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.

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