Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Poets' Picnic in Benicia - 8/6/11

On Saturday, August 6, from noon to 4 p.m., Poets Laureate of California will have a reunion in First Street Park with Gazebo (Military and First Street) in Benicia, California.

Organized by Benicia's Poet Laureate, Ronna Leon, the Poets' Picnic is subtitled "Grassroots Poetry on the Grass" and will include readings by Poets Laureate or Poets Laureate Emeriti and their Poetry Communities during an afternoon of poetry, food, and discussion. All guests are asked to bring a Cold Picnic Dish to share. The Benicia poetry group will supply watermelon and beverages. Listeners are also encouraged to bring a poem to put in a picnic basket for a chance to have it read by a Poet Laureate in the reading.

The reading by Poets Laureate is from 2:30 to 4:00 pm and will include the following poets (who will read their own work and poems picked at random from the picnic basket):

*Cynthia Bryant, Pleasanton, 2005-07, 2011-12
*Terry Ehret, Sonoma County, 2004-06
*Joel Fallon, Benicia, 2006-08
*Deborah Grossman, Pleasanton, 2009-11
*Parthenia Hicks, Los Gatos, 2010-12
*Ronna Leon, Benicia, 2010-12
*Juanita Martin, Fairfield, 2010-12
*Janell Moon, Emeryville 2010-12
*Connie Post, Livermore, 2005-09
*Mary Rudge, Alameda, 2002 ongoing
*Robert Shelby, Benicia, 2008-10
*Allegra Silberstein, Davis, 2010-12
*Gary Silva, Napa County, 2008-10
*Maja Trochimczyk, Sunland-Tujunga, 2010-11
*Cher Wollard, Livermore, 2010-14
*Ronnie Holland, Dublin 2008-2010
*Ruth Blakeney, Crockett, 2006

Ronna Leon's previous and ongoing project was placing "Poem Homes" around her community of Benicia. These sturdy and decorative containers, somewhat resembling birdhouses, included copies of poems sent in from around California by poets who wanted to participate. The poems were printed out and distributed via the Poem Homes - people could just pick up and take home a poem they selected in one of the Poem Homes that could be found in various offices, stores, and community locations around Benicia. What a sweet idea!

Another great idea that Ronna has brought to fruition was taking portraits of all Poets Laureate in California, and illustrating them with a short quote from a poem and a handwritten signature by each poet. These black-and-white portraits are certainly a fascinating gallery of spiritual and artistic personalities. My portrait was taken in the library of John Steven McGroarty, California Poet Laureate in the 1930s, whose home now serves as a community arts center in Sunland-Tujunga. In the portrait, I'm holding the heart filled with laurel leaves that is passed on from one poet to the next during the solemn ceremony. I organized a poetry booth at their puppetry festival in 2010 and was teaching a poetry class to kids that summer. We held some of our sessions in the historic library, filled with vintage photos, books, and memorabilia. I would not mind moving in to that room, to spend my afternoons thinking poetic thoughts while looking at the pines surrounding the mansion and at the mountains beyond.

While my participation in the Poets' Picnic is not certain, I have contributed the following selections to the Poem Homes: Tiger Nights, Buddha with Swans, Skydance, "Look at me..." and Rose Window. I have already reprinted in this blog the Buddha with Swans and the Rose Window, the other three poems, were published earlier in various venues.

Two of these pieces will soon appear in a discussion of Moonday Poetry reading in August. The third poem that I submitted to Ronna Leon's Poem Homes, is entitled Skydance and belongs with a series of poems associated with paintings and other artwork created at Manzanar Internment Camp. This historical site documents a dark page in American history: the WWII internment of Japanese-Americans suspected of wrongdoing as potential "enemies of the state", though not proven guilty. Their lives and careers destroyed, the Japanese-Americans showed a remarkable resilience when they returned to their communities and started to rebuild their lives.

