Tuesday, June 29, 2021

California Quarterly 47, no. 2, Summer 2021, edited by Maja Trochimczyk

Cover Art: Butterfly by Susan Dobay, 

48"x 36" acrylic on canvas (1993)

California State Poetry Society is pleased to announce the publication of the California Quarterly, vol. 47 no. 2, Summer 2021, edited by Maja Trochimczyk 

Editor’s Note

Mother – the same word in many languages, the first syllable of a baby, the easiest to pronounce: matr. मातृ (Sanskrit),মা Mā (Bangla), मां maan (Hindi),  ਮਾਂ Māṁ (Punjabi), அம்மா Am'mā (Tamil), mater (Latin), mutter (German), màthair (Scottish), móðir (Icelandic), moeder (Dutch), madre (Italian, Spanish), motina (Lithuanian), mère (French), мајко (Serbian), майка (Bulgarian), mãe (Portuguese), แม่, mæ̀ (Thai), mẹ (Viet-namese). It is мама in Russian, mama in Polish, Romanian, Swahili, and umama in Zulu. Most of these languages are Indo-European, but even the Chinese are not free of the omnipresent “mm” in 母親 Mǔqīn, or 媽媽 Māmā. We have one translation from Chinese in this issue, by Yun Wang, and another one, from Italian, by our indefatigable Margaret Saine. People who speak multiple languages gain insights into multiple cultures and are really blessed. They are able to recognize the essential human unity in the delightful diversity of nations and cultures. While editing the CQ, I like finding shared themes among submissions that bind poems with a common thread. This time, I found mothers, daughters, the joy and loss of childhood, but also solitude, pain, resilience, the Earth, Gaia – our Mother, teeming with life… and the wings of a butterfly, that came out of a humble, hungry caterpillar crawling in the dirt. A lovely butterfly graces our cover in a joyous image by Hungarian-American painter Susan Dobay (b. 1937). Back in 1956, she escaped from Hungary after the Soviet crackdown on the nation longing for its freedom. As long as communist repressions, violence and wars continue, refugees will stream out of lands of totalitarian oppression, searching for countries of peace and freedom. Are any such countries left on this planet? Is there anywhere to escape to? Our escape, as poets, has always been internal: the world of poetry and imagination. The world created by our words, our visions that have become a shared reality in the California Quarterly 47, No. 2. Enjoy!

Maja Trochimczyk, Editor

Masodik29 by Susan Dobay, Digital Integration Image


California Quarterly, Volume 47, Number 2

  • Mother Wearing Glasses and a Scarf  - Millicent Borges Accardi 7
  • Frosted  -  Kelley Jean White 8
  • Jar of Flowers  -  Daniel E. Blackston 9
  • Supercalifraglistic Rachel Squires Bloom    10
  • Childhood Predictions of Future  Success     -  Jackie Chou 11
  • Lure -  Kristel Rietesel-Low  12
  • Chandra’s Garden -  Gary Metheny 13
  • Where the Roly-Polies Go  When It Rains  - Kristel Rietesel-Low  14
  • House of Music  -     Eric Blanchard 15
  • whoosh… -     Deborah P Kolodji 15
  • The Shipping Forecast    - Harris Coverley 16
  • Will   -    Chris Durand    17
  • Like the Waves   - Purna Sujash  18
  • Imposing its Rust on Everything   -   Millicent B. Accardi 19
  • 送友人  - Li Bai 20
  • Seeing Off a Friend    - Yun Wang, transl. 20
  • Hometown  - Anna Maria Mickiewicz 21
  • Speed of Pain -     Jeffrey L. Taylor 22
  • inscriptions    -     Jamie Duncan 23
  • mother’s recipe  - Susan Rogers 23
  • Solitudine    - Paolo Staglianò 24
  • family album   -   William Scott Galasso 24
  • Solitude  -    Margaret Saine, transl.  25
  • wanted everything  -     ayaz daryl nielsen 25
  • Soliloquy    -     Gary Davis 26
  • Breaker -     Harris Coverley 27
  • Providence  -     Diana Donovan 28
  • Plein Air, Oxford   -    Teresa Bullock 29
  • somewhere still   -     Susan Rogers 29
  • The Landscape of Love -   Nelson Joshua AnandhaRaj 30
  • For the Lemon Tree Alone   - Madeleine S. Butcher 31
  • a scent of roses    - Susan Rogers 31
  • Tree Songs    -  Dana Stamps II 32
  • The Changeling  - Maureen Ellen O’Leary 33
  • Mason Bees   - Maja Trochimczyk 34
  • Figures -    Kath Abela Wilson 35
  • Low Tide -    Marilyn Robertson 36
  • Survival Skills    - Sarah Platenius 36
  • ways   -    Jamie Duncan 37
  • At Temple Preparing to Pray    - Meghan Adler 38
  • The Time Is Now -    Dirk James 39
  • Ascension    -     Mary Elliott 40
  • abruptly -    Gregory Cecil 40
  • Mouth of the River Spitting out  the Sea  -  Eli Coyle     41
  • Breakthrough -   Beth Pollak 42
  • Gypsy Wind -   William Scott Galasso 43
  • This Dance   -    Cathy Porter 44
  • Sunset -   Gary Davis 45
  • spring sunset -    Gregory Cecil 45
  • Moonlight   - Livingston Rosmoor 46
  • Mother’s Way    -    Kath Abela Wilson 46
  • Nocturne 23    -    Jeff Graham 47
  • The Runaway Moon  -  Dirk James 48
  • Loveland   -    Sam Barbee 49
  • Aristophanes    -  Gary Davis 50
  • Susan is Dancing on the Moon    -    Kathi Stafford 51
  • Grace Notes -    William Scott Galasso 52
  • A Song-Distance Away    -    Nelson Joshua AnandhaRaj 53
  • Song Offering, Because Love   -    Ambika Talwar 54
  • Rain     -     MaryJo West 55
  • To a Mother -     Susan Rogers 56
  • The Light   - Dennis Ross 57
  • Flight of Longing -   Ambika Talwar 58
  • summer breeze   - Deborah P Kolodji 59
  • The Intransigence of Stars    -   David Starkey 60
  • patio chimes -   Deborah P Kolodji 60

