Friday, July 30, 2021

CSPS Monthly Contests Winners, January - June 2021

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

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

January 2021 - First Prize Winner


by Emory D. Jones

Bent grasses hint

at the passing of unseen winds

and spirits.

Spires of black spruce,

 rise out of moss

and point skyward,

their broken branches draped

with a haunting thin gauze

of lichens.

Poisonous red capped mushrooms stand

like miniature tables and chairs—

fungus furniture

that some secret night

might have hosted

the “little people”

so important in the folklore

of the native Ojibwa.

Something spiritual lives here,

something dark

something old.

January 2021 - Second Prize Winner

The Summer of Fire

by Marlene Hitt

... only a few clear days to see mountains

that summer of smoke. 

It blew north to south, west to east,

then due westward with a thick canopy

veiling the sky.

That one morning, dawn sun

rose red as a bloody yolk

fiery as those flames 

that devour ridges and ranges

licking them clear of chaparral.

That sun spread orange on the sheets

where we lay while orange flames

covered thickets and nests.


You have such a terrible craving

reducing cedar and pine to

blackened stumps, sumac to ash.

We pray for rain to bear you downhill

to melt the rage of you.

This morning in the orange light

air is pungent;

the smell of black brush,

the fear of live creatures.

After the night of fire 

I do not fret over the smell of

last night's onions

nor do I light a bathroom candle

but gaze out to yellow-grey,

watch the mountains disappear. 

January 2021 - Third Prize Winner

The Coming Snow

by David Anderson

The lone buffalo grazes

            ninety feet away

                        from a single giant pine.

This landscape hangs


                        by the haze of a coming storm.

Coated with ice

            the buffalo

                        continues to bite

the short grass

            we cannot see

                    under the shifting layer of slush.

Spare winter feed belies

            the flourishing tree

                        which, like the buffalo,

stands alone

            and catches the diamonds

                        of the oncoming snow.

February 2021 - First Prize Winner


by Claire J. Baker

                  I learn by going where I have to go.

                                       ~ Theodore Roethke

My love & I are a blink

in time's polished mirror

a tinkling of bells

a sprinkling of savvy

filled with drama, trauma

& triumph.

In the center of our story 

we gather anise

& rosemary for soup. 

After reading The Waking

we realize we read

each other easily. 


we will love forever,

clinking glasses 

surely makes it so,

& so for now

we gloriously come and go.

March 2021 - First Prize Winner

Just One Thing—

by Julia Park Tracey

Between two trees, a pretty 

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

like rain against the window, where every gleam’s

a jewel—

Mica in concrete. Ice crystals. My

wedding band with a diamond for each child.

William Carlos Williams’ broken glass

and Lucy in the sky, all shining with that

unbearable beauty, the only thing

that keeps my two feet moving when I should otherwise 

collapse. A sparkle so bright it 

waters my eyes. A light so delicate and sharp

like the first breath on a January morning.

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

So little. So much.

April 2021 - First Prize Winner

Aboriginal Americans

by Colorado Smith

A windblown iris-blue sky,

flint chips and black-on-white shards

are peppered among red-rock spires

where, centuries of centuries ago,

yucca-fiber sandals pressed braided tracks

into this barren barranca

leading down to a sulfur spring.

Summer monsoon mud

and smoldering sun seared their trace

into castellated Cañyon del Muerto

in the Dragoon Mountains.

A fevered history and sacred legends

from the People’s Chantways

speak of spiritual geography:

ancestral burial cists,

shamanic blessings;

of salt-pilgrimages to the Sea of Cortez,

of crossing windswept sands

and silver playas;

of parched, desert dreams:

mesquite-bean mortars,

palo verde,

and Sages.

April 2021 - Second Prize Winner

Plein Air, Oxford

by Teresa Bullock

There. Near the pinking apples

stands a giant chestnut shading the yard.

On the ancient wall crusty with lichen,

a resting cat sits sentry. Plush gray,

a boat cat by trade, he stops by

for a lap of milk and tummy rub

before padding  home

 to his long boat on the Isis.

Downy cygnets paddle around his boat,

bobbing and weaving for slick grasses.

Sculls swoosh by like needlefish.

Look again. Up river

 a cow herd cools under

long lashes of willow. Port Meadow

glows golden in the late sun. The palette:

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

Shadow Black. For the cows -

quick strokes in white and rust.

April 2021 - Third Prize Winner

Praxilla's Folly

by Ruth Berman

Sicya — a fruit like the cucumber

Or the gourd

Eaten ripe.

In Cucumber Town

In Sicyon near Corinth

Praxilla mourned Adonis in the spring.

Her Adonis, sprouting in the garden,

Spoke of what he missed,

Being dead:




     Ripe cucumbers



Silly as Praxilla's Adonis!"

Men in other

Cities hooted

Shocked that an idiot woman dared

Put cucumbers on a par

With the celestial glories

In Cucumber Town


Ate fresh salad

Her bite of immortality


With earth-born flavors.

