Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Poetry Letter No. 1, Spring 2024, Part 2 - Sonnets by Konrad Tademar & Three Book Reviews (Ewa Lipska, Judie Rae, & Millicent Borges Accardi)

Maybe grapefruit? by Maja Trochimczyk

In the second part of the CSPS Poetry Letter No. 1 of 2024 (spring), we present sonnets by Konrad Tademar Wilk and three book reviews.  The first part of the Poetry Letter contains winners of 2023 Monthly Poetry Contests. Since most, if not all of the awarded poetry is in free-verse format, I invited Konrad Tademar Wilk (one of the editors of the CSPS California Quarterly) to contribute some of his sonnets and to write three sentences about “why writing sonnets today?”  

Instead of answering my question in prose format, Konrad wrote a sonnet about sonnets and replied to my inquiry by reductio ad absurdum. Thanks for the freedom of expression and the blessing of creativity! Best wishes to all poets. Share the joy! 

~ Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President 


Bee and Grapefruit to Be by Maja Trochimczyk


                         For Maja…

Why write sonnets today? Why not? What else—

—would you wish to do? Play golf or bridge?

Ride a gondola down Venetian canals?

Walk along the Campo de Hielo ridge?

I dreamt once of a sonnet in outer space

Full of metaphors like asteroids, and bare—

—planets filled with craters of meaning, a trace...

What is a sonnet good for? It's not fair…

The questions suggest justification

As if the ancient tradition needed:

"modernity's approval," sensation—

—of progress and speed, as though conceded....

...that a sonnet belongs to an antique—

—era... a touch of the older mystique.

March 13, 2024

Konrad Tademar Wilk, Maja Trochimczyk and Nicholas Skaldetvind in Maja's garden, March 2024


Elected to the Board of Directors of the California State Poetry Society in May 2020, Konrad Tademar (birth name Wilk) is an American poet living in Los Angeles. His works range from single sonnets to epic poems on themes including current events, myth, and philosophy. In addition to American subjects, his work is strongly informed by international events and history, especially those of freedom and oppression. Tademar's early childhood was spent in Poland where he was particularly influenced by the rise of the anti-communist Solidarity labor union.

Following his return to the U.S., he studied philosophy and literature at Los Angeles City College where he was president of the Poet's Platform. He then went on to graduate from UCLA. His poetry book Fifty Sonnets, titles like labels only get in the way... is available for purchase on-line.  Other poetry chapbooks are out of print. He is currently working on two epic poems "Prometheus" and "Trafficking In Time" - scheduled for release in the near future. He has appeared in Los Angeles venues such as the Onyx, Ground's Zero, Magicopolis Theater, Wilshire Art Gallery, Bolton Hall Museum, and Pig and Whistle. In 1991, he founded the Witching Hour Poetry Gathering which has met continuously for over 20 years. 

Additionally, he is a founding member of the Pecan Pie Organization, dedicated to artistic promotion and stage performances.  Mr. Tademar recently served as the artistic director for Warsaw 80/75 performance of poetry, dance and music, celebrating the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII (German attack on Poland), and the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.  The event was held at the Santa Monica Playhouse in September 2019.

The eight sonnets are taken from his book of 164 sonnets, entitled Trafficking in Time and forthcoming from Moonrise Press. Written as a-day-a-sonnet in 2013, these poems are diverse reflections on events of each day and their broader contexts. 

Steel Stream - by Maja Trochimczyk



To quiet the soul enough to think, to feel, to know 
To give those men and women of your heart a bit 
To honor, to recall, to shout like angry crow
The cursed, the forgotten, the banished, the unlit 
Diffused in the temporal flow of history
Stricken from the record of school pages, untaught 
Truth rises from the dead, resurrected and free 
The Eastern Soldiers who after Yalta still fought!
Not mere men, nor mere women, Titans, legends, saints 

“Do not go gently into that good night” Thomas –
…was right – fight! Fight! Against the blood red restraints 
Shatter the Hammer and Sickle… though the dawn alas –
… is far away, that you will not see freedom rise
Fight, fight! For all of mankind: fight! And do not lose! 
We, the children, the grandchildren, brought up on lies
We will thank you after your unmarked graves – false truce –
… of “History is a lie agreed on” – have been lost 
And we will light that candle, born again to the sun 
To illuminate the moonless night of the crossed–
–out… the accursed, blotted, excised, like Akhenaton…
Żołnierze Wyklęci – here I lower my knee, pray
We will not yield so long as after night comes day.