Masodik39 by Susan Dobay, Digital Integration Image

NEWSBRIEFS 2021, NO. 2 (SUMMER 2021)

California State Poetry Society will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022. We have not yet decided what format these commemorations should assume, but we are proud of the continuous publication of our journal, California Quarterly, known to 1999 as CQ: California State Poetry Journal and including work by 50-60 poets in each issue. That is a lot of poetry published in 47 volumes! Please note that some volumes were spread out over two years, hence the difference in numbers. Our society changed its name, as well: we started as California State Poetry Association and became a Society in 1985, when incorporating as a public-benefit California non-profit.  If you would like to contribute to the celebrations, send your ideas to me at maja@moonrisepress.com. So far, we have discussed such options as commemorating our past presidents in the successive CQ issues, publishing a brief history of CSPS with notes from past Board members, indexing all 47 volumes of the journal, publishing interviews with key contributors to the CSPS on our blog, and more.
We would like to remind our readers that the CSPS Annual Contest deadline is July 31, 2021. Georgia Jones-Davis graciously agreed to serve as the Contest Judge. For more information about her visit our blog: https://www.californiastatepoetrysociety.com/2021/05/meet-georgia-jones-davis-csps-annual.html.

You may submit work by mail or online, http://www.californiastatepoetrysociety.org. We recently changed contest rules, lowering submission reading fees for members of the NFSPS. These poets will pay fees at the level of those for CSPS members. The Annual Contest is open to all poets, regardless of their CSPS membership. While submitting poems to the CQ via Submittable or in other ways, do not forget to include your name, city, state, country and email address on all pages with your poems. We need this information! Also, please, consider sending submissions to Monthly Contests, managed by Alice Pero, our Monthly Contest Judge. 

California Quarterly Editors. We are pleased to announce that William Scott Galasso agreed to join the CQ Editorial Board, and will start editing from Vol. 47, No. 4. Scott is an accomplished poet with a great love for haiku and related genres. He published 16 books and his work appeared in many journals. We are still looking for more Editors to work with us on the CQ Editorial Board. If interested, send your bio to the President, maja@moonrisepress.com.

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 events and contests – their newsletter, Strophes, is found on the NFSPS website, http://www.nfsps.com/Strophes.html.

The CQ vol. 47 no. 1, edited by Bory Thach, who joined the Editorial Board in 2020, was well received. Terry Ehret commented: “Wow! The poems in this issue are quite stunning! I was especially pleased to see one by Amy Moore. She'd never published her poems anywhere until last fall's issue that I edited. I'm glad she's getting her work out into the world, and glad CQ could help move her forward in her publishing career. Thank you for the excellent work the two of you demonstrate here!” 

The current issue of the CQ vol. 47 no. 2 features a painting by Susan Dobay on the cover. Born in Hungary, she studied in Hungary and the U.S., worked as a commercial designer, and moved on into the fine arts world, while being active  in her native Hungary and the U.S. Her paintings and digital integration images are in many collections in Hungary, Canada, the U.K., Switzerland, and the U.S. She explains her approach to creativity as follows: “I try to find the balance between mind and spirit. My goal is to involve viewers in a creative game where both the mind and the heart are stimulated.”

Members News: Margaret Saine has held zoom conferences on poetry in Chennai and Mumbai. Her book of French poems, Rêveuses Rivières, is being published in Montreal, Canada, and her Spanish book, Respirando bajo el agua, by Cuadernos del Laberinto in Madrid. Three poems by Ambika Talwar are selected for publication in a new collection titled Timeless Inspirations. Three poems of mine are in an anthology of Polish memorial poems, Do Zobaczenia 2 (London). I manage Zoom readings for Village Poets; we recently featured Maura Harvey, Terry Ehret & Nancy Covers Dougherty.

Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President

Searching by Susan Dobay, acrylic on canvas. 
More information: SusanDobay.om


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. SusanDobay.com       

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 CaliforniaStatePoetrySociety.org. 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