In the land of death, Adonis

Waiting for the spring

Remembers sunlight on the garden.

May 2021 - First Prize Winner

Is that a Bird? 

by Luise Kantro

Well, Joan Miro.

I don’t get it.

A moon.  A star.

Five, maybe six, wacky, tilted heads.

I see no birds.

Crazy gymnasts, birds are.

The air.  The cloudless sky.

That weightless sensation.

Really, I see no birds.

Why call your painting

Women and Bird in the Moonlight?

As for the heads –  

mere faces with eyes

nose and mouth. 

Are they the women?

Where are the boobs

the painted nails

the wombs?

The shapes part I get.

Round, pointed, curved.

Shapes are cool.

      Oh my, is that thing a bird?

And those colors, orange and gray.

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

loamy earth crumble in my fingers.

Best of all, through memory’s eye,

I see the marvelous drawing my son,

at five, made of a child sitting at a table

watching his orange juice fly across the room.

May 2021 - Second Prize Winner

Mending its Own Business

Elaine Westheimer

Mending Its Own Business

Slick, midnight black, big as Poe’s 

imagination, bird claws wood

where leafy tears flutter like 

green crystals under a jay-blue sky.

Seems nothing like a writing desk* 

as I spy its folded span amid tree 

sway and sprawl, a warrior hunter 

alert for prey and insurrection.

Beak snaps off a sizeable twig, 

I guess for a nest, and then takes

flight; my wild-thing thoughts 

turn to domesticated musings.


 *Why is a raven like a writing desk?" 

is a riddle proposed by the Mad Hatter 

during a tea party in Lewis Carroll's classic 

1865 novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  

May 2021 - Third Prize Winner

The House Knows 

by Elizabeth Kuelbs

The house knows this baby’s zipping her bags 

bound for some wild place riddled with termites 

or leaks or views of cracked bricks. 

All the babies are the house’s favorite 

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

tumbling lavender Easter eggs from under the sofa, 

sunshining the floor with golden nap patches, 

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

breathing fresh sourdough and butter from the kitchen, 

cajoling flocks of orioles to trill in the backyard poplars, 

and plinking scraped knees and triumph on the worn piano. 

But this baby, bound for some wild place, 

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

where the weeping cherries froth blossoms at her nonstop 

and the grass greens so hard, stretching pluckily skyward—  

you hear me, baby? the house calls,

you stretch skyward always, 

lawnmowers or no damn lawnmowers

June 2021 -  First Prize Winner

The Ghost in the Restaurant 

by Gail White

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

Venice, I prayed. And now I have a front 

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

To start again my oldest love affair. 

It's true the waiter never comes to take 

My order - understandable mistake 

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

Of showering the servants with abuse? 

People sit down around me. I don't care­

Catching the pageant from my vacant chair, 

I see the paving stones grow bright with rain, 

The pigeons cluck and stutter, twilights wane 

To starry nights. I watch, while thanking God,

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

from gray-green stone into a sheet of gold. 

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

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Marc Chagall: One Man Opera

Chagall recalls history in rainbow-filled hues.

Above lovers’ heads, angels fly with acclaim.

His art reveals levels of multiple views.

To Homeland Russia he repays his dues.

Its churches and temples he paints into fame.

Chagall recalls history in rainbow-filled hues.

His fables, myths, scriptures, and circus revues

show farmlands and towns from where he came.

His art reveals levels of multiple views.

Always his brides are veiled in virtues

and, bearing Godivas, his burros are tame.

Chagall recalls history in rainbow-filled hues.

His acrobat-cocks wear little soft shoes

while tap dancing fiddlers invoke La Fontaine.

His art reveals levels of multiple views.

His works for great cities often début

in etchings, ceramics, and glass that is stained.

Chagall recalls history in rainbow-filled hues.

His art reveals levels of multiple views.

 Marc Chagall, l'opéra d'un seul homme 

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

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

Son art révèle les facettes d'un multiple regard.

Il rend un hommage légitime à sa Russie natale,

et rend célèbre ses églises et ses temples.

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

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

représentent les terroirs et les villes natales.

Son art révèle les facettes d'un multiple regard.

Ses nouvelles mariées sont toujours voilées de vertus

et ses ânes porteurs de Godivas sont très doux.

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

Ses coqs acrobatiques portent de petits chaussons

tandis que des violonistes faiseurs de claquettes invoquent La Fontaine.

Son art révèle les facettes d'un multiple regard.

Ses oeuvres pour grandes villes souvant débutent

par ses gravures, sa céramique, ses vitraux.

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

Son art révèle les facettes d'un multiple regard.

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

Editor’s Note

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

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

Bory Thach
San Bernardino, California

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

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

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

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy Independence Day 2021 to All Poets and Poetry Lovers!

 Happy Independence Day!

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

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

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

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

Dr Maja Trochimczyk, President

                   INDEPENDENCE DAY

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

                                 Red, White and Blue - colors of all.  

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

                                             Red, White and Blue - connected in all. 

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

                                                           Red, White and Blue - freedom for all.