In time for the fall harvest—a crop of great poems and three book reviews. This time, we are featuring some of our own: Alice Pero, Chair of Monthly Poetry Contests since 2020; Nicholas Skaldetvind, who guest-edited the Fall 2023 issue of the California Quarterly and everyone liked his work so much, that he was invited to join the CQ Editorial Board; and Frank Iosue, who served as the Judge for our 2022 Annual Poetry Contest. Three different voices, styles, locations. . .
Alice lives in California, near the Los Angeles National Forest, close to nature, yet at the edge of a huge metropolis. We are neighbors and we love our land. Frank is in Arizona, and Nicholas travels a lot, from Sweden, to Greece, to California, to North Dakota, and home to upstate New York. As for the “poetic voices,” let the readers decide.
The three book reviews, posted separately in Part II, present Distance by Deborah P Kolodji and Mariko Kitakubo (reviewed by William Scott Galasso) and Shimmer: An Ekphrastic Poetry Collection by Paulette Demers Turco, reviewed by Michael Escoubas, who also reviewed Gathering Sunlight by Silvia Scheibli & Patty Dickson Pieczka. Our illustrators are photographers Beverly M. Collins (whom we know as a poet often published in the California Quarterly and elsewhere), and Iga Supernak, both based in the Los Angeles area.
Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President
FEATURED POET: FRANK IOSUE
Frank Iosue, who served as Judge for CSPS Annual Contest in 2022, was born in Los Angeles, California in 1951. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from California State University, Los Angeles and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing / Poetry from The University of Iowa / Writer's Workshop. He has studied Poetry and Creative Writing with many nationally-renowned and prize-winning poets. His poems have appeared in numerous publications and online journals. He has conducted writing workshops, organized and hosted a number of monthly poetry reading series, and has been a featured reader at venues around Southern Arizona. He has served as a judge for numerous national poetry competitions, and creates poetry-related video content for his YouTube Channel, ImUpToMystic. He is the author of 11 chapbooks of poetry, which have been assembled and published in his volume The Au Revoir of An Enormous Us: Collected Poems (2017). He lives near Tucson, Arizona. Links to some of his visual poetry projects are below.
1. "Green Mountain Rhapsody" by Frank Iosue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSHPNC0QGew
2. "The Whitsun Weddings" by Philip Larkin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLtUz5PGwrI
3. "The Waste Land" by T. S. Eliot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbZOpWjjvvE
4. "The Poetry Man 20 Question Poetry Challenge" by Frank Iosue https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJj3K7dTCEA
5. "Dreaming Dog, Astride The World" by Warren Andrle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJg1O3fbpiM
6. "The Idea Of Order At Key West" by Wallace Stevens https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_KEsHnr1yA
7. "Autumn Begins In Martins Ferry, Ohio" by James Wright https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWQ6C9bz8PY
8. "Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman" by Anne Sexton https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Rso2G9SZRA
AN ALLEGIANCE OF INTELLECTS
~ Frankenstein's Monster
There are these
walls of air
I wish through
to all you
into the future,
out of the flames,
I have reached
the dead end
of all my
float like a flower.
I am a mirror
in the stillness.
as a cloud.
As cold and alien
as an Alp.
want to bear
I must try
to reach you,
Can I touch
LITANY FOR AN ENLIGHTENED DEJECTION
Though you have digested all your deepest secrets,
and the stars have feigned
regalia for your anonymity.
Though each elation has emancipated yet another
metaphor, and everything's the matter.
Though you have shed the fewest possible tears
and have been always grateful, silently,
that others suffered more
than you might have or ought.
Though someone whispered, more than once,
what must be done, and you did
exactly as he pleases.
Though your mother may have loved you best
but could not love you better.
Though you heard so many church bells ring,
but discovered the path
of prayer went only everywhere
your blood was running.
Though the boats of summer kept on undulating
effortlessly underneath you when
they could just as easily have sunk.
Though the next step you took led in some
intoxicating new direction eerily
similar to the last.
Though every day you ate as if you wanted to,
but found that you grew
hungry out of habit.
Though the dream has yet to arrive
that will not save you.
Though you have admirably, and without fanfare,
conquered every piece of space
you have ever occupied,
and are to be
congratulated on the triumph
that has been your existence.
When you walk into the earth and finally drown,
your loneliness will free you
from your prosperity.
THE ROOM THAT IS ERASURE
the air of
the green engine
of the leaf
of rain that
the pebbles in
the sun that
seals the small
the trodden flower
the throne to
THE BREVITY OF ENDLESSNESS
Night. I traverse sleep's phantom atmospheres;
its unlit oceans and its vast frontiers.
I linger 'til the darkness disappears
and wake to some small wonder, some refrain
the world had long exhausted; some terrain
un-earthed somewhere between a now and then
that can't be found on any calendar.
