 

Congratulations to all the poets!

~ Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President

Image by Vera Campion from Beyond Birds and Answers dialogue book with poet Alice Pero

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Pushcart Prize Nominations from the California Quarterly 2021

The editors of California Quarterly published in 2021 - Bory Thach, Maja Trochimczyk, Konrad Tademar Wilk and William Scott Galasso have selected the following poems for nominations to the Pushcart Prize, a tradition of small presses and poetry journal publications. 

Vol. 47 no. 1: Sheer Optimism by Lavina Blossom

Vol. 47 no. 1: Blue Fantasia by Ruth Holzer

Vol. 47 no. 2: Providence by Diana Donovan

Vol. 47 no. 2: Tree Songs by Dana Stamps II

Vol. 47 no. 3: Quantum Birds by Ida Marie Beck

Vol. 47 no. 4: Intention by Mike Sprake

The nominated poems are reproduced below.  Congratulations to all the nominated poets!



Blue that dwells in larkspur and iceberg,
in herons, little and great,
in swaying lupine, and wood thrush eggs
nestled on the forest floor;

on the magisterial covers
of the Oxford English Dictionary
and in faded hydrangea petals
pressed between its pages;

in first prize ribbons,
copper sulfate crystals 
and the iridescent wings
of the morpho butterfly.

The hue of lobelia and gentian,
of faceted sapphire,
wild chicory at summer’s end 
and juniper berries in fall,

is the color of mussels clattering in a bucket,
not dreaming of steam, of eyewash cups,
varicose veins, surgical scrubs,
cigar smoke, gas flames, exhaust;

the color of the policeman’s uniform
and his cruiser’s flashing lights;
of bruises, winter prisoners,
the eyes of their guards, tattoos.

Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia


All endings temporary.  The very idea
shunned.  Pauses become the new edge,
more fender, cushion, and curve, so that
the minute and second hands swerve slowly
and always return.  What were once breakdowns, now
commas, naps, momentary gaps in a sub-category
of continuum.  Words like
death, fail, cease, redefined to synonyms of
seam, open shining doorway, soft lifting kite.
Consternation become akin to
mixing bowl, with an alternate meaning
of swirling multi-colored lights.  And dread
conveying a type of shivering that warms.  All
prophesies, except those that equate with
everlasting joy--gathered up and tossed.  Zero
re-assuming its role as place-holder for those
vacationing, still in touch.  Done, done with.
Loss, a beloved pet, ever young.  Gain
and renewal, inevitable as the rising sun.
A chorus not unlike birdsong or bees
foraging, joined by hopeful amens,
hope having been raised up
many rungs to become far less
tentative, much nearer to certainty.

Lavina Blossom
Riverside, California



This evening when you were tuning your guitar
and the dog began to howl from his spot on the Turkish rug 
I drifted back to our grad school days in Providence
before everything started coming down—the Berlin Wall
the Twin Towers—each memory a burst of color
our pale pink Victorian on Hope Street
the lavender mailbox with its duct-tape roof
the flock of escaped green parrots on the telephone wires
their bright hues flashing, rising into an indigo sky
and the yellow velvet couch on the porch
beckoning neighbors to stop by with tomatoes and lettuces 
from their gardens, musical instruments, and bourbon
those warm summer nights before grievances had hardened
when the world was ripening before us
and anything—everything—was still possible.

Diana Donovan
Mill Valley, California


Alive, the California forest knows
how to orchestrate itself, curate, permeate, and germinate,
a permanent, sly installation,

yet every faithless flower has reverence for the air,

and I would swear an oath, John 
Clare, that I’ve heard the voluptuous trees sing, members
of the adagio Earth Choir,

contributing with the birds, frogs, a great hawk ballet,

and this music is a per diem Art work, naturally
I listen, agog, in Yosemite to redwood General Sherman’s arias, 
and others, nameless, participate, too, 

and the forest invites this bohemia, this perfection 

of trees, and I know if I were undeniably one
of them, strong rooted, I’d sing to cultivate an audience stand-
still … in bluesy Gaia’s auditorium.

