Sunday, November 23, 2014

Giving Thanks for Poetry and Friends - Kathabela, Lois and Millicent

Reading from Woman in Metaphor with Rick Wilson, Beyond Baroque, Oct. 2014

Thanksgiving is the time of counting your blessings. Gratitude is among the four most important moral virtues that make our lives not just endurable but enjoyable as well. What are the other four? I think they go in pairs: forgiveness and gratitude - we do it for ourselves; compassion and generosity - we do it for others. Or the other way around. . . These are companion values to the Four Cardinal Virtues: Fortitude (Courage) and Moderation, Justice and Prudence (Wisdom).  Four plus four equals eight equals infinity, if seen on the side. But I digress. 

When counting my blessings I decided that the poetry "leaders" in our local poetic circles deserve a lot of praise and gratitude for their selfless devotion to expanding the ever growing poetry spheres links and networks in our corner of the world. I selected three extraordinary poets, extremely talented in their own right, but also motivated to promote others and connect us all into this amazing web of beauty, insight and good will. Their names? Kathabela Wilson, Lois P. Jones and Millicent Borges Accardi. I'll present them in the order we met. I should start with Kathabela. 


Kathabela with Maja at the Poets-Artists Exhibition at Scenic Drive Gallery, 2011.

I met Kathabela at a poetry workshop in Sunland, in 2007. I joined her Poets on Site group immediately, after attending poetry workshops in her home, and meeting her amazing mathematician-flautist husband, