Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Poetry Letter No. 1 2021 - CSPS Monthly Contest Winners for 2020

"Late Hue" by Julian Stanczak (1975)

The year 2020 was eventful for California State Poetry Society, perhaps because “change” was in the air. After suffering the loss of long-time Monthly Contest Chair, Keith Van Vliet, who died in 2019. We started the year with Richard Modiano, Vice President for Communications serving as Monthly Contests Chair and Judge. 

In November 2019, Alice Pero was approved as the new Monthly Contests Chair and Judge and she adjudicated the contests for the rest of the year 2019 and all of 2020. The winning poems are now gathered all together for the whole calendar year. 

  •  January 2020.   1. Jane Stuart - "Our Winter Garden"    2. Jane Stuart - "Early on a Winter Morning"   3. David Anderson - "The Apple Spy"
  • February 2020.  1. Pamela Shea - "Rosebuds and Lovers"  2. Jane Stuart - "Dancing Into Love Again" 
  • March 2020. Dorothy Skies - "The Coyote’s Howl"
  • April 2020. No Winners
  • May 2020. Marlene Hitt - "Enlightenment"
  • June 2020. Joyce Futa – “Kumquat Marmalade”
  • July 2020. Jackie Chou – “Cerulean”
  • August 2020. Joan Gerstein – “Self-Portrait as Clark Gable One Liner” 
  • September 2020. Louise Moises – “Empty Chairs” 
  • October 2020. No Winners
  • November 2020. Charlene Langfur – “Meandering”
  • December 2020. Ambika Talwar – “Losses into Treasures”
NOTE: To submit poems to our Monthly Contests, please send the poems to and the payment via PayPal to 

"Mirrored" by Julian Stanczak (1971)

January 2020: “Our Winter Garden” by Jane Stuart

Our Winter Garden

Our winter garden greens under dark snow
that fell upon the terrace in our sleep--
the moon's shadows glisten and glow,
the wind makes footprints that are deep
beside the garden wall that is so tall
it almost reaches the winter sky--
and now, the lightest morning snowflakes fall
from greyest clouds stuck to the sky.
Snow falls where flowers bloomed and young trees grew
up, up, to blossom on a summer day.
The garden was a green place where birds flew
 in flocks to find their nests; time blew away
 these months then winter raindrops fell with snow
over dark earth under the full moon's glow.

February 2020: Pamela Shea's "Rosebuds and Lovers"

Rosebuds and Lovers

The bud of a rose,
Layer on layer of petals,
Held tightly, perfectly,
Unfolding when the time has come,
Bursts open and a flower is born,
Releasing sweet perfume.

The heart of a lover,
Layer on layer of emotions,
Trembling, hidden, waiting,
When touched by the beloved,
Bursts open and a poem is born;
Sweet music fills the air.

"Duality in System" by Julian Stanczak (1990)

March 2020: Dorothy Skiles's "The Coyote's Howl"

The Coyote’s Howl

January’s draught
portent of a scorching
summer to come…

The San Gabriel Mountains
and Verdugo Woodland’s
are but a tinder box-
terrain covered with
chaparral, a dry dense
stubborn thicket -
fuel for wildfires.
On summer nights beneath
the full moon’s light, coyote’s
coat the color of nickel.
Her features gaunt, gait less
confident, yet her sense
of smell remains keen.

From dusk to dawn
she traverses the ridges,
the low-lying hillsides
hunting rodents and rabbits.
She often treks into
neighborhoods, climbing
fences as swift as a thief.
The coyote is not too proud
 to forage for plums,
berries or pears.

This fall as the Santa Ana
winds rage, I’ll listen
for the coyote’s howl,
wondering if she’ll
make it through
the threat of famine,
the peril of wildfires,

sure, to come!

"Line Up" by Julian Stanczak (1978)

May 2020: Marlene Hitt's "Enlightenment"


A dust devil blew in
from my childhood.
Dead leaves whirled up
from summer’s hot soil
while a jay feather flew birdless
swirling into midsummer sky
up to the puffs of white cloud
as on the day when I was ten,
when I ran into the vortex
trying to find a secret
in the center of the whirlwind
only to rush away
with sand in my eye.
Why does that thrill return
as the wind whirls in?
And why, now, do I run away?

June 2020: Joyce Futa – “Kumquat Marmalade”

Kumquat Marmalade

My sister and I slice a huge mound of kumquats for marmalade, a tedious, time-consuming task; each tiny fruit has seeds we must tease out with the tip of a knife. One could go nuts doing this alone, but we pass the time chatting about friends, sons, the awful daily news.  Twelve jars of orange jellies with little bright haloes of rind will be our reward.

We start to talk about movies. Suddenly we are caught in the familiar senior struggle to remember someone’s name, this time an actress we have loved in many roles. We catalog facts we know about her – she played an artist in that movie with whatshisname … and X’s sister in a film set in San Francisco – was she nominated for that? Finally, my sister says she gives up and rinses her hands to google. When she returns with the name, we slap our numbskulls.

slippery seeds of memory
we leave drama behind
and enter the age of comedy

"Conferring Blue" by Julian Stanczak (1978) print on paper

July 2020: Jackie Chou – “Cerulean”


My mother clad me in pink,
and later in my teens, lavender.
But the blue was always there,
underneath the pastel colors.
It was in my genes,
blue with its melancholia
and myriad synonyms,
azure and cerulean.
My mood is a spectrum
of different shades of blue,
including royal and navy.
The sky and the sea are blue,
with every variation in between,
turquoise and indigo.
Blue is behind my strawberry-colored smile.

August 2020: Joan Gerstein – “Self-Portrait as Clark Gable One-Liner”

Self-Portrait as Clark Gable One-Liner

I’m large ears, not a rouge elephant
in the room. I’m no monkey,
giraffe, donkey. I’m fame, drama
money, talent, often remote, dark.
I’m a good-looking ladies’ man.
I’m a decades-long romantic,
rugged legend, a dream-boat.
I’m not meatloaf, filet of flounder,
fish gravy. I’m an early inning
grounder, grinning leading male.
I’m army air force, not a feathered
fledging dragon. I’m beguiling
to a fault, make traffic halt.
I’m flair like the Golden Gate.
Friendlier than a diva, louder
than a lady. I’m a brash laugh.
I‘m five fingers, a foot, a fathom.
I‘m a photo album minus a mother.
I’m oft married, alpha male, father
that denied infant daughter
for the reason that frankly,
my dear, I don’t give a damn. 

"Opposing in Dark" painting by Julian Stanczak (1984)

September 2020: Louise Moises – “Empty Chairs”

Empty Chairs

I search for him in all the chairs,
but every day, he isn't there:
the yellow dining chair bereft
of shoulders broad, his chest, his neck,
the wooden stool where once he sat
perched upon the kitchen matt;
he was there to prep a dish:
peel a vegetable, bone a fish,
and on the deck the slatted chair
its arms all stiff with vacant air;
no more a conversation shared;
I can not hear the voice that cared.
The garden bench beside the wall,
where once he read in spring and fall,
the cat now sleeps upon his place,
I can not see his smiling face,
the office chair that does not roll
that creaked the floor and took its toll
of difficult financial times,
checks to write and poems to rhyme,
the recliner sits in upright space
no feet to rest, no back to brace.
The bedroom chair without his clothes ...
My mind in logic surely knows,
he'll not return to take a seat,
but my heart with longing prays to meet,
the man that sat in all those chairs
could he once more find comfort there.

"Chase" by Julian Stanczak (1977)

November 2020: Charlene Langfur – “Meandering”


Today all of what's around is seeds and scraps and petals
picked up along the way, ideas about love opening up again
bigger than the giant fan palms, where the mountain
edges touch the sky near where I live,
the fat white clouds hanging over it in the blue sky
where the full moon rises at night and the sun
lights up what we know of where we are
and seeds are everywhere on the sand and scrub grass
when the cold settles into the desert at night. 
Today I know the love stays inside me now
and carries forward in time, the same as any
abundance no matter how little or rare,
my dog leaping in the wild grass, unflappable,
my friend smiling after her cancer treatments,
her bald head bobbing in the sun. I think today
getting older is only the other side of something else,
everything redeemed as always, dreams unobscured,
and the flowers, you can see for yourself, petals  absolutely luminous

"Shared Center"  by Julian Stanczak (1983-99)

December 2020: Ambika Talwar – “Losses into Treasures”

Losses Into Treasures

My father - dear glorious one.
How do you fare so far away? I am
readying for another visit to
a distant home. I miss you as mad
earth who contains all our stories.

Your absence so palpable – even trees
bend to gaze in my eyes; in these presences
I gather riches of your wise brown eyes
I wrote of wild moons ago.

Some riches are borne of loss – all losses
become treasures – not yours not now
maybe tomorrow. I cannot shed pain
of my lostness of you 

Wild orange blue bird-like flower courses
through my domain – walls wither.

There are no excuses for not speaking
tongues of love. Moments of eternal stories
gather moss strung in my heart’s eyes.
I must speak of them now. To you.

Tales from my little days – as teen years
pulled me tall. My injured hand,
shy smile, falling star – maker of tea.
I could never say them aloud; power of silence
of shutting had me captured with tales
of she's too much.

Find out now – how too much I am
I love too much to come close…
you with the grand trine in the skies
that mirrors mine – Stargazers have told me
But I could tear apart the sky looking
for you – to tell a story a day for 100 years.

Your palms bruised curved ridges
disappear into a lost horizon –
I search – my shadow walks behind me…
Your voice remembers.

First published in The World Literature Blog. January 18, 2020;

"Accumulative" by Julian Stanczak (1975)



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:


The paintings of Julian Stanczak (1928-2017), represent the most vibrant period of Op-Art. Born in Poland and training to be a cellist, the young Julian was deported by Soviets after their invasion in 1939 to a Soviet gulag, where he was badly beaten and lost the use of his right hand. When the prisoners were released in 1941, and left with the Anders Army, they were distributed around the world in a variety of refugee camps. Julian ended up in Uganda, where he learned how to draw and paint using only his left arm and hand.  He was delighted with the richness of color and light that he saw in Africa and this period was formative for his development as artist. 

After coming to the U.S. in 1950, he studied art at Yale University and settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was a professor for 31 one years. One of  CSPS poets, David Sapp, wrote the following recollection: "Julian was a long-time professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art. I remember seeing some of his work in person when I was a student there a very long time ago. Astonishing color. It was said that he would sit on the edge of his couch and imagine these complex paintings in his head and then -- like Mozart -- simply paint them without studies."  More information may be found on the website

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