Dana Stamps II
Riverside, California



It lies beneath.
You get to it by digging
to the drumroll of hummingbird wings.

I sought it deep
in the quantum realm, the wave

function, the answers

to the galaxy of starling murmurations,
to the kotuku in that faraway lagoon,
an apparition in nebulous plumage from the spirit land.

That elusive oracle tells all the truth, but slant,
metes out mere probabilities
to even the most meticulous mind,

entangles me in the duality of
defeat and awe.

But a bird is greater than the sum of its parts
—the bluebird that fashions his cloak
from a piece of sky, the green heron
stealing a ray of sun to iridesce between the reeds.

In the quantum world, a bird
may be alive and dead.
There is no certainty.

When you cage one truth,
the others fly.

Still, the sandhill cranes will alight
on the river basin
and start to dance.

Ida Marie Beck
Livermore, California



I have traveled all the way to the rainforest
hoping I might capture some of it 
in line and color. I watch distant thunder clouds 
sweep across the tree canopy until they reach me. 

In the humidity, watch tree branches laden with orange flowers 
become engulfed with strange birds, 
while a hoop-skinned snake sidles its way 
past the indigenous-wood door, flicking its tongue.

Weeks have passed since I first arrived,
the painting set and empty sketchbook remain 
as if held by a tenfold gravity to the pine-top table.
The idea of picking them up and simply walking 

to the edge of the garden where the wilderness takes over, 
is overwhelming. This might have been how artists 
felt who accompanied Darwin to the Galapagos, 
or Amerigo Vespucci to the New World.

But they with pen and ink, gouache and watercolor
brought back images of unfamiliar flora and fauna, 
the lay of the land, something of the people. 
And I’m running out of time, next to this unfamiliar world 

luring me with its beguiling perfumes, its racket of unfamiliar birds,
this unknown nature breathing within its own body -
this symbiotic place that I find so hard to disturb -
this place should I enter, will be changed forever.

                          Mike Sprake                                                                                    
                          Costa Mesa, California

California sunset photos by Maja Trochimczyk

Friday, October 8, 2021

Poetry Letter No. 3, 2021 - Poets Greg Gregory and Franklin Gillette

California Poppies by Benjamin Chambers Brown, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Welcome to the Fall issue of the Poetry Letter for 2021.  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. I am endlessly mesmerized by the waves of the Pacific and have taken countless photos of the waves breaking at Mandalay Beach, Hermosa Beach or Topanga Beach. The crystalline jade, aqua and sapphire shades of water are so full of life and the energy of water so incredibly powerful.  Awe-inspiring! Two paintings I found capture the beauty of our ocean.  

Other images show the grace and beauty of the trees, flowers – meadows of California poppies! – as well as mountains and streams we can see after leaving cement wastelands of cities and venturing into the unknown. Previously, I picked landscape paintings by Karen Winters; this time, we can see the tradition she continues to bring to life. We should also know more about California poets, of course. CSPS tirelessly works for this cause by publishing the California Quarterly, organizing contests, and more. Next year, we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary. The organization was founded in 1971 but the first issues of the Quarterly came out in 1972, hence the anniversary will be celebrated that year. 

The book reviews from Poetry Letter No. 3, 2021, are posted separately on this blog. 

Maja Trochimczyk, Ph.D.

CSPS President

Selden Connor Gile, “Stinson Beach,” 1919 
Photo: Oakland Museum of California via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain



A loon cries

in our evening ears

in the lull of summer

nightfall - the sound 

like a void of ripples of stars

on the lake's blackness.

The thing of the world is

the softness of its secrets.

Memories flow in like snow melt

or the light of an extinct star,

traveling so long its last existence

rests on the surface of the water

where light and dark 

romance each other.

The heavy bones of a loon

let it dive easily into the night water,

its histrionic red eyes colorless

in the indifferent dark among

shifting pools of moon

and star.

Unlike the loon we

cannot easily force ourselves into

the void underneath.  We

remain at the edge,

our fingers like those

of the deaf

who touch pianos so they

may feel the music.  Like them

we reach,

crazy as loons,

into sparkling black ripples

for the constant spill

of moon and stars.

