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.
FEATURED POET GREG GREGORY
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
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
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
being and emotion.
The aphasia of bare soil,
the speech of tongues of
of the empty earth.
The rubric of tubers and roots
cloyed in tangles of clay, all
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
who float luminous
in moon-cast tides
a trace of their salts in
the wanting water.
invisible in darkness
like our hearts.
Like them, we trail
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
only their memory,
a phantom beauty
enfolded in another
its heart pulsing
on the water's surface.
~ Originally published in The Avocet
Breaking Wave by Anna Althea Hills,
FEATURED POET FRANKLIN GILLETTE
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.