Maja Trochimczyk with Dana Gioia and Grateful Conversations. Photo by Dawn Jenkins
"Grateful Conversations" - the newest anthology I edited with Kathi Stafford for Moonrise Press (2018) - contains poems by nine writers - calling themselves the Westside Women Writers due to the location of the founding members. The poets include Millicent Borges Accardi, Madeleine S. Butcher, Georgia Jones Davis, Lois P. Jones, Susan Rogers, Kathi Stafford, Sonya Sabanac, Ambika Talwar and Maja Trochimczyk. This month, the anthology has seen its first public readings.
Maja Trochimczyk with "Grateful Conversations" and Robin Coste-Lewis, Photo by Dawn Jenkins
The very first appearance of this anthology in public was during the "Gathering of California's Poets Laureate" - an event hosted by Dana Gioia, organized by the California Arts Council and held on October 6, 2018 at the McGroarty Arts Center in Tujunga. I read my poem "In Morning Light" (which is also posted on Moonrise Press blog). I also presented copies of the anthology to Dana Gioia, California Poet Laureate and former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, Robin Coste Lewis, Los Angeles Poet Laureate, and Anne Bown-Crawford, Executive Director of the California Arts Council. The reading was filmed so hopefully the book will make it into the documentary about Poets Laureate.
Stage and audience at McGroarty Arts Center
McGroarty's house, all lit up!
From Dana Gioia and Arts Council
From State Senator Anthony Portantino, also a poet.
The first public presentation of the "Grateful Conversations" anthology was supposed to take place on Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 5 p.m. at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, in La Canada. Seven poets presented their work (Lois P. Jones, Susan Rogers, Madeleine S. Butcher, Maja Trochimczyk, Kathi Stafford, Ambika Talwar and Sonya Sabanac) but all poets will be represented, as work by Georgia Jones-Davis and the group's founder Millicent Borges Accardi was also read.
Photo by Lucyna Przasnyski.
Photo by Lucyna Przasnyski
Photo by Lucyna Przasnyski
Lucyna Przasnyski who took photos for this reading, is from Krakow, and her mother was born in the same city of Baranowicze, now in Belarus, then in Poland as my mother. She was particularly touched by my memorial poem for my mom, "On eating a donut at a Krakow airport" so I'll reproduce it here:
On Eating a Donut at the Kraków Airport
I am moved to tears by the taste of a donut
Polish donut at a Kraków airport
Puffy, oval, brown yeast ball with sticky white icing
of lukier, dotted with candied orange peel
And the aroma of the rose confiture, a delight
I found in a café with a pretentious English name
One “Morning Coffee” in an ancient city of a hundred
Kawiarnias – alive with the dark fragrance of kawa
That black powder looted from the Turkish army
After the victory of Polish cavalry ended the siege of Vienna
Ah, forgotten stories, secrets, tastes of my childhood
My mom’s lessons how to properly peel an orange
Cook slices in syrup, add just enough vodka to the dough
To keep grease away… I bite into the soft, white flesh
My eyes fill with tears I had swallowed
When I walked into her antique-filled condo
And I saw her - frail, dove-white, forgetful
A shadow of the boisterous woman I feared
She ruled over her family with iron resolve
And made perfect donuts with rosehips and orange
I cry over my donut on this cloudy morning
Grey Polish skies open to let sunrays through
A dazzling hole in heaven, like the triangular eye
Of the Trinity resting on a stack of puffy clouds
On the ceiling of the Baroque church on Skałka
The nation’s shrine with gold angels on sandstone walls
It saw generations pass on their pilgrimage
To the agate-columned altar and the eye of infinity
This Divine Eye looks at me from beyond
when I bite into the teary saltiness of my donut
Sweet Polish donut at a Kraków airport –Full, round donut as it should be
(C) 2013 by Maja Trochimczyk
It is a fascinating experience to be a member of a writing group. Sometimes pleasant, sometimes harrowing, it is all up to the poets to be kind or harsh with each other. The following poem was just written before the most recent workshop, and has been revised as a result of poets' comments. A line "teeming with life" was too hackneyed, the dedication caused too many questions so it was removed.
Photo by Lucyna Przasnyski
Oh, the Art of Looking
Look ahead –
wave and wave and wave
dance in the moonlight
a silver path across the ocean
of the Pacific
Look up –
the Milky Way
What do you see?
The spine of the world?
Buttons made of stars?
Indigo cupola with diamonds?
wave after wave after wave
Look inside –
Deep into my eyes
electric currents flow
in an arc of brightness
connecting us into One
the Oneness we forgot
Now, we are alive, we are
One – the clear azure
of windswept sky –
the rich ruby wine
hidden beyond roots
of the earth
Look around –
wake up and see
truly see where you are
enveloped in a blanket
of time, carried
from now to now
from wave to wave to wave
from earth into earth into
(c) 2018 by Maja Trochimczyk
Photo by Lucyna Przasnyski
Is this the final version? I doubt it. Would I want to send it out to journals? Not necessarily. Is it a better poem because I read it at our workshop? Yes, of course.