                     ~ Originally published in The Avocet


The airwebs of late Summer - 

life's fling of random chance

in the face of Fall,

spun works of small spiders

ballooning into an infinite sky.

Gladiolas in endbloom,

faded last flowers,

woven fabric of light and shadows -

the season's Archimedean

displacement of 

being and emotion.

The aphasia of bare soil,

the speech of tongues of 

old leaves,

mute glossolalia

of the empty earth.

The rubric of tubers and roots

cloyed in tangles of clay, all

Fall come

astringent and acerb in 

dry skins of 

onions and bulbs,

life asleep at the center.

Old rose petals,

handfuls of potpourri

ripe for release in tongues of

fall fire, spun works of smoke,

twisting webs of voices,

stories ready to 

balloon into an unknown year.

~ Originally published in Reflect

Gathering Clouds by Benjamin Chambers Brown, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain


Crawling into the entrance

I hear the soft flutters, the squeaks - small

bats living deep in a hole in

stone and clay.  My lantern

plays on the walls in shaman's images or

shadows in Plato's cave

frightening beings living

in their own echoes, clinging to rock

like Rodin sculptures - half in and 

half out of stone, wrapped

in delicate wings, giving birth, suckling

while clinging with slight bones,

single thumb claws hooked tight

to the crevices, fragile

skeletons in brown fur

transforming just before dusk, exiting in 

erratic flight into open dimness, drawn

from stone and clay into night

sky.  Nocturnal undercurrents always

pull us out

of Utopia, acute ears tuned

to hear only what is echoed back.

                   ~ Originally published in The Kerf


By day, the kelp sways below the cliffs,

hypnotizes like sirens in the moving blue water.

The waves never stop moving to and fro, to and fro.

The kelp holds fast to its submerged anchors.

Its fronds float like brown feathers

The pound up onto the rocks.  They rarely let go.

Foam churns.  Cormorants dive under the surface

then pop up like small black dots and look around,

surprised at where they find themselves after surfacing.

Voice is the lightest thing to carry along the cliff path,

a tongue in the sea air, a privileged perspective

for an instant, to seem like one who never dies.

A rock falls from the cliff into the waves below.

I remember the old Beatles' lyric, "Here comes the sun".

The water glistens to the horizon from the eroding cliffs.

The sky dances over sea, cliffs.  the sky dances for itself. .

A fool walks one more day and leads a lucky life.

I must send postcards to others who are not here.

The cormorants dive.  The kelp hangs on in the blue sea.

The sea sings its song.  It has ever since I first saw it as a child 

from my first walk on this cliff trail.

I looked down, watching the waves come into the rocks

and wondered about mermaids, who, after their life

of a thousand years, finally turned into sea foam.

             ~ Originally published in Quill and Parchment


Sea jellies

who float luminous

in moon-cast tides

die invisible,

without legacy

except, perhaps,

a trace of their salts in

the wanting water.

They pulse

invisible in darkness

like our hearts.

Like them, we trail

tenuous strands

of ourselves

as we move 

to sense where

we have been,

perhaps to bring up

small bits of food

to feed the pulsing hearts

from a fading past

fast receding into nothing.

These soft living crystals,

these fabrics of soft glass

are too much like us,

pulled in and out

by tides and who,

in death, dissolve,

their lucent domes gone into


empty water,

only their memory,

a phantom beauty

enfolded in another

breathing skin,

its heart pulsing

on the water's surface.

                                     ~ Originally published in The Avocet

Breaking Wave by Anna Althea Hills,


Franklin Gillette, a Colorado native, is finishing the first instalment of his book of poems: Word Atlas (Part One). His work has been selected by Poetry East, Blue Unicorn, Light Quarterly, CSPS, and more. His operettas were set to music by various composers and performed in Kansas City and New York.  He illustrates his own work.


Your feet stand on the lower planets, 
Your legs are mountains-- alpine stairs,
Your knees are flowing with bird flutters,
Your thighs hold the atmosphere,
Your yellow robes like the evening twilight
cover up the ocean of your loins.