March 1, 2013


Divinity is contained in the unknown space 
A mirror onto the soul, algorithm half lost 
A half familiar, half forgotten blurry face
During the Bosnian War they blew up Stari Most

Ungraspable, so much so that it slips from the hand 
Incomprehensible, baffling, bewildering
Beyond the mind's capacity to know, like sand 
Slipping through the fingers, an odd obscure feeling

Does that make sense? A piece of dreams lost and found 
Creation and destruction are casually bound
I look at the child and cannot see: a limit
For birth and death perception needs to omit

Ex nihilo nihil fit — throw open Hell's maws
The event horizon hides the root of love's laws. 

May 30, 2013

Path Geometry - by Maja Trochimczyk

Happiness is a woman drunk on love, real joy
Sultry or too sweet, either way, I don’t much care 
Let it loosen her hair, shatter her reserve — coy
As long as she smiles and swings back and forth, the air—

—of magic in tune with red lips conjuring spells 
Fingers making subtle signs suggesting soft places 
Darting twinkle stars in the eyes — bottomless wells 
Looking at you from across — while making faces

Silly and giddy as happiness ought to be
Freedom from care, time put on a shelf, dance of life 
Happiness is a woman wearing red, you see—
—her place beside her man, far from any world strife

Moment to cherish, a sacredness to defend 
Happiness is a woman’s love holding your hand.

                                                                                                      May 31, 2013 – for Sylvia… 


Now I close the doors of the caravanserai
And let m’soul drink her fill of the waters of life
A sand storm is come — let the new moon shade the sky 
Draw your cloak close, cover your eyes, loosen your knife

The outsiders will seek to pierce your sacred mind 
But they are only dust devils — holy water—
—will scatter their form, a Fata Morgana kind 
Unreal except to cowards made of feeble matter

Steady your gaze as you still your heart, let calm reign 
Miss not a moment nor opportunity
En passant capture the convergence of breath and pain
Cutting the throat of the threat, bleed to see

The flesh is the shore controlled self-knowledge makes whole 
You and I are one at Katra where mind meets soul.

June 7, 2013 – a Litany against Propaganda

A Secret of Forget-me-nots by Maja Trochimczyk 



Between the woods and rustle of leaves beneath the heels
In the shade of sky-struck trees sacred like mountains 
Bordered by parking lots with their automobiles
Crisp concrete and gleaming glass of crowds at fountains

Middle-Eastern beads pray at Turkish coffee pot 
Bescarved women in sunglasses seeking bargain deals 
Far away the Cedars of Lebanon cry not
Even if the child in happy ignorance squeals

‘Tis difficult to view world as the toddler sees 
In innocent curiosity absent malice
Beneath my outstretched palm soil like the bark of trees—
—dry feels, in wonderland’s hope each child is Alice

So small, rabbit hole sized, time stands still in dream world 
To touch it all once again, the future to hold.
                                                                                     June 23, 2013 – Midsummer 


                    UUR XCVII

White stones in a semi-circle along straight lines 
Clearly I am seeing patterns where there are none 
And yet ripples of arcane laws appear as signs 
Unconsciously made in state of true grace; the sun—

—strikes the stones arranged by an innocent child’s hand
And I recognize by some Lamarckian process
Truth in ancestral memory, from distant land…
… violating laws of physics — to my heart flies—

—there to blossom, fester even; hatches sacred—
—patterns, geometry of broken symmetries 
Alchemical design filtering some loose thread
Spun by fate to weave the garden back for its trees

I’d say the words, but I dare not! I’ll map it out—
—instead and then I’ll see the stars vanquishing doubt!