How insubstantial and sublime we were,
old loves, old friends! And how familiar
each reassembled recollection seems.
Time, loss and absence: those recurring themes
that dwarf the fragile fiefdoms of our dreams
with their detestable supremacy!
Whatever hold they claim to have on me,
I revel in my heart's infinity—
beyond all skies; outlasting every sun
that's shone, and rarefied by everyone
I've loved. It's there we sing in unison
the anthems of our insignificance;
there we endure, and end, and recommence,
kaleidoscoped in memory's opulence,
forever. Everything we've always been,
astir inside the graveyard of the skin:
the soil we dream, and do our dying, in.
FEATURED POET - ALICE PERO
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, 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 founded the long-running Moonday reading series and currently curates the Village Poets series at Bolton Hall Museum. 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.
Read a recent interview with Alice for more information:
I WOULD LISTEN TO YOU
I am sure that I would listen to you
if I weren’t sworn to finding
the fabric of me
I would be interested in hearing about the
Except that I just sweetened the call
of that bird
without a single thing
The wind opens the door and I go out
looking for an old poem in the garden
A new one would be too fresh, too bright
I feel rusty in the morning before coffee and toast
have to do a slow dance in the wet grass
feel the sun touching yellow jonquils
I am rolling in old thoughts,
like a dog who remembers the hunt in sleep
I make little yips and jumps, a dance I have made before
a white scarf over my face, like a spider’s web
A friend will come and knock at the door
and I will invite her in
We will talk and laugh and forget all about poetry
but new words will appear over coffee
like warm mist rising
and I will copy them down
Published in Spillway, Number 14
At the beach all my exclamation points
turn upside down
I am caught staring
at the empty spaces sea pulls out of me
I fill myself with discoveries:
a monster mussel, ancient shellfish warrior
clinging to a huge mass of seaweed,
and dozens of delicate sand dollars
I am a sea relic addict
I can't stand the silence inside me
I scurry for tiny things
to clutter a mind washed too clean
The bucket fills with oddities:
a haul of clam shells covered in barnacles,
the barnacles wearing sea grass like mole hairs
and broken mussel shells all worn down to nothing,
blackened outer covering gone,
leaving pure mother-of-pearl,
a shining filling me up,
All those old holes mended
Published in Harpur Palate, Vol 10 Issue 1
I think I would like a weather house
Each room hot, cold, rain or snow
at a flick of a switch
Clothes, neat, on a rack outside each room,
a place to stow winter gear and slip into a bikini
Rain boots, slush boots and thongs on racks
for quick changes
The rooms would be square, except for those
with kidney shaped pools
and fading ceilings that could cloud over or
turn stark blue
The ultimate Happening
Children stuck indoors on rainy days could frolic
in the Sun Room
San Diego citizens could stand in bliss in cool
Vermont spring rain
Montana men, weary of crisp clean air could breathe
deep in LA smog in the Smog Room
And then there could be the New York Traffic Room,
because all that noise is a weather unto itself
Have you weighed the yellow of that bold-faced sunflower?
Taken the measure of white as daisy opened to your touch?
This is morning: serious business
Sun is not yawning; night's pleasures are done
Take out your yardstick now, your ledger
Geranium's red must be counted
Lobelia's blue cannot exceed regulation
Pansy's multi-colored madness should be neatened up
These colors must not leak or stain
Our minds are clear, our mission pure
Lest we run amuck
begin to barter with poems, trade pigs for pearls,
cell phones for peacocks, laptops for dahlias,
Lest we wander off course, stray from the plan
Let flowers rule us
Published in North Dakota Quarterly, Spring 2007
BEFORE THE FALL
Squeezing the last drops of summer
sweet and pungent, like a Chinese sauce,
savored with watermelon and lime,
we gallop down dusty hills, yell at the ocean,
claim a stretch of land, three acres
where eucalyptus stand like benevolent brothers,
A huge hawk watches from a tall pine,
marks us with the eye of the ancient god
we cannot escape
We lie in the arm of the hill, half crazed with sun,
drunk with late summer's slow nectar,
our mouths open to receive the offering,
then slap the hard dry earth, bold as dancers
daring the bull, we rush away,
nimble as acrobats, thin as leaves,
we float off, disappear into hot air,
descend to drink cool evening moon,
full and fat, waiting
over the telephone wires
with soft grace
or sense of haste
the yellow ones have the sun
burning in them
nothing urgent makes them
in the passing breeze
they have mastered the plan,
the yearly dying
and what telephone lines carry
in scrambled complexity
are nothing to them
they fall in free time
and have no knowledge of the volts
and vexations of man
traveling in milliseconds
through telephone lines
they flit through these
vehicles of force,
insouciant, careless and free
mindless of electricity
I lean over on you
and the wind shudders
Trees stand at attention
Branches, startled awake
sway, dropping apples like
the children rake away and eat
They wonder at the fertility
A POEM AND A PHOTOGRAPH BY BEVERLY M. COLLINS
BEVERLY M. COLLINS is a poet and photographer, and the author of two poetry volumes, Quiet Observations and Mud in Magic. Her works appear in publications in the U.S., England, Ireland, Australia, India, Germany, Mauritius, and Canada. 2019 Winner of Naji Naaman Literary prize in Creativity (Lebanon), twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, prize winner for the California State Poetry Society; 2nd placed; June 2021 Wilda Morris Poetry Challenge (Chicago). Her photographs may be found on: The cover of Peeking Cat 40 (England), Fine Art America products, iStock/Getty images, Shutterstock and more: beverlym-collins.pixels.com.
