Friday, August 25, 2023

Contents of California Quarterly Vol. 49, No.3 (Autumn 2023) Edited by Nicholas Skaldetvind

California Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 3 (Fall 2023), edited by Nicholas Skaldetvind

Cover Art: Little Gland (Pulp Painting on Handmade Paper)

 by Nicholas Skaldetvind (July 2022), 10.5” X 8”



Toppled Statues   Jim Dunn 7

In the Cathedral   John Grey 8

Unhomeliness Paul Schreiber 9

A Father’s Death — Paul Schreiber 10

Tonight I’ll Dance —  Paul Schreiber 12

Brineflight  Jeff Graham  14

In Praise of Blue  Ruth Bavetta 15

The 1970s   Charles Rafferty 16

I Like to Think of Myself as Having Goals  Charles Rafferty 16

Purses  — Charles Rafferty 17

East Ridge, Ascot Hills  Gregory Cecil 18

Mais Où Sont Les Neiges D’Antan?   Rick Anthony Furtak 19

Tumult    Lauro Palomba 20

Snow  Susie Meserve 21

List —  Susie Meserve 22

Hiking in Tilden Park on the Last Day of Summer   Susie Meserve 23

Hopland Overhead —  Susie Meserve 24

Homeward Over Sonora Pass, August 2020, Listening to a Podcast About the Painter Egon Schiele, Who Died of Spanish Flu   Susie Meserve 25

Pieter Brueghel The Elder’s Fall of Icarus   Kevin McDaniel 26

Window Magic   Dianna MacKinnon Henning 27

Inchanting   Rhea Krčmářová 28

Anamnesis  Anthony Caleshu 29

Το Αιώνιο Μάτι Τησ Σιωπήσ Γεράσιμος Σωτ. Γαλανός 30

The Eye   Sophie Kagadis Giannakis, Nicholas Skaldetvind, transl. 31

Promesa Aérea   Almaguer 32

An Airy Promise  Margaret Saine, tr. 33

Eigentlich Sollte Man   Karl Greisinger 34

Actually One Shouldn’t —  Margaret Saine, tr. 35

Evening Tree —  Edward Garvey 36

57 The Fox God’s Shrine   Jim Ellis 37

Lost in Stockholm —  Thomas Lavelle 38

Any Wonder  Thomas Lavelle 39

The Muse  Craig Cotter 39

Night Hoops  Thomas Lavelle 40

Saturn’s Children (After Goya)  Cary Barney 41

Broken Bird (c. 1988)  Cary Barney 42

Broken Bird II (2023)  Cary Barney 43

Tête à Tête  Carolyn Jabs 44

January —  Mathias Toivonen 45

Arctic Circle 1  John James 46

Arctic Circle 2   John James 47

Arctic Circle 3 —  John James 48

Spring   Edward Garvey 49

Watching the Garden Embrace Light    Beau Beausoleil 50

A Movement —  Adam Day 51

Night     Adam Day 51   

Isolation Songs   Karla Kelsey 52

A Summer Day Dislogic —   Brandon Rushton 54


Suddenly —   Peter Gizzi 58

Editor’s Note

I’ve set out to present an example of poets’ vertical investigations abstracting from the muck and confusing murk a clattering of time, of place, of history, making the reader giddy with notions of the numinous, names, theories, dreams, dates, legends.  A good poem rewards this kind of looking.  These poets place themselves at the center of all time in that self-perpetuating way great mythic-figures have always done without border, age, limit and within a labyrinthine wonder.  Fresh and clean verse, pure and naked of pretense, as the wild waters and unmoored light which bathes the Ionian Islands’ and California’s dazzling coast alike.  

The content of these featured poems possesses an intimate quality veering towards a self-involved disposition bordering on narcissism or, in a better-fitting locution of our time, an encroachment on the autism spectrum.  The inherent lyrical structure bestowed upon these works imparts a sense of coherence and unity, steering the reader to believe this was a preconceived notion of collaboration.

Seekers of light and truth go beyond the California world.  They’ve roused me from a bedazzled stupor marked by a sense of inner-defeatism characterizing the better part of the last three months as I scoured after the alchemical “what” of the submitted poems, how to articulate my rationale in selecting a poem and then to sequence the thing.  Rather than “editor” I began to consider myself auditor of the human experience.  The principal reason they’ve been selected is pleasure.  As Peter Gizzi stated elsewhere about editing o•blék: a journal of language arts, “the discourse around poetics comes second; the poem has to lead.”  Each of these poems is its own incarnate statements of poetics.

The reward is this terrific group singing the relationship they share with the world.  Certain poets have widened my eyes with their singing: Dianna MacKinnon Henning, Jim Dunn, Karla Kelsey, John James, Susie Meserve, Charles Rafferty, Paul Schreiber.  Songs in which there is the recognizable sound of a human voice inducing you to continue reading.  I will also wager that if you are like me, you turn to poetry as a means of revealing that which pertains to yourself, for the possibility that another poet out there will open a window for you that you didn’t before trust was there.  Faith.

Believing in magic in the sequence of poems, I was made aware of the reconciliation of one poet’s words weaving with another’s in sympathetic magic in the loose form of journey as they progress.  My aim has been to sequence them into a shape of communal feeling.  And, as with any decent anthology, you are able to open at random and Dame Fortune will enfold you in the language’s sheer beauty of resonance.

Lastly, thanks to Aviva for encouraging me to try along the way. Thanks are due to The Board of The California State Poetry Society for trusting my judgment.  Thanks also to the keen Maja Trochimczyk for drawing my attention to poems I might have otherwise overlooked and for every little thing she does, and to the Ionion Center for providing me a peaceful place to write.  Thanks to the poets for offering such a rich assortment of verse.  And thanks are due to you, dear reader.  We are in society.