June 30, 2013

                   Dreaming Forget-me-nots - by Maja Trochimczyk



So, let me take you to wide open country, child
For this here concrete and glass steel built bright place
Is just a fancy jail for folks who fear the wild
People who hate the sweep of the horizon race

See the heavy yellow moon tonight? It shines strong 
From outside where there are no boundaries, no limits 
Where the one obstacle is the mind, come along—
—then to beyond, to the gallop rush by one’s wit

Let the stars be your guide, and your backdrop the moon
Set your sights past the clouds, far from here, from man-made—
—things, let go the city and the road, you’ll know soon—
—what freedom means, why hope and truth can never fade

Take my words with you to country open wide; trace—
—a path across the overdark, breathe outer space.

                                                                                                    August 20, 2013 

                    UUR CLVIII

Parallel lines intersecting at vanishing—
—point of infinity constraining the bitter—
—noise of the hurt hummingbird as it fails to sing
Look to the moon, even there mankind leaves litter

Girard Desargues walks lightly… now untouching—
—plane of non-symmetric temporal vibration
A conflation of science and magic, matching—
—socks and shoes on the harsh pavement of elation

Here Terminus meets Thanatos with steel black wings
Sword drawn into perspective central axis line
Behold the moment, a pause to wait if it stings
Love within a mathematical cryptic sign

The matrix of oblivion lies in reach of all 
Torture, while we wait for the other shoe to fall.

September 13, 2013
– the Ides of September on Friday the 13th

Spring is Yellow - by Maja Trochimczyk


World Failure by Ewa Lipska. Translated by: Anna Stanisz-Lubowiecka, London: Literary Waves, 2024, 80 pages, ISBN 979-888-4655-55-3

Being under the magnifying glass, World Failure is both intriguing and ambiguous volume of poetry. It is the art of distance and thought-provoking work that draws the readers in. The word in this poetry is treated with surgical precision in the tone of metaphysics and cognitive realism. Careful reading becomes a process where new meanings and interpretations appear. The lyrical subject speaks in a hushed voice about important events. The very beginning of the poem Rebus foreshadows an interesting play of meanings:

         The riddle

         wasn’t limited

         to the full Moon

Lipska’s poetry in a high tone, full of references to history and music, is  free from pathos and snobbery. The poet leans into a single existence or a phenomenon, watches them under a philosophical magnifying glass and interprets from many points of view. In this respect, it reminds metaphysical poetry of Lars Gusstafson who observing specific ordinary events, objects or scenes builds a kind of deep philosophy of being. Surprising phrases and juxtaposition of words draw the reader into a new attempt to look at the world. It can culminate in a poem:

           They Left. They Didn’t Come Back

           They left. They didn’t come back.

           Tangerines on the table.

           The season of life is over.

           The paintings they left behind

           grow on the wall.

In World Failure the themes of love, death, passing, and pain are touched upon from a new perspective.



           acute preventive measure

           against death.

It is eminently intellectual poetry requiring from the reader knowledge not only in the field of literature, but also painting, music, history. The poem A Few moments on music is delightful here beginning with the „harmony of the spheres” and ending mysteriously:



           is not


The role of poetry and poets „sentenced to poems” is presented in an interesting way.

          Homeless Poem        

          The homeless poem wanders

          around the dark matter of paper.

          Nobody’s. The author left it

          to its fate. An orphan of words.


           poems are like abandoned dogs

           barking for poetry.

Irony, humour, distance to oneself and the world shine through this poetry woven from a colourful fabric. And although it is the art. of cultural criticism you can feel the longing for the personal truth of existence and being „here and now” among wars and the returning memory of galaxies.

           Working Memory

           I won’t be your role model.

           We sit between wars

           slicing the cheese of the moon

           on a black plate.

           I’m made of fears

           and you need confidence.

           I hold doubt and regret at gunpoint

           and you’re aiming at delight and courage.

          A box of chocolates on the table.

          I’m treating them to planets.

          Celestial bodies in chocolate […]

I can with full responsibility recommend a new poetry book by an outstanding poetess Ewa Lipska who in each poem gives us food for thought and reinterpretation of phenomena of nature and culture that are close to us leaving creative doubts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ~ Anna Banasiak



Family Matters—Poems for and about Grandparents and Grandchildren by Judie Rae, 42 Poems ~ 72 pages. Publisher: Kelsay Books. ISBN: 978-1-63980-353-8.