Some, like Henry Fukuhara, a former prisoner, painter and organizer of the annual plein-air workshops, have never forgotten and hoped to make Manzanar an example of darkness overcome by light, of suffering erased by creativity. A Japanese-American photographer, survivor, artist and poet, Beth Shibata, is a frequent contributor to these workshops and has inspired many members of the Pasadena group, Poets on Site. In 2010, she made a collage of a photo of the mountains and paper cranes that permeate the landscape and ... my poem.


~ to Henry Fukuhara and the prisoners of the Japanese Internment Camp at Manzanar

the mountains rose and fell
with their glory useless –
trapped in time they did not
think they’d make it –
days so long, stretched
to the horizon, mindless

and the sky danced above them
avalanche of paper cranes

it was not a time for joy
the landscape said –
bleak, unforgiving,
it was not that time yet –
in gaps between minutes
a shadow rose, a breath

and the sky danced above them
spring dreams of paper cranes

contours remembered,
felt in the fingertips
filled the world with color
faded pastels, knowing,
pale rainbow, hues
of distance, serenity

and the sky danced above them
paper cranes, oh, paper cranes

This poem, inspired by Shibata's art is dedicated to her master. Similarly to the poem "Look at me.." the narrative form is structured around the irruptions of a brief refrain, bringing the dance of the sky down to the earth and the painter's canvas. Henry Fukuhara lost his sight and painted from memory; his friends and associates continued to surround him and draw inspiration from his joie-de-vivre.

Skydance was published in Poets on Site chapbook on the Exhibition of art from the Annual Plein-Air Workshop at Manzanar and Alabama Hills, held in September 2010. The chapbook belongs to a series of ekphrastic poetry chapbooks edited by Kathabela Wilson. The series continues and the future Poets on Site projects will include my voice.


Maja Trochimczyk's Portrait as Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga, (c) 2010 by Ronna Leon, used by permission.

Poetry and photos (c) 2009-2011 by Maja Trochimczyk. Photos taken in Sunland, Granada Hills, and at Lake Elisabeth, California.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Meditations on Divine Names



to be published in


An Anthology Of Contemporary Poetry

Edited by Maja Trochimczyk

Forthcoming in 2011

from the Moonrise Press


Almighty, Loving, All-seeing, Compassionate, Silent, Omniscient, Forgiving, Knowing, Merciful, Graceful, Beautiful, Kind, Sublime, Patient, Just, Wise, Awesome, Sovereign, Peaceful, Hidden, Perfect, Holy, Unknowable, Eternal, Light, Love, Life, Power, Supreme, Lord, Life-giving, God of Gods, YHWH, Christ, Yehovah, Allah, Goddess…


New Deadline – August 30, 2011 ; Language – English;

Length – maximum 40 lines per poem, 3 poems;

Format – email to info@moonrisepress.com, poems and bio in the body of the email; no attachments; include the address and contact information for the author and a biographical note about the author (100 words).

No reading fee. Authors receive a copy of their contribution in pdf and a 30% discount off the price of the book.

Submit your contribution online through the contact form or by email to info@moonrisepress.com, or maja@moonrisepress.com

P.O. Box 4288 Sunland CA 91041-4288




The 4th of July Parade is always fun in Sunland-Tujunga. Flag waving, marching bands, water guns and balloons, classic cars, horses, dirt bikes, Little Landers Society, churches, the Little League, Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts, and even the Oldest Rock of Sunland-Tujunga found their place in the grand procession along the Foothill Boulevard.

Entry No. 31, just after the Oldest Rock, and quite as quirky, was the Royal Chariot of the Poet Laureate - a Ford Mustang Convertible decorated with a scattering of letters, numbers and flags, and staffed with the Queen of Poetry's Court: Anna and Ian Harley-Trochimczyk, and Rosie Ramos who took most of the pictures.

Ms. Rosie came up with the "royal court" and "queen of poetry" labels. The following poems were distributed as postcards, illustrated with my photographs: two Haiku for the New Year (blue skies with white clouds), "Sunlight" (yellow rose), "On Bliss" (red rose) and "The Color Guard" (tri-color flag-waving parade picture) written especially for this year's celebrations and posted on July 1, 2011.