Nicholas Skaldetvind

California / Greece / New York 


Nicholas Skaldetvind is an Italian-American poet and paper-maker. He holds a M.A. (2019) fromStockholm University. Department of English and Transnational Creative Writing  (thesis "The Spontaneous Poetics of Jack Kerouac’s Letters from 1947-1956: Repetition, Language, and Narration.”)  In 2015 he received B.A degree from Saint Louis University Madrid,  Department of Spanish Language and Literature, Department of International Studies, and Department of Ibero-American Studies. He is a recipient of numerous scholarships and grants, including  Graduate ERASMUS  Merit Scholarship (September 2018 – January 2019) at Bath Spa University. Department of English and Creative Writing in Bath, England; as well as scholarships at creative writing workshops at Berkeley, CA; Naropa University, Colorado and book arts and papermaking workshop at Wells College in Aurora New York. He also was an undergraduate Exchange Student at the University of Copenhagen, Department of Political Sciences, English Literature, Spanish Literature, and Historical Linguistics (August 2012 – May 2016) and took a writing course in Danish in 2015. 

Skaldetvind's research and teaching interests include: Twentieth-century American Literature, Transnational Studies, Epistolary Poetics, Life Writing, Literature of the American West, Papermaking and Book Arts, Fibers and Shrinkage, and Paper Drying Process. He is a multilingual poet and writer: native speaker in English, with advanced knowledge of Spanish, Danish,  intermediate knowledge of Swedish, Portuguese, Italian and French. 

NEWSBRIEFS 2023, NO. 3, AUTUMN 2023 

             We are eagerly awaiting the results of the 2023 Annual Contest from the contest judge Anna Maria Mickiewicz.  She will be selecting the best poems from the batch of anonymous submissions forwarded to her without any identifying information. The three prize-winners will then be published in the last CQ of 2023 while the Honorary Mentions will be considered for publication.

                    The Poetry Letter obtained its ISSN: Online ISSN 2836-9394; Print ISSN 2836-9408. It is distributed in PDF format and posted on the website and the blog. The second issue of 2023 featured the list of monthly contest winners for 2022 and all poems, illustrated with colorful abstract paintings by Janusz Maszkiewicz, the founder of Vienna Woods Gallery, a proficient craftsman, sculptor, painter, and a member of Krakart Group of Polish American artists that exhibit their works together in the U.S. and Poland. Michael Escoubas’s review of Desert Flow (artwork by Adrián Caldera and poetry by Charlotte Hart) was illustrated with Caldera’s digital art. He also reviewed Hayley and the Hot Flashes by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer and Crystal Fire: Poems of Joy and Wisdom, edited by yours truly, with artwork by Ambika Talwar (14 paintings) and 144 poems by Elżbieta Czajkowska, Joe DeCenzo, Mary Elliott, Jeff Graham, Marlene Hitt, Frederick Livingston, Alice Pero, Allegra Silberstein, Jane Stuart, Ambika Talwar, Bory Thach, & the editor. All poets are CSPS members and several serve on the Board. The final review in the Poetry Letter No. 2 was of Joel Savishinsky’s Our Aching Bones, Our Breaking Hearts: Poems on Aging  by Nina Miller. Due to the editor’s error, William Scott Galasso’s review of Distance by Mariko Kitakubo and Deborah P. Kolodji, was omitted from this issue. The poets will have to wait for the Poetry Letter No. 3. Apologies.

       The two issues of the California Quarterly’s vol. 49, No. 1 (by Konrad Tademar Wilk) and No. 2 (by Maja Trochimczyk) continued to receive favorable comments from readers, praising the beautiful flow of poems in each issue and the artworks on their covers. During the CSPS Board Meeting on 22 April 2023, Nicholas Skaldetvind was confirmed as guest editor of the CQ. Skaldetvind holds a B.A. from St. Louis University in Madrid, Spain and M.A. from Stockholm University in Sweden. He is a double citizen of Italy and the U.S., fluent in English, Spanish, & Danish. He also speaks/reads Swedish, Portuguese, Italian and French… and he edited the CQ during his residency in Greece. At the same time, we said farewell to William Scott Galasso who edited CQ vol. 47, no. 4, but had too many other poetry obligations, in the haiku world and publishing his own books to continue his work as a CQ Editor and member of the CSPS Board. He will be missed and we wish him success in all his projects.

       The Treasurer Report for 22 April 2023 Board Meeting listed the starting balance of $8,649.44 and 2023 YTD Balance of $10,324.32. The Treasurer noted that this was the best financial status of the organization in at least twenty years (since then, we spent funds on printing/mailing of the CQ, our largest expense). The online presence of the CSPS also continued to grow, with the blog having had overall 58,822 visitors by April 2023, and featuring 14 posts in 12 months. As expected, most of the readers last year came from the U.S. (6,360); they were joined by poetry lovers from Russia (763); the Netherlands (721); Belgium (443), Canada (424); the U.K. (343), Germany (301); and South Korea (249). It is amusing to see the strange statistics that machines collect for us. Our Facebook group had only 176 followers, so there’s room to grow.

      Member News. Sunland/Tujunga Poet Laureate Alice Pero had a six-page feature in "Cholla Needles 76" and a feature with Brendan Constantine at Village Poets in Bolton Hall Museum, Tujunga. She received a Commendation for her work with students this year at Fair Oaks School in Altadena.