Your breasts contain galaxies that range, 
Your heart pounds religion in motion,
Your mind shines the brilliance of the moon,
Your chest is the golden throne of fortune,
Your head echoes truth in endless caves,
Your smile is the cause of all illusion.

Your arms are filled with splendid angels,
Your hair is murky clouds of outer space,
Your eyelids turn the night and day,
Your touch is lust, Your feet are a lotus,
Your hairs are drugs and herbs, Your veins rivers.
Death is nothing other than Your shadow.

Your intelligence is all that is divine,
Your head is the place of higher planets,
Your back is where irreligion hides,
Your tongue holds all the water spirits, 
Your neck: vibration, Your chest is the Truth,
Your words forever are the holy chants.
Your nails shed leaving giant boulders, 
Your breath circles wind to the stars, 
Your brow heats with righteous anger,
Your activities are rituals of fire, 
Your tongue licks lips creating craving,
Your ears open out to all directions.

Your eyebrows (on suns of eyes) give warning
to friends and enemies that are in You, 
--the galaxies are atoms of Your Being.

~  A shorter version published in Poetry East, Number Fifty–Seven, Fall 2006.  4th and 5th 
stanzas added here.


Before the ever-bellying radiant sky 
they break sea hobbling past dunes of ice 
whose silent monuments of compact snow 
cut to mystery like unknowable gods, 
lonely, lacking ancient worshippers. 
Huddled on the bottom of the earth 
what they must endure-- the dimming skies, 
months without food, ice catapulting,  
skirmishes of wind which freeze the will  
of our boldest.  --Here they must find warmth 
pressing to great circles beneath moon and stars, 
and millennia after millennia of rebirths.

~ Originally published in The Aurorean, 2,  2010- 2011.  


We were scuba divers telescoping
in the Pacific’s deep caverns where dark songs 
of whales vibrate through the undertow.

Seagulls plied like knives on piano wires
as if to warn us when we leaped to sea,
yet we clawed down, to fulfill our mission
reaching for the hushed nocturnal floors.

Water weighed heavier; the sunlight dimmed; 
flaming out were eels, fish and squid.
Our hands reached solid mass and yet it slid
from our grip.  A humpback paddled from us.

Yet once we found the basement of the sea
we broke the ocean’s crest and there we saw  
our little boat’s mast on the horizon.

~ Originally published in Poetry East, Nos. 64 & 65, Spring 2009.  The first sonnet from “Songs Beyond News.”

The Grand Canyon by Benjamin Chambers Brown, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Friday, October 1, 2021

Contents of the California Quarterly Vol. 47, No. 3, Autumn 2021, Edited by Konrad Tademar-Wilk

California Quarterly, Vol. 47 No. 3, Autumn 2021

Edited by Konrad Wilk

Cover image:  Arctic IV, oil on Board 5x5, 2017 by Danielle Eubanks


Slavonia in my Mother’s Heart           Sonia Sabanac                   7

Chicago Sonnet #19                             D.A. Hosek                       8

The Game of Tag                                 Jason Visconti                   8

To Name is to Cause to Exist               Estelle Bajou                     9

Summer Vacations                              Jason Visconti                   9

Mary Sidney Herbert Pleads with  the Eglantine Growing in Her  Brother's Garden        Deborah. H. Doolittle      10

She Breathes Only Trees                     Jean Varda                      10

Vows                                                    Haleigh Yaspan               12

Customer Service                                Andy Roberts                  12

Talking to My Younger Self                Ann Christine Tabaka    13

Signs                                                    Tamika Dooley                14

Becoming                                             Tamika Dooley               14

Yancy Carter, In Memoriam                Konrad Tademar-Wilk     15

Dream Horses                                      Alun Rees                       16

Wings                                                  Claire Scott                     17

Metamorphosis                                    Angelika Quirk               18

Why                                                     Alessio Zanelli                19

Message                                               Bertha Rogers                 20

Violets                                                 D. F. Walker                   21

Factory Boss                                        Charlie Brice                   22

Digestion Comes Slowly                       Erika Goveia                   23

Icarus after the Crash                         Patrinos Konstantinos       24

Dancing Ellipses                                  Patrinos Konstantinos      25

Mountains                                           Jeffrey L. Taylor             26