On Bliss

In a house of stained-glass cherries
you can hear a cat sleep
snoring into the comfort
of his hand-embroidered pillow.

In a house of fresh-cut roses
you can feel the air bloom
with the sweetness
of cinnamon and nutmeg.

You can taste love
mixed with raindrops
on the patio of my magic house
where everything you touch
changes into pure gold
of bliss, perfectly remembered.

(C) 2006 by Maja Trochimczyk

The photo album is available on Flickr: The Fourth of July Parade

Friday, July 1, 2011

Joy in Red, White and Blue

Last year, I decorated a silver convertible in blue letters, silk roses, and flags to ride in the parade. My daughter brought her new favorite toy, vuvuzela (or zuzuvela? - I can never remember the name of this infernal noise maker). We stocked the car with postcards and candy and rolled through the town. The Poet Laureate's crew consisted of: the inspired poet of light, Susan Rogers; my favorite USC Viterbi Chemical Engineering Student, Ania (the best in her department, who just graduated with the Order of Troy and a Ph.D. Scholarship to UC Berkeley); and translator/producer extraordinaire, Elizabeth Kanski.

We wore colorful scarves I had bought in Washington, D.C., and we had so much fun! There were horses, classic cars, firemen, dirt bikes, clowns, civic groups, scouts - and everyone who was not marching in the parade, watched it from the sidelines. Thanks to the Rotary Club's efforts and Ellis Robertson's leadership, we'll have our parade again. Hurrah to Sunland and Tujunga! (I live in Sunland and these are two different little towns in my mind...)

This year, the decorations are not yet done, the poems to give away are not yet printed, but I have a little poem to share, with the best wishes to everyone who truly celebrates the joy of independence, that is the essence of the Fourth of July.

We live in a land of limitless possibilities. Let's be grateful for all our gifts. Our parade goes down the Foothill Blvd., from Mt. Gleason and Summitrose, to Sunland Park. It starts at 10 a.m. See you in the parade!

The Color Guard

Above the hills' crooked spine, clouds dissolve
into the azure. A red rose lazily unfolds its petals.

Mr. Lincoln blossoms by the birch tree,
glowing with the innocence of lost summers.

White bark hides among green leaves.
pale oleander spills over the picket fence,

shines against the deepest blue of the iris.
Its yellow heart matches sunshine's gold

bouncing off the brilliant sphere of stamens
in the bridal silk of matilla poppies.

My garden presents the colors at noon
dressed in the red, white and blue of the flag.

At night, fireworks tear the indigo fabric
into light ribbons and multicolored sparks.

The visual cacophony echoes the loudness
of sound explosions imagined by

that quaint musical genius, Charles Ives.
The orderly march of brass anthems

scatters into the chaos of laughter -
a child's delight - the Fourth of July.

And here's a link to the astounding piece by Charles Ives that I mention in the poem, the best Fourth of July celebration I have ever encountered.

Charles Ives (1874-1954) - The Fourth of July (Third Movement of A Symphony: New England Holidays, 1904-1913)

I do not have the time to dig into my class notes about this piece (my favorite for both music appreciation and history survey classes). Here's the note posted on YouTube by "inlandempires" with the recording:

"A parade of Americana with thematic nods to such popular tunes as Columbia the Gem of the Ocean, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Battle Cry of Freedom, and Yankee Doodle. Probably the most complex and fascinating of the four movements of the "Holidays" Symphony, Ives's Fourth of July takes metrical and motivic play to its outer limits. Commenting in his Memos, Ives wrote, "I did what I wanted to, quite sure that the thing would never be played, although the uneven measures that look so complicated in the score are mostly caused by missing a beat, which was often done in parades. In the parts taking off explosions, I worked out combinations of tones and rhythms very carefully by kind of prescriptions, in the way a chemical compound which makes explosions would be made."

Happy Fourth of July!