     The National Federation of State Poetry Societies has a new president, Paul Ford. It held its Annual Convention, Catch Poetry: Stage & Page, on June 21-25, 2023 in West Des Moines, Iowa. It also organized the Blackberry Peach Spoken Word Poetry Competition and the National Slam, as well as 50 other poetry contests. Our Board decided that our interests focus on “printed” rather than “spoken” word—but do tell us if you think otherwise, and, please, volunteer for the NFSPS opportunities. More information in NFSPS Strophes:


   ~ Maja Trochimczyk, 

CSPS President

Figs by Maja Trochimczyk

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Poetry Letter No. 2 (Summer 2023) - Part II. Review of Books by Hart&Caldera, Ferrer, Savishinsky, and Trochimczyk&Talwar

Janusz Maszkiewicz, Untitled 

This is the second part of the Poetry Letter No. 2 of 2023, the first part contained Monthly Contest Winners for 2022, and is found here: The poems were illustrated with paintings by Janusz Maszkiewicz, of Vienna Woods Gallery in Los Angeles. For book reviews, we have lots of artwork, but for the sake of consistency, one paintings by Maszkiewicz is here to start the post.



Desert Flow. Art by Adrián Caldera. Poetry by Charlotte Hart. 78 works of abstract digital art & 78 poems in English ~ 78 poems in Spanish. Published by Cloud Hands Press US price $30, ISBN: 978-0-9861649-0-6. To order:

Cloud Hands Press has outdone itself with its latest gem. Desert Flow is a collaborative project featuring creations by abstract digital artist Adrián Caldera paired with poems by Charlotte Hart.  Although, a student of ekphrastic poetry, I was unprepared for the challenge presented to my sensibilities by Caldera and Hart. My goal, in this review, is to capture some of their synergy as each  artist’s work bears the footprint of the other. Theirs is a conversation in art and poetry which flows like a desert in bloom from hearts nourished by love.

Charlotte Hart’s introduction and Ethan Plaut’s foreword helped me understand the genesis and development of Desert Flow.  Seemingly, by chance, (I don’t believe in chance, by the way) Hart saw a Caldera digital creation on Twitter in the spring of 2018.  Her unsolicited response to Caldera’s work began a long exchange of art and poetry. They have never met and, so far as I can tell, have no plans to meet. Caldera resides in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Hart lives in Chicago, Illinois. 

Caldera’s rich colorations within his near-genius abstract creations moved Hart, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. In her words, Looking at his beautiful colors and widely varying shapes gave me a door into my inner life. Let’s discover together some of the delights on the other side of the door.

Can’t Wall the Sky

This sunlight moment

takes me with great speed

over long distances,

very gently, very kindly,

to the house we have built.

A four-dimensional hypercube home

that casts a

three-dimensional shadow

the endless parameters

of our lives:



the splendor of all

no moment small

in the slow smile

of our days

in this world

of change and commotion,

we are secure

five senses


I’m moved by the way Hart takes shades of sun, couples them with lines suggesting distance, movement and dimension, then merging with some of life’s most important heart-feelings. 

I Thought It Was You

My heart leapt out of my chest

and beat furiously in the air.

I touched the tarnished silver tube

holding the rolled prayer.

I opened the door and went in.

No, you were not.

Remembered kisses

exquisite pleasure

sensation of yearning

for my treasure

delirium of my disbelief!

Your colors and shapes flew

burnished red, rue and indigo

from the bare branches of my mind.

Your brazen spirit

burst meteor bright tonight

in me

then left me alone.

Hart’s testimony (see my opening) to Caldera’s art opening a door to my inner life, comes to life in this poem. How precisely a work of art breathes life into the human spirit is best left to the individual to know and explain. Perhaps this is what Wallace Stevens once referred to as the “Angel of reality.” What Stevens meant was the ability of poetry to lay bare the poet’s “brazen spirit.” To bring forth variegated colors of life and their latent emotions . . . emotions that “beat furiously in the air.”

My Love Will Live Forever

Unseen as currents

in the air and sea,


See the seeds and spores

floating in wind,

and the iridescent plankton

illuminating the shore?

Every word we said,

every smile,

every kiss and tear

flow hidden, fresh,


Hart’s poetic style flows from deep within. As demonstrated by “My Love Will Live Forever,” hers is a poetry that is disarmingly simple on the surface. Don’t let this fool you. Each word belongs. Each word is irreplaceable. Poetic devices such as sibilance, alliteration, and thoughtful endline decisions are consistent hallmarks. Rhymes are occasional and usually interlinear. Her cadences are rhythmical and delight the ear with  the musicality of words.

The Will of the River

goes in its golden flow.

You know it’s

shimmering touch.

The currents carry you,

sunlight submissive.

You are the boatman

the boat

the river

the flow

the going


anything can show.

This poem captures, for me, some of the essence of the relationship between Caldera’s abstract digital art and Hart’s poetic responses. Within the poet’s contemplations of the art, I sense her love of color, love of energy within the paintings themselves, which resemble dormant desert blooms, already present, but needing water from the poet’s pen to bring them forth. 

Just as the river has a will of its own, Caldera and Hart’s, Desert Flow blooms with synergy, once we allow, as did Charlotte Hart, his beautiful colors and widely varying shapes to open the door to our inner lives.

Michael Escoubas


Hayley and the Hot Flashes by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer. 294 pages. Small Town Girl Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-7378411-5-9 To Order:

“You are, frankly, my only reason for living, Miss Swift.” This line stopped me cold. Already, held hostage by characters wearing such monikers as “Bubba,” “Tipsy,” “C.J.” “Rhett,” and “Suzette,” I had to find out more.

But wait . . . let’s back up for a moment. Hayley and the Hot Flashes, by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer (think actor and entertainer, Jose Ferrer, no relation) is her first full length novel. This delightfully entertaining work will give readers the answer, not only to the above-noted quote, (the whys and wherefores), but will even offer some wise advice about living life to the full.

First off, put yourself in Hayley Swift’s place. Once on top of the entertainment world and the country music charts, she’s now facing twin challenges of advancing age and professional irrelevance. No one wants her. No one needs her. Her career, her life, needs a jump start. What could former superstar Hayley Swift do to recover her past iconic life?