For my "Self-Portrait" section I changed poems several times. The final solution was to write a new one ("In Morning Light") that became the closing poem of the anthology, due to its location. The poem was inspired by the quirks of the calendar in 2008. the Valentine's Day on Ash Wednesday, Annunciation on Palm Sunday, and Easter on April Fool's Day. No kidding. The other poems were selected to reflect my thoughts on our group, writing, my background from Poland, my inspirations and beliefs, a condensed portrait of my life in a couple of poems. I think it works. Some romantic, some nostalgic, some spiritual - the poems cover the gamut of my experience. Two poems about writing, two poems about nostalgia for lost Poland, two poems about the history of Poland, one love poem, and two spiritual poems, one for public group performance and one to reflect about:
- Definition: Writing, 234
- In Millicent’s World, 236
- An Ode of the Lost, 237
- On Eating a Donut at the Kraków Airport, 239
- Shambhala, 241
- The Lady with an Ermine, 243 (also posted on Mary Evans Poems and Pictures)
- On Divine Comedy and Ice Cream, 245
- Repeat after Me, 247
- In Morning Light, 249
Here's the introduction to my self-portrait in "Grateful Conversations" - so much to be grateful about!
My self-introduction as a poet on my website opens with a statement: “Poetry is a way of life and a shortcut to the sublime...” An avid reader of poetry since my Polish childhood, I started writing in English after I emigrated to Canada and lost the ground under my feet — my family, language, culture... Yet, my loss became my gain, when I created a new family, found a new language, and discovered a new culture to contribute to in this New World of English. Indeed, to quote my old essay, “the flexibility, richness and focus of this language never cease to amaze me!” Writing in English is also helpful in creating a new identity: it is all “persona” writing as I try on my different poetic hats, and look in the mirror of words to see if I’m an Exile or a Queen.
Since 1995, I have kept a personal poetic journal and gave all sorts of poems to my friends. I like illustrating them with my photographs, taken mostly in my garden and neighborhood of Southern California. In 2006, I decided to share my work at public readings and in publications, .I continued to write short poems, in a genre I called “freeway poetry” — composed in my head while commuting, and committed to paper upon arrival. In 2010, I was selected to serve as the Sixth Poet Laureate of Sunland Tujunga; it still is my favorite title and I continue volunteering to promote poetry in my neighborhood, organize readings, and publish.
In the same year, thanks to the poetry anthology that I edited to celebrate Chopin’s bicentennial, Chopin with Cherries, I met Millicent, Kathi, and Georgia who all submitted beautiful work for this romantic anthology. Joining the WWW group was the next logical next step. We have shared our poetic discoveries and fascinations ever since; we have helped each other grow. Having to bring a new poem each month was sometimes a challenge, but mostly a joy of sharing and learning.
Personally, I never considered poetry a “career.” I‘m already a musicologist (Ph.D.) and a grant writer; I do not need to make poetry into a job! Thus, I have avoided competitions and conferences, and initially wrote only for myself. Meanwhile, I discovered that having a roomful of people wait with bated breath for my next word was and is completely addictive. And the shortest way to finding myself in front of such an awe-struck audience is to workshop my poems with really talented poets.
In the following selections from 20 years of poetry-writing, I included self-portraits as an émigré, daughter, and lover, and a poem I wrote for Millicent, grateful for her charming and eccentric home with a rustic patio - daffodils in the spring, red-white-and-blue lanterns in the summer, and gold leaves in the autumn. Include in my self-portrait a “responsorial” poem from my Into Light book of spiritually inspired verse and incantations. Over the years, I wrote a lot of dirges and plaints; in this book, I gathered my positive, inspirational poems. It is time to think of what I’ll leave behind and those types of poems are my little treasures to be shared with children and friends.
For me, poetry writing truly is about “Grateful Conversations” — with myself, with my friends, with the world… I am deeply thankful for the ten years and many hours of conversing with Westside Women Writers!"
~ Maja Trochimczyk
Photo by Maja Trochimczyk
The bulk of the book is dedicated to workshops - including one that I organized at the Norton Simon Museum. We wrote about the Mulberry Tree and it was magnificent! We also wrote about an ancient sculpture of the harpist from the Getty villa and many other topics, so you need to read the book to find out what's there.
You can explore the anthology's poems and find out about the poets on Moonrise Press Blog http://moonrisepress.blogspot.com/2018/06/sample-poems-from-grateful.html
The ebook with color photos is available from kobo.com
You can read the editors' introduction with the table of contents on Moonrise Press Blog http://moonrisepress.blogspot.com/2018/05/grateful-conversations-poetry-anthology.html