Variations on an Ode                           Amy Moore                    26

Amargosa Delta                                   Amy Moore                    27

El Zonte                                               Steve Lang                      28

On a Fine May Morning                      Steve Lang                      29

King Tide                                            Julia Park Tracey             30

Perfect Day (A Minute)                       Emory Jones                   30

2 a.m. Evacuation                                Cooper Young                 31

Evacuating with Smoked Chickens      Carol Park                       32

Tiny Altars                                          Marie Marchand              33

Allegro on Broken Piano                     Taeyeon Han                   34

Reality                                                 Jane Stuart                      35

Autumn Night                                     Edward Garvey               36

Homecoming                                       Mishra Debasish              36

At a Pullout Along Grizzly Peaks        Cooper Young                 38

Super Mario                                        Mishra Debasish              39

Summertime Dinner                            Jes Burke                        40

Quantum Birds                                    Ida Marie Beck                41

To Drown in Asphodel Meadows         Matthew Mayes               42

I Am Not the Center of My Own Universe       Mary Ellen Talley            43

Desiccation                                          Richard Dinges, Jr.          44

I’m Sorry, Mr. Webster…                   Judy Barratt                    44

Homer’s Girl                                       Christine Candland          46

Ghazal for the Quarantined Woman   Mary Ellen Talley            48

First Memory                                      Jerry Smith                     49

You Can’t Tell a Venomous Snake…   Cameron Gibson             50

Fred and Ginger Nowadays                 Craig Kurtz                     51

Sonnet Pour Edith Piaf                        Robert Fleming               52

Sonnet for Edith Piaf                           Robert Fleming, tr.          52

First You Must Be Aware What Is Coming     Patrick Meeds   53

A Perfidious Lover                              Nidhi Agrawal                54

Shiv Tattva                                          Nidhi Agrawal                 54

Learning to See                                   Lynn Domina                  55

Simchat Torah                                     Maureen Sherbondy         56

Barganing with the Stars                     Maureen Sherbondy         56

His Head: Three Painting and One Mosaic         Lynn Domina      57

Memory of 2001                                  Konrad Tademar-Wilk     58

Ellipsis                                                 Joel Schueler                   58



© Danielle Eubank. Danielle Eubank, Arctic IV , Oil on board, 5x5 inches, 2017. Arctic IV is part of Eubank’s One Artist Five Oceans project. Danielle Eubank has painted all the oceans on the planet to help raise awareness about the state of our oceans and climate change.


Chaos becomes us. Poetry cuts through the chaos by creating shapes out of metaphors. California breeds both: chaos and metaphors. It is in fact its own metaphor, found in songs and in allusions in poems. I was struck by this season's poetic diction. An attempt to carve out sanity from a year full of frustration. Many of the verses I read struck at the nerve center of the heart. Some words were so poignant that I could not help but be arrested by them. The language of poetry is sometimes cryptic, but at once it has that sharpness with which to cut through the confusion. 

      I used a light touch. If the poem arrested me in my tracks, stopped me at the moment of turning the page, it demanded to be seen by others. If It caught my eye before I even read it, that certainly spoke to the heart, to the universal center of the soul. Upon a second reading, if it sang, or whispered something I didn’t see on the first read through, this was a suggestion, a strong one that the poem was good. Of course, there were some poets who submitted more than one good poem, sometimes all the poems they submitted were astonishing. Others submitted one amazing verse among weaker ones that were in its orbit. It was easier to pick the winner and put aside the satellites. 

       There were verses that reached deep into the past, adhering to old forms and ancient rites. Others that were decidedly future looking, demanding a forward momentum to carry them to the pages of the quarterly. I didn’t flip a coin. I marked with a pen. I printed the poems, held them, often more than once. You choose that which demands to be chosen, set aside that which must be set aside. I am not partial to any mode of expression, but I certainly appreciate discipline which arises from a good use of metaphor, meter, style, rhyme, all the tropes and building blocks of poetry. But sometimes a poem without those does something new, speaks. The ones presented in this volume are eclectic. They reflect not only their own excellence but my mood, my reception at the time of the reading. They spoke to me, some even yelled so that I had to pick up a page...  Read twice, some of the poems deserve a third or even fourth reading. 