Ferrer is a down-to-earth writer. She writes about real life. Who among us has not lived in Hayley’s shoes? (Adjusted, of course, to individual circumstances). Who among has not stood with Hayley, at Robert Frost’s crossroads in “The Road Not Taken”? That fateful junction, where . . .

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth . . .

Indeed, at this point, Hayley feels like the name of her former band, Road Kill. It seems that somewhere in the distant past, Nashville  talent scouts offered Hayley a contract.  First crossroad: Hayley signed and left her four backup singers  (”The Girls Next Door,” soon to be, the “Hot Flashes”) behind. Later, Hayley is heard to say, “Isn’t it funny? When I worked here,  (at a small-time ice cream shop, the Dairy Dip) all I could think  about was leaving. Then when I left, for a long time, all I could  think about was coming back. I guess we never value our treasures  till we lose them, do we?” Second crossroad: What do we do in life, when it is time to deal  with the past and move on? The inner conflicts the Flashes go through is worth the price of the book. At last, however, they decide to reprise their group, go on the road and “swim with the big dogs.”

As Jaudon develops her story, she chronicles with gentle adroitness, the humanity of each major character. Flaws surface, memories of rejection must be dealt with. Meg Norris, a talented backup singer, recalls being blamed by her parents for consequences that happened, “in a blaze of hormones in the back seat of Ty Dorris’ vintage T-Bird.” Instead of supporting Meg at this critical life-juncture, a crossroads of sorts, her parents’ parting words were, “You stupid little slut! That boy was gonna start at fullback for Ole Miss!” Now, some thirty-five years later, Meg must make a life-changing choice. 

Over the landscape of time, this out-of-practice quintet of talent learn how to take risks. They hit the road in the rugged environs of country music, where popular acceptance is everything. Audiences must “like” you, moguls of the entertainment industry must see you as a “saleable” product; If DJs don’t “spin” your records, you don’t stand a chance of success. All of these are big “ifs” for the newly rejuvenated Hayley and the Hot Flashes.

This story is captivating. Jaudon’s characters are people you may know. They may be you! With that said, Jaudon is a skilled storyteller. She surprises . . . the moment I thought I had the next thing pegged; I was delighted to be wrong.

Third crossroad: Ask the right questions of life. Your reviewer posed the following question at the top: What could former superstar Hayley Swift do to recover her past iconic life?

But was this the right question? Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, has written a novel worth reading. It is funny. It is hard to put down. It has something to offer. In the end, the questions it poses and answers will make you stop and think.

Michael Escoubas 


49 pages, $14.00, published by The Poetry Box (Portland, OR). ISBN 978-1-956285-33-8.

As someone who worked in a hospice for many years, and who is now in her mid 80’s, I was especially moved by Joel Savishinsky’s book of poetry, Our Aching Bones, Our Breaking Hearts. This is a courageous collection about a subject many of us avoid:  our own frailty and mortality. Savishinsky writes with remarkable poetic skill about the wide array of losses we experience as we grow old, including aspects of our own functioning like memory and aching joints. In “Waking Up at 77” he notes


       “ . . . as soon as you change position,

       something will hurt, and you don’t

       want to know what that something

       is today.  Curiosity has become

       very discrete, and sleep the rarest

       of pleasures.”


Savishinsky captures the loneliness of those who live on when their peers have died and they have moved into care facilities.   He also touches, with painful honesty, on his own history, as in “Maybe the Traffic Cop Calling Never Left Me.”  The impact of Covid in “Viral Load” is both a personal tragedy as well as a powerful political statement. 

      “The virus has done to us

      what we have done


      unto others, separated

      children and parents,


      spouses and lovers, put

      families and friends, barely


     beyond words, across the borders,

     sometimes seen or heard but


     never touched, their skin the home

     of our final hunger.”


But these are not only solemn poems.  Savishinsky has a wonderful sense of wit, as in the poem “Ambush.” After noting how a variety of plants, trees and bushes had distracted him during his attempts at mindfulness and concentration, he ends by confessing to the reader:  “But I admit I am a very bad Buddhist, so I will stop / here and spare us both that business about the lotus.” Many of his poems deserve to be read out loud, because he has clearly paid careful attention to the sound of words, as in “The Carpenter Bee” and “The Raker’s Progress.” And while I find it difficult to pick my favorite poem in this collection, I think “Cherry Tree at Midnight” touches me most deeply, in its tender description of a long marriage:

      “Now it does not immediately register whether

      the startled cry he hears from a deep dream was

      his or hers.  It has been so long they have shared

      the same fears, the same bed, swapped phantoms as

      a common endowment, making this legacy a currency

      with which to buy time, mortgage a future, pay for

      the lost rhymes and reasons of a doubled past.”


Our Aching B ones, Our Breaking Hearts is a wonderful collection, and I hope there will be more coming soon from this fine poet.

Nina Miller, a founder and director of both a crisis center and a community

hospice, is the author of the novel The Mother of Invention.


Crystal Fire: Poems of Joy and Wisdom, Editor: Maja Trochimczyk, Art by Ambika Talwar. 144 poems ~ 14 paintings ~ 188 pages,  Moonrise Press, October 2022, .  Poems by: Elżbieta Czajkowska, Joe DeCenzo, Mary Elliott,  Jeff Graham, Marlene Hitt, Frederick Livingston, Alice Pero, Allegra Silberstein, Jane Stuart, Ambika Talwar, Bory Thach, & the editor. ISBN 978-1-945938-58-0 (color paperback)  ISBN 978-1-945938-57-3 (color hardcover)  ISBN 978-1-945938-59-7 (eBook)

The Sublime Senses

Until the heart stops

it desires.

