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.