      I want to thank Maja Trochimczyk for the chance to edit this issue. But also for her patience, the learning curve was quite steep, since the selections were many and varied, the effort needed was much bigger than anticipated. Enjoy its fruit!

Konrad Tademar-Wilk


Elected to the Board of Directors of CSPS in May 2020, Konrad Tademar Wilk is an American poet living in Los Angeles. His works range from single sonnets to epic poems on themes including current events, myth, and philosophy. In addition to American subjects, his work is strongly informed by international events and history, especially those of freedom and oppression. Tademar's early childhood was spent in Poland where he was particularly influenced by the rise of the anti-communist Solidarity labor union.

Following his return to the U.S., he studied philosophy and literature at Los Angeles City College where he was president of the Poet's Platform. He then went on to graduate from UCLA. His poetry book Fifty Sonnets, titles like labels only get in the way... is available for purchase on-line.  Other poetry chapbooks are out of print. He is currently working on two epic poems "Prometheus" and "Trafficking In Time" - scheduled for release in the near future. He has appeared in Los Angeles venues such as the Onyx, Ground's Zero, Magicopolis Theater, Wilshire Art Gallery, Bolton Hall Museum, and Pig and Whistle. In 1991, he founded the Witching Hour Poetry Gathering which has met continuously for over 20 years. 

Additionally, he is a founding member of the Pecan Pie Organization, dedicated to artistic promotion and stage performances.  Mr. Tademar recently served as the artistic director for Warsaw 80/75 performance of poetry, dance and music, celebrating the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII (German attack on Poland), and the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.  The event was held at the Santa Monica Playhouse in September 2019.


By Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President

What’s going on? Fear. Virus. Propaganda. Shutdown. Ventilators. Nursing Homes. Governors. Empty Hospitals. Effective medications under attack. 90% false positives of PRC tests. Vaccine passports. Fake news. Censorship. Millions of protesters march in Italy and France. Australia under siege. Common sense triumphs in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Over 16,600 proven vaccine-linked deaths in VAERS. Billions in profits. Blood clots and heart damage for the young. Cages and masks for children. Medical apartheid. Habeas Corpus. My body, my choice. 1,800 Southwest flights cancelled. Pilots strike. Open borders. Planned erasure of nations? Thousands of Haitians storm Texas. Enormous wildfires rage in the West – forests into wastelands, homes & cars into ash, even metal frames melt… So much has happened in 18 months.

 What language do we speak? What languages should we speak here in the U.S.? What is the best course of action for poets living in such a tumultuous world? Some poets reflect this turmoil in their work, take sides, or think only they know the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. The Left. The Right. Others seek to withdraw into the worlds of nature, beauty, or art; into the respite of long walks, working in the garden, or listening to music. They write about their childhood memories, or startling moments of bliss. 

Still others fill their hearts with gratitude, forgiveness, kindness, and love. They pray and reflect on the meaning of faith, help others, put their faith into action. Some take advice from Toltec Don Miguel Ruiz, whose Four Agreements seem custom-made for our times: “Be impeccable with your word. Do not take anything personally. Do not make assumptions. Always do your best.” Hard, but not impossible. 

 It is not the first time that humanity willingly entered into such chaos, following its powerful leaders whose identities and agendas are hard to fathom. Just read Anna Akhmatova. Osip Mandelstalm who died in Soviet gulag in 1938, or Czesław Miłosz who escaped from the repressive Polish People’s Republic in 1951, taught at UC Berkeley, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. In China,  Zhu Yufu and Lu Yang are arrested and charged with “subversion of state power.” Let’s not even think of Falun Gong and forced organ transplants. Evan Mantyk of the Society of Classical Poets warns: “The CCP must fall.” The ring of recurrence keeps turning; it has happened before, it will happen again. What do we do? We create. We write and with our words conjure new worlds into being." 