Until the mind stills;

it aspires;

Until the senses

take their leave

they deceive–

such dreams they weave …

I chose this poem by Ella Czajkowska, as the perfect lead-in to my review of Maja Trochimczyk’s stunning new anthology Crystal Fire: Poems of Joy and Wisdom. In two succinct quatrains Ella’s poem captures my emotions. While defining abstract terms such as Joy and Wisdom is like trying to nail jello to a wall, key words such as “desires” and “aspires” speak to me. I desire Joy; I aspire to Wisdom. Both words are beyond my reach.  Stanza two, hints that I must take a pause and allow the subtleties of the imagination to inform me. Through the superb efforts of 12 talented poets (8 women, 4 men) fresh light has been shed upon your reviewer’s quest. More on this later.

The book is illustrated by the multi-talented Ambika Talwar. One of her works precedes each featured poet’s contribution. I mentioned earlier that growing in Joy and Wisdom requires slowing down, taking a pause. Ambika’s paintings play a key role … they whisper Joy. Here is an example entitled “Quiet Rainfall”

Ambika Talwar, “Quiet Rainfall” ~ Acrylic / 1997

As I reflected on Ambika’s painting, paired with Marlene Hitt’s poems, something struck me: Painters and poets share similar concerns, namely, bringing Nature’s message of beauty and spirituality alive in people’s hearts. Da Vinci said it, Poets paint pictures with words; artists write poetry without words. Her poem, “Words from the Garden,” gives me a sense of “Quiet Rainfall,” here’s an excerpt:

Rose and Petunia, Lantana and Sage …

A passing breeze lifts my hair as I sit pondering

the beauty of the life that surrounds me.

Bushes with plain simple leafy life

display themselves and I speak their names,

Savor the sounds my lips make …

Hitt’s inflections and phrasings surround me with a sense of raindrops assuming (but not imposing) their rightful place in the world and even in human life. Could life be about that? Could it be that Joy and Wisdom have something to do with such perceptions? The poet's sensuous phrasings continue,

… Xylosma, Sweet Jessamine, Plumbago Blue

and Bougainvillea Magenta, Oleander, Fuschia,

bright yellow Palo Verde, iron wooded and thorny,

Wisteria surrounding it all to make me feel safe.

 Ambika Talwar, “Initiation” ~ Acrylic / 2003

While Trochimczyk’s goal, as editor, is not an ideal coordination between paintings and poems, the paintings do set a  mindfulness tone as readers step into each section. Frederick Livingston’s “Rainbows Dreaming,” brought me up short with a touch of Wisdom I had not considered before. I have italicized his Wisdom lines. The poem was inspired by Snoqualmie Pass, in Washington state.

Now I know

the blankness of snow

is only rainbows dreaming,

teaming with streaks of red paintbrush

little lanterns of columbine

tiger lilies prowl the scree slope

yellow asters multiply the sun

the hungry green of spring leaves

purple-blue lupine flooding the valley.

Who would ever know

these slopes were covered in snow

one mere moon ago?

What else have I not seen

and called “empty” in my ignorance?

What dreams within me may erupt

from thawing soil,

simply waiting for ripe moments

to answer the generosity of sunlight?   


Ambika Talwar, "Dawn Lights," Acrylic

Before launching into the poems themselves, I was blessed by Maja Trochimczyk’s two and one-half page preface. This personally revealing summary of her motivations for giving birth to Crystal Fire is indispensable reading. In it she explains her use of "Crystal," and "Fire," in the title. Don't pass over this enlightened writing. I also appreciated reading the extended biographies of each poet at the end of the volume. Each contributor offers a unique take on the subject matter, thus adding a touch of virtuosity to the whole. In an age of vitriolic talk, of political and moral uncertainty, amid the dark clouds of Covid-19, Crystal Fire draws back the curtain on Love, Joy and yes, Wisdom.

As art and poetry work together, I’ve come to an ever-deeper appreciation of Wallace Stevens’ very practical saying, “Poetry [and painting] is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.” I can’t help thinking that Maja Trochimczyk, Ambika Talwar, and the talented contributors to Crystal Fire, would agree.

Michael Escoubas, 

reprinted from Quill & Parchment, April 2023


The Poetry Letter (Online ISSN 2836-9394; Print ISSN 2836-9408) is a quarterly electronic publication, issued by the California State Poetry Society. Edited by Maja Trochimczyk since 2020 by Margaret Saine earlier.  The Poetry Letter is emailed and posted on the CSPS website, Sections of the Poetry Letter are also posted separately on the CSPS Blog, – all poems in one post, all book reviews in another.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Poetry Letter No. 2, 2023 - Part I. Poems - Monthly Contest Winners for 2022

Janusz Maszkiewicz, oil on canvas, 150 cm X 150 cm

The Poetry Letter No. 2 of 2023 (Online ISSN 2836-9394; Print ISSN 2836-9408) included the Monthly Contests' Winners for 2022 and four book reviews. In the first part, we reproduce the poems.

The winners of the 2022 Monthly Contests, adjudicated by Alice Pero, are:

• January (Nature, Landscape):

1st Prize: Pamela Stone Singer, “Forest Air”

2nd Prize: Jane Stuart, “On the North Side”

3rd Prize: Gwen Monohan, “Focal Points”

• February (Love):

1st Prize: Jerry Smith “Lovers”

2nd Prize: Jane Stuart “Crossing the Moon”

• March (Open, Free Subject):

1st Prize: Jeff Graham, “A Certain Day's Every,”

• April (Mythology, Dreams, Other Universes):

1st Prize: Debra Darby, “Awaken.”