Friends bring a silent language both
learn to decode the fast and slow that
blooms tight in shadows.
Something known from long ago recognized
in a face that is new to us.
Some friends challenge who we are.
They press our grey view, see
through red anxiousness and
detect our basement we believed
to be hidden.
Each emerge from patterns that waited
to greet, like found puzzle pieces that
merge together. Companions in hunger who
understand seeds and the sun.
Wings are stilled long enough for
breath to cut the waters, hear life’s
glisten, and tasty-haunt of a horizon.
A shell sees a flutter as the same heartbeat
like a drumbeat at the center of a jungle
FEATURED POET: NICHOLAS SKALDETVIND
NICHOLAS SKALDETVIND is an Italian-American poet and paper-maker who joined the Editorial Board of the California Quarterly in September 2023. He holds a M.A. (2019) from Stockholm 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.
Because of where we walk, there is very little light, but your face shines.
I turn to ask you if the Magna Graecia temples in ruin aren’t beautiful
and you say sì, sì. I touch the gaping mouth of Neptune and he swallows
my hand, his face lighting up for a moment.
For some things I have no memory –
where I left my car keys,
what my ex-lover wrote in a text last week,
why exactly I came here.
But I like to know the names of Greeks and what they did –
Sisyphus, Heraclitus, Asopus –
and later, I want to know the name of these columns that limitrophe
your house like a sort of fence. Wide brick trunks opening into frames, branches
holding the field of corn and the stars I might be mistaking for planets
heavy next to us.
The car door was shut and stayed shut until it was opened.
I am uncomfortable but still
can enjoy how of all the guests, only our red
Ford isn’t blocked in, so alive
I open the door and step out, so people
can go on deciding if they know me.
How you do one thing is how you do everything Merryellen
reminds me where I was going without you
when I turn my face in the lone motion of a crush
amidst the vacuum of unmeasured leaving
the garden and the half-tailed cats via multiple rooms, whereas the whole party
was gladdened and still in motion. The funny thing
between adoration and silence.
Crawled up the nape of my neck: a shadow did.
Closed the pantry door: a ghost to placate did.
Lodged in life, you were inside and dancing, I think. The mystery remained
mildly erotic. I think other shapes were shifting in the trees without touching.
Everything, turning in this light, to stones.
We make ourselves warm. We make ourselves alone. I try
to guess your discalced itinerary through the room still in motion the wind
knocks the heads of lilies together and I end
up counting bougainvilleas instead.
Earlier we’d left footprints in the stones of ourselves.
The tide was out.
Not a problem at all, the mirror said, since you both look
the same from here.
The past alive
warm sea water
locking up the deep
end behind a screen
of autumn friezes
Zeus and Demeter left
white sheets under
with my back
to the cliff
tracing the sand
pink and well-worn
before transparent glass.
Published in the California Quarterly, 49:1 (2023)
What can I do? Wish the day over like macular clouds
making the palms waver under the pressure?
I look through a thousand fronds diffused with sun flashing
above visions of a beach set loose in the street
and dull surfboards.
Either she wasn’t at yoga
or the landlord snagged her to complain
about the neighbors, motorcycles, or her little dog,
but rarely about her
and her current situation, which means me.
For this we’re grateful.
Twilight: filaments of pink
and blue tie-dyed cups –
the bra she’s wearing.
She is always laughing when they meet.
They eat toast for breakfast as usual.
For 39 days he thought it was the Ionian at the bottom
of his heart blooming, still, dreaming under the heavy grapes.
While the unceasing grey of spectral faces pass in spate, he knows
she is smiling beside him.
Now as the bougainvillea and roses are in the garden, brilliant, and then not at all.
Behind him her Mycenaean eye scatters broken urns, a future setting forth
rock by rock, inch by inch collecting cicadas rallying against the gloam
in Metaxata. Her face seethes still seraphim
in slow time about the beach villa
where she wrought summer's last warmth on linen.
They spent a night on the floor gravely mute discovering
themselves discovering the bright pulsation overcome
by landfall's dark pleasure giving way to presence.
Long afternoons turned leaves into autumn's fold.
Each ambitious for what is visible between them now
that winter has begun.