CSPS Member News. CSPS Board member Terry Ehret and her co-translators John Johnson and Nancy J. Morales recently won the Northern California Book Award for California Poetry in Translation for their work on Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One, by Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon. Poems from the forthcoming volume two have been published in Exchanges, Clade Song, Triggerfish, Caesura, and Poetry Daily. Ehret was recently featured with poet and translator William O’Daly in the series Poets in Conversation, hosted by Phyllis Klein. The program aired on September 25, 2021 and is posted online. In addition, Plagios/Plagiarisms was one of Camille Dungy’s picks for Latinx Heritage Month on Orion Magazine’s blog.  William Scott Galasso’s poem The Year We Never Saw Coming was honored as the first poem in The San Diego Poetry Anthology for the 2020-21 issue by the editors. He was made a member of Marquis Who’s Who in America for his writing in 2021 and was featured as the Haiku poet of the month of June at the Mann Library at Cornell University. Ambika Talwar is recently published in these anthologies: Breathe Poetry; Ruddy Ravens, Cheshire Cats & Rusty Rats; GloMag August 2021; Pratik (Los Angeles edition); Paws Healing the Earth. She is also published in the popular online and in Online GloMag June and July 2021. Ambika’s art was featured in two exhibitions at the Neutra Gallery in Silverlake (July and August 2021). 

 The California Quarterly continues to collect accolades for the quality of its verse and artwork. The second issue of 2021 (Vol. 47 No. 2 edited by Maja Trochimczyk) featured a “Butterfly” by a Hungarian-American painter, Susan Dobay, on the cover and the readers commented about this “gorgeous” image, praising the poetry within as well. Madeleine Swift Butcher: “this is an amazing  collection and I’m honored to be part of it.” Jackie Chou: “So happy to receive this journal and to have a chance to read some of the stunning poetry in it.” Sarah Platenius: “Looks amazing!! Thank you so much – grateful to be a part of this.” Kathi Stafford: “Great edition!! You’ve done a wonderful job on putting this together.” Kelley White: “Looks great. I’m delighted that I fit in with the mother/daughter theme.” 

The Poetry Letter No. 2 of 2021 was emailed as PDF attachment to about 400 readers, with poems by Donna Emerson and Jeanine Stevens, as well as information about our Poetry Contests, and book reviews: Alice Pero’s review of Birds of San Pancho and other Poems of Place by Lucille Lang Day; Kathy Lundy Derengowski’s review of Flourishing - Florescence by Elizabeth Yahn Williams; Toti O’Brien’s review of Figures of Humor and Strange Beauty by Kath Abela Wilson; and Ted Smith-Orr’s review of London Manuscript by Anna Maria Mickiewicz.

 The Poetry Letter No. 3 of 2021 was emailed with poems by Greg Gregory and Franklin Gillette, information about poetry contests, and book reviews: Anara Guardan Diego’s review of Blue Tin Sky by Greg Gregory; Jackie Kudler’s of Bye Bye Blackbird by Doreen Stock; Alice Pero’s of Speech Scroll by David Chorlton; Michael Escoubas’s of The Caregiver by Caroline Johnson and of We Are Here – Village Poets Anthology edited by Maja Trochimczyk and Marlene Hitt. Our illustrations were from California landscape paintings by Benjamin Chambers Brown, 1865-1942), Anna Althea Hills (1882-1930) and Selden Connor Gile (1877-1947).

Some recipients took time to comment. Joe DeCenzo: “This is truly wonderful! It’s so beautiful and artistically formatted.” Elizabeth Williams: “Lovely colorful art and poetry.” Sharon Chmielarz: “Thank you, Maja, for including the photos of the paintings. I enjoyed your comments, the poet’s work, and of course the paintings. Good that people still can see the work of these past painters.”  The PDF version of Poetry Letters is posted on our website, Its sections, poems and book reviews separately, are published on our blog, 

Feel free to submit poems and book reviews to the Poetry Letter, and unpublished poems and translations to the California Quarterly. 

When all else goes to hell in wastepaper basket, poetry is alive and well. A testimonial to indominable human spirit!

~ Maja Trochimczyk 

CSPS President