• May (Personifications, Characters, Portraits):

1st Prize: Carol L. Hatfield “Cloud on the Ground”

2nd Prize: Joan Gerstein “White on White”

• June (The Supernatural):

1st Prize: Pamela Stone Singer,“Buffaloes Escape”

• July (Childhood, Memoirs):

1st Prize: Anna J. Jasinska “My chicken egg apron”

2nd Prize: Lynn Axelrod “Fenestra”

• August (Places, Poems of Location):

1st Prize: Sean McGrath “10/21: At Sea, After Light”

2nd Prize: Colorado Smith “Tigers of the Tsangpo”

3rd Prize: Teresa Bullock “Born Again”

• September (Colors, Music, Dance):

1st Prize: Jane Stuart, “Watching Time Go By”

• October (Humor, Satire): No award

• November (Family, Friendship, Relationships): 

1st Prize: Richard L. Matta, “Shucking Shells”

• December (Best of Your Best, awarded or published poems):

1st Prize: David Anderson “Where Plovers Complain”

2nd Prize: Carla Schick “She Painted”

The Monthly Contests' Chair and Judge, ALICE PERO, joined the CSPS Board as a Director at Large in May 2019 and became the Chair of Monthly Poetry Contests in January 2020. She was elected the 10th Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga in April 2020. She has published poetry in many magazines and anthologies, including Nimrod, National Poetry Review, River Oak Review, Poet Lore, The Alembic, North Dakota Quarterly, The Distillery, Fox Cry Review, The Griffin, and G.W. Review, and others. Her book of poetry, Thawed Stars, was praised by Kenneth Koch as having “clarity and surprises.” She also published a chapbook Sunland Park Poems, written as a dialogue with Elsa Frausto. Pero teaches poetry and is a member of California Poets in the  Schools, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering students to express their uniqueness through writing, performing and publishing their own poetry. She is also the founder of Moonday, a reading series that has been on-going in the Los Angeles area for upwards of sixteen years. Ms Pero has created dialogue poems with more than twenty poets. She also created the performing group, Windsong Players Chamber Ensemble and performs with them as a flutist.

Janusz Maszkiewicz, "Super Blume" 



You cannot see 

but know yourself as light.

Wings hoist you to the top of a tree.

You see meadows’ waves 

and luminous wildflowers.

Touch tongues of birds.

Swallow night air.

Cleanse your lungs.

Let forests’ darkness wrap your body.

Open your mouth to stars.             

Geese fly into autumn.

Their flight brings lavender sky

and iridescent feathers.

Soon branches will bend with winter.

Pine and wind-scented air     

remind the forest is near.

Pamela Stone Singer, First Prize, January 2022


Walking through darkness

-another sleepless night—

my foot hits a star

But the wind blows shadows

across time…

and in the distance,

the moon sighs

and earth,

a painting,

comes to life—

shells in a bowl


still-life fruit

made of wax

The sky quivers.

I reach for

my bow and arrow—

nothing is there,

just the owl

and moss that grows

on the side of trees


Jane Stuart, Second Prize, January 2022  



Vision strays to flowers
color-stripping newer fields.
Focusing our winter minds
on this warm rebirth
with spring-like zeal.

In weeks bright hues conceal
and blot now wider bands
of the thickest green.
Till we whimsically retrieve
many lodestar strands.   

Holding in both hands
pale asters or daisy arrays.
Radiating spokes near
where petals appear torn
from thunderstorms.

Leaving small gold centers,
found round as magnet eyes.
Attracted towards one’s
soul-searching for what
possibly may bloom beyond.

Gwen Monohan, Third Prize, January 2022 

Janusz Maszkiewicz, "Conditionibus"



She hikes to the waterfall twice a year
once when new-greens leaf the alders
and again as redbuds flame amber-pink

       At dusk she lights a candle in the rock
        for wind from the falls to flicker
             She splits dark pools, gliding

Somehow together again, they
float the lips of the cataract
tumble down torrents

       Her breasts engorge at the flood of him
                             She suspends breath
                       shallow murmurs

Lying on black basalt beneath stare of stars
she rubs her skin with sage and slumbers
in the sand to rhythms of the roar

At dawn she drops the dying candle
  into the dark, murky depths of that

Jerry Smith, First Prize, February 2022



We met on a ship crossing the moon,
a cruise of moments
made of steel and glass
through deep blue seas
and mountains hard as sand
that has been packed
by hands in icy gloves—

Oh love is wild!
and this was our romance,
a foxtrot played and danced to
by the stars.
We moved above earth
in chiffon veils
and vests of champagne corks—

Our glitter crowns
shined in the shadows
of a thousand tears
because this was pretend
and love oved on,
leaving us a world of indigo
and fading light.

We don’t know why
but the ship docked at dawn
and we became fireflies
in sudden flight
on tomorrow’s wings
that bloomed tonight.

Jane Stuart, Second Prize, February 2022

Janusz Maszkiewicz, "Trans Fretum"

MARCH 2023


Neither late May rain, nor memory of,
nor memory of such scent,
but scent’s cataloguing of recollections.
Rain as timely as late May.
Late May as sudden as rain at such a time.
Everything has led me yet ill-prepared me for this:
the sound of water taking in itself,
hybridized with the sound of the taking in of itself
     of water,
which lands into a backlash of rising,
to mix in with its mixed within.
Rain round and about rain,
falling as fallen-upon mid-fall.
Drops just amply to hear,
scantly such so that impacts dry
before spaces between connect.
Not too much, yet just enough
to linger with and within
without the want for more,
for more than enough.
Light rain landing on light rain landing.
Rain between rain’s between,
forming course mid-fall, fall-formed,
following through its follow-through
leaf to leaf to loam to the eversilent
symphony of the seed, the sweetest
brutalities of the seed’s destitchery.
Rain and the scent of rain and the taste of rain
slides round and down partly parted lips
to fall to, land amid, and settle with(in)
what buried’s soil of making and taking,
tilling the grave’s cradle of what was—
   existing as is,             becoming what come.
Of the hundred things I wanted to say,
nothing came out of my mouth.
After that came after that, and after that
came the day cradled in soft though ceaseless
When the conceptual of what was unutterable
became such silence said,
the cosmos collapsed and reconfigured 
into the gloss of a miscellany of intentions.                                                                 

Jeff Graham, First Prize, March 2022

APRIL 2023 


Find the strings

Ride the gleaming scales of the fish

blazing melon, gold, scarlet

nocturnal sapphire

before vanishing into the ocean at dawn.