In her late teens, my wife of 54 years, was hurt in an ill-advised relationship. During this dark time, she found refuge on her grandparents’ farm. Away from social scrutiny, she felt the healing hands and wise counsel of these loving people. Out of the crucible of experience they became ministering spirits to a devastated girl. This memory returned to me as I set about writing this review. Family Matters is a collection replete with life, captured in verse, which will encourage and verify our roles as major influencers in our families.

Grandparents and the Sense of Place

It is difficult to separate special people from their habitations. Rae opens her collection with  “The Cottage”,  excerpted here:

No one clear memory

of the first time I saw my grandmother’s

cottage stands out, no haunting view that returns

distinct from all the other times

I visited—and love—that home.

The river? Certainly that. But also

the wooden floor Grandma

painted forest green,

bent over at the waist, wearing her

no-nonsense shoes.

The washer with the wringer

That once drew here hand through.

The bruises, the broken

Hand, I see still.

The poem continues setting a stage, as in a play. Grandma’s garden which produced homegrown raspberries sitting on a bowl of cereal, a tiny bug found floating in melting ice cream served for dessert. “He didn’t eat much,” Grandma says; the dining room where everyone gathered to wait out the storm until it passed; and geese flying in flocks marking seasonal changes. The person so much a part of the place; the two are one in the make of the mind; both indelibly etched in memory.

Grandparents and the Sense of Touch. 

“What She Said,” is rich with healing intimacy. The poet:

. . . can hear still my grandmother’s

archaic language, feel her warm

aged hands as she patted my back,

attempting to soothe me,

to erase the pain of whatever

hurt had befallen her grandchild.                  

 Solace was her magic,

a stoic’s take on the world,

the bandage she offered.

Her own pain was masked,


by the aid she gave


Whatever it is that grandparents have, call it a gift . . . Rae captures. Grandparents mask their personal hurts as they, with deft fingers, rub the shoulders of the aching young. Rae describes it thus . . .

and rubbed my shoulders

waiting for the ache

to ease, listening,

always listening, saying

little, though some words

ring yet in memory:

Don’t fret, child.

A Word About What Poets Do. 

The best poets have a knack for drawing you in. They have inscrutable eyes. Commonplace things breathe the essential air of love. In titles such as: “The Woodshed,” the scent of wet wood, the musty residue of a leaky roof come through. “Unspoken Love,” tenderly evokes wonderment as the poet recalls opportunities when she didn’t tell her grandmother how she colored her life, how she gifted her with a childhood worth remembering. Rae displays literary skill in her use of humor and irony in “Saving for College,” where coins were saved in a large jar deposited by parents, friends and relatives. One day the jar was shattered. When grandma inquired of her granddaughter where a replacement jar could be found, the response was: “Probably at the college fund store.”

“For Aubrey, at Home,” makes excellent use of internal rhyme, a technique which serves her well in delivering a heartfelt message:

Fever claims her baby rest

and she lays her small fierce body

against my chest and pats

my back as if to say,

It’s okay, Grandma; I know

you had nothing to do

with this.

The wild expanse of years

moves between us—

little miss/crone

bridged by touch                                      

I pat her back

to soothe

this child of my child.

As my grandmother

patted me,

her wrinkled hands, so mild,

now mine

breeching time

to bind all three:

Ghost, Grandmother, Child.

In this my seventh decade, I’ve learned to let my children and grandchildren live their lives. While tempted to impart “my” thoughts, “my” opinions, “my” wisdom, quite often I am the one who learns and grows because of them. However, if I were to offer a life-vision for my dear ones, this would be the one:

Directions to the Good Life

                     For my grandchildren

Head north to the future, windows

rolled down to collect the breeze.

On you way, feed the hungry.

Gas up on wonder.

Bypass the intersection of bitterness

and anger. Get lost. Find yourself

in kindness and smiles.

Grandparents: If you’re looking for that elusive “something” you can’t quite put your finger on . . . pick up a copy of Judie Rae’s, Family Matters—Poems for and About Grandparents and Grandchildren.