Mooring the dreamless

dream remembering in tow

listen to the tides of morning.

The fishtail reveals its secret.

Awake to awaken

In waves of shimmering water,

The mystical call of the whale 



Find the strings.

                                      Debra Darby, First Prize, April 2022  

Janusz Maszkiewicz,  Untitled.

MAY 2023

              CLOUD ON THE GROUND   

                          (for my mule, Andromeda)

Never one to be
in fog - 
she calls
to her. 
She shines
white    as any opal -
     with a quiet
     in the belly.
The fog holds
the four-beat
of her pearl
and keeps it all
to itself.
The sky recognizes
molds and
soft cotton
in her honor.

on the ground
she is - 
with one flick
of her tail
the rain
and we ride
the afternoon
on a veil
of grey….
at the core….

Carol L Hatfield, First Prize, May 2022

I am asphyxiated color
The empty page
Hair as you age
Chalk popcorn mayonnaise
Seashells the foam on waves
Teeth nails Beluga whales
Dental floss and kidney stones
Dover's Cliffs Rover's bones
Baby powder a Princess phone
Icicles Polar bears and clouds
Baking soda cauliflower shrouds
Marshmallow rice baked potatoes
The Pope's robes wherever it snows
Jasmine egrets angel-food cake
A dove a swan a whooping crane
Bras and briefs pills cocaine
Coconut cottage cheese for brains
Piano keys dandelion seeds mozzarella 
Girls like Snow White or Cinderella
Noise knights and virginal brides
Collars crimes white-knuckled rides
Elephant sales and Siamese cats
Jack Sprat's wife's fat lab rats
White House peace dove surrender flag 
Honking geese and their oval eggs
Wedding dresses White wine dregs
Calla Lily whipping cream ivory lace 
White bread white trash Caucasian race 
Pure as driven snow Good Humor man 
Robes worn by the Ku Klux Klan
Adorn me at an Asian funeral
And I will deliver death's benediction

Joan Gerstein, Second Prize, May 2022

Janusz Maszkiewicz, "Sunrise"

JUNE 2022


Wrapped in cloaks of snow, buffaloes

live in Moon’s lightning-green eye.

Embedded in their bones

palimpsests reveal eternal life.

Etched with star drawings, stick figures and shapes

from outer space, their horns speak stories of worlds 

where they travel calm plains.

Water songs and ceremonies, their messages.

Wander hills and valleys: cone flowers, golden rod, milkweed.

Speak the holiness of earth.

Pamela Stone Singer, First Prize, June 2022

JULY 2022


My grandmother said I must sleep two times—once under the pear tree,

once under the attic skylight, before can come to the kitchen and put on my eight-

pocketed chicken egg apron and run among purple heads of burdock

to the nests hidden in the thicket near the chicken coop. Then, I comb the bush 

till I hold in my hands and shine with straw an alabaster egg. I return to the beginning

and must wait. Again, I am a day and two sleeps away, trusting

that next morning, if I follow the plan, I will find my treasures. Meanwhile,

I collect odd symmetries, study luster and trace veins growing through the forms.

I fill the hours putting opal coils of snail and dry poppy heads spilling black seeds 

in my pockets, until I am certain I slept two times. I have dreamt in the storm

of pear blossom. I have dreamt under the starry attic window

of finding the ideal oval forms. But if I cannot get any, I pick pieces 

of tree bark and collect pinecones, and stash them in my apron pockets

as if they were what I wanted. They are not, yet they gleam warmly

of still-sticky droplets of resin, I cannot resist. My fingertips curiously

dip into the liquid amber— it is unexpectedly warm and bitter-sweet.    

Anna J. Jasinska, First Prize, July 2022


Papermill Creek flows in wide

–our own Missouri. Midmorning 

jacks snap at mayflies.  

Sunlight transluces 

through their wing fenestra,

splays in dapples of gleam. 

Air almost visible like gnat-buzz. 

Pickle weed greens out wide

to greet them all like a mother 

holds a family together.

You break the mesmer, 

elusive beneath a splash. 

Nothing solid, not mud-swirl 

curled against the current,

not the embankment crumbled

one dirt speck at a time 

–granular drownings, 

nearly unnoticed. 

Then LOL up you pop, 

whip water from your hair,

bobbing cork, glistening grin.

If only Father were as buoyant 

when he dived in the Sound,

––not wading, not scanning.

Quick bottom spun him silent 

on the ghostline 

of his infant fontanelles. 

Gleaned from the sea, shut 

until his lungs heaved 

a bolus of saltgrass onto sand.

Beach heat unwaxed pores, 

plasma bathed his heart, and

our breath mingled in the light,

resumed its daily circuit 

in the dark of our bodies.  

Lynn Axelrod, Second Prize, July 2022

Janusz Maszkiewicz, Untitled

           AUGUST 2022                        


The marine wall poured onto the coastline,
  this evening’s moving mountains—
went the sailboats, went the doves,
  lines of sunset streaked through
like tunnel paths for the seagone.
  More boats, droves of pelican and cranes
fleeting from sight, making their winged exit;
  the air was wet with longing.

I shivered on the shore
  underdressed, ill-equipped to harness
all the heaven before me,
  so much of it leaking out,
coming in at once.

I can’t have a cold room when it knocks—
  I should have fire in my lungs
and only a little fear in my heart,
I should learn to warm myself
  amid the wavery sea,
to be still in the absence of light.

Sean McGrath, First Prize, August 2022


Flying low, skimming insect-like
above the water
I surrender myself mute
to the sea plane's droning.
I am fit tight into its small body,
trapped, strapped in, no time for fear,
no place else to go
except maybe Africa
where Beryl Markham floated like this
above giraffe-groomed acacia,
savannas worn by wildebeest,
and dusty trails shuffled by
lines of leathery elephants.

Looking down, I think I see
through ocean's ancient skin
a silvery pod of porpoise,
great blotches of whale
lumbering south the way they do
for warmth and food and sex.

From here nothing is hidden from me.
From this gull’s view, I see it all.
Smoke clutches a cabin in a wood
all shades of green;
cotton ball sheep hurry
toward their heaps of hay.

But too soon,
I am delivered gently
onto ocean's face. I am born again
on her wrinkled skin.

Theresa Bullock, Second Prize, August 2022


Three Asian rivers. the Sutleg, the Karnali, and the Indus flow 
in the three cardinal directions from the sacred Mt. Kailash. 
The Yarlung-Tsangpo flows a thousand miles east 
across the Tibetan plateau, then splits the Himalayan massif
before becoming the Brahmaputra in India. 
Within the Tsangpo's great bend south 
lived two tribes of Buddhist hunters.
The Bön people were prey
here before them.

The few trails in this Great Bend are trod by hunters 
or Buddhist pilgrims who pray at remote shrines
as river rhythms reverb among yak-butter lamps, 
cranium-cups, tsampa barley cones in stone bowls 
and prayer flags in caves where no breeze blows.
The celadon glacial melt of the Tsangpo is kayaked
only during midwinter low-water, when kayaks  painfully 
are portaged around waterfalls and Class VI maelstroms.
The Tsangpo compresses to ninety feet in its narrowest gorge.
Five hundred feet above, its sheer wall displays 
highwater marks scoured out in June, 2000.
Clarified air and tumultuous rapids drown sound: 
freight trains of water, standing-wave haystacks, 
bus-sized boulder mazes, ten-foot rooster tails.
River-wide ledges with torrential tow-backs 
can spin a body for hours.
Underwater tongues and flumes 
squeeze light into bubble vortices;
whitewater cyclones swirl eddy lines. 
Below blood-red rhododendrons,
a snow leopard sprints across a vertical avalanche chute 
forcing a golden takin to bolt straight down to the Tsangpo, 
snapping pine downfall like twigs.
A ten-foot tiger lunges onto the back of the eight-hundred-pound 
takin and severs its spinal cord with three-inch canines.
The cheated leopard retreats, slinking back up the chute.
The Tsangpo chisels down through the collision of continents, 
becoming the Brahmaputra, then into Mother Ganges,
and finally the Bay of Bengal.

Colorado Smith, Second Prize, August 2022

Janusz Maszkiewicz, "Nocturne"



The dance!

The dance you say

is everything time gives

earth-people waiting to be born


Stage left

stage right-tutto

va'ben' -you say-red shoes 

cross the stage in leaps and endless 


Night brings

another flight

through triangles and squares. 

The passing moment turns itself 



vanish, dancers

follow-shadows fall in

empty holes. All motion is


Lines of

sudden white light ...

your feet find yesterday

and then fall into tomorrow.

No change

Jane Stuart, First Prize, September 2022    






We met and moved like a breeze from bar to beach, the moon witness 

to her unveiled dress. Her pearlescent dress button lost in abandoned restraint,

hidden in the sand. Symbols simplify explanation. But in time, more missing buttons, 

my unbridled imagination, and the possession monster roiled and churned inside me. 

raspberry moon

a dark cloud 

on a patch of sweetness

On my face and lips, moonlit bubbles break like little hearts compressing and filling 

with the tide. Sand string undertows pull at my feet, anniversary tears in my eyes. 

My son’s small voice calls me back to the beach, says “mom pulled her favorite 

dress out of storage and asked me to ask you can we find some oysters, 

a missing button?” We start looking. 

sharp beach glass

the slow path

to forgiveness                                                                           

 Richard L. Matta, First Prize, November 2022

Janusz Maszkiewicz, Untitled



When my body rouses at the slightest
and I fear you will not return and our lives
shrivel from the world’s trumpeting,
I go in silence, to rest where your spirit speaks,
where plovers’ complaints precede the dawn,
in a cove where waves continually crest and crush.
I come into the resonance of music
not mediated by voice or strings.

David Anderson, First Prize, December 2022

Medusa’s Kitchen,, 16 Feb 2009
Second place, August 2009 contest, California Federation of Chaparral Poets
What Was Within: Poems, Christian Faith Publishing Co.


She painted portraits,
walking through dark alleys.
And as she watched
the moon vanish
behind the rooftops,
she caught glimpses
of her eyes
peering through dark windows
waiting for her hands
to take the brush
and cast a shadow on the wall.

Looking into mirrors
she painted sunsets.
And as she watched
her face vanish
with the fading light,
she caught glimpses
of the moon
peering through her windows,
waiting for her hands
to take the brush
and cat the final stroke.

Carla Schick, Second Prize, December 2022

Published in Primavera, Vol 4, 1978    


Paintings by Janusz Maszkiewicz, Used by Permission.

Janusz Maszkiewicz is a Polish-born American painter, sculptor and furniture-maker, and a preeminent artist in the field of marquetry veneer inlays. He is also a gallery owner and member of the Polish Art Group KRAK, frequently hosting art exhibitions at his gallery.


The Poetry Letter ((Online ISSN 2836-9394; Print ISSN 2836-9408) is a quarterly electronic publication, issued by the California State Poetry Society. Edited by Maja Trochimczyk since 2020 by Margaret Saine earlier.  The Poetry Letter is emailed and posted on the CSPS website, Sections of the Poetry Letter are also posted separately on the CSPS Blog, – all poems in one post, all book reviews in another.