~ Michael Escoubas



Quarantine Highway by Millicent Borges Accardi. 70 Poems ~ 93 pages. Cover Art by Ralph Almeida. Flower Song Press. ISBN: 978-1-953447-35-7

I was immediately struck by the title of Millicent Borges Accardi’s fifth collection, Quarantine Highway. It suggests an interesting duality: full-stop on one hand, unlimited access on the other. In a book about the recently concluded pandemic, the title itself captures the essence.

I believe it will be at least a decade, maybe more, before a definitive history of the Covid-19 Pandemic will be written. In the meantime, it is the province of poets to guide folks through the conundrum of an era still impacting our nation’s collective consciousness.

For a time it seemed we were living in a land (indeed in a world) not our own, navigating or trying to navigate life. It was a sea of uncertainty inhabiting two worlds. One voice commanded, “Stay in;” another screamed, “Get out,” or “Let me out”! My goal in this review is to highlight this poet’s unrelenting quest to capture this tension.

“We’ll Come Down Close Behind,” epitomizes Accardi’s title. I share it in full:

And such and we have

and we need and we wa

and we have and if it happens,

we couldn’t leave, and there is not a

never in the universe except now.

And but and and and for and if

Our place to live, it is a song

let it run peacefully into

the coda or the second chorus

where the refrain takes over.

And such and such and the homeless,

And prisons, and why can’t I

leave my home without a mask.

We’d come down close behind

in the middle of a crowd, as if we

mattered and as if things were

normal rather than a new normal,

which is odious. Then, then and then

and could. Once, existence was on

full speed, catching rumors,

and touching faces and going outside.

Let me assure readers that the repetitions employed by Accardi are not typographical errors. Rather, they are part of her strategy to reach into the heart of her subject. It is like reaching into the trash because something that isn’t trash is buried there . . . she wants to find it, needs to grasp an elusive something emerging with it firmly in hand.

Note line 6. I count 5 repetitions of the word “and,” which is a coordinating conjunction. Conjunctions link related phrases and ideas in a way that makes sense. Why would Accardi use the term as she does? I encourage thoughtful readers to ponder.

Even Accardi’s titles illustrate her strategy; they tend to be a little off-center, like the world of her subject. Titles selected at random: “Side by Side in Fragile,” “For Truth would be from a Line,” “As Among Grotesque Trees,” “Differently, the Way Everything is Wrong,” and “I Told My Friend to Rub her Lice Against my Hair.” These are merely instances cited to show that Quarantine Highway is possibly the most unique Pandemic collection to hit the market EVER!

This excerpt from “In Oblivion,” illustrates (as do many others) how we felt:

It is as if the world’s engines

have ground to a frozen metal in the middle of

the midst inside a clutter clutch

of busy confusion and everyone

has been cast off, from the

blissful-working-gears we used

to down shift into.

The poem goes on to illustrate how . . .

We are ambiguous, a lost

part of speech, left behind.

Something my wife and I felt during this period was that of being cocooned like caterpillars. We imagined ourselves emerging as something more than before. “In Later Time,” is about a similar sense of darkness or half-darkness, a kind of swampy murkiness. “There was / violence in the air, and I kept asking / myself what is another word for suffuse?” This poem captures a certain labyrinthine feel common during the pandemic. Try as we might the maze seemed to keep on winning.

While it seemed to be winning, in truth, it lost. Emerging, as a nation, from the cocoon alluded to above, it is my conviction that the caterpillar has become a butterfly. Are challenges latent in the aftermath? Of course, but my take from Accardi’s bold new collection is one of hope. Accardi faces the hard reality of Covid-19. In poems that say what few others are bold enough to say, Quarantine Highway, inspires me to appreciate the good life offers. A literal quarantine may not be the worst quarantine. Do we not quarantine ourselves by the choices we make to cede our lives to evil?

Because of this poet, your reviewer is more determined than ever to live life to the full. 

~ Michael Escoubas

White Lilac - by Maja Trochimczyk

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 and 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,

No comments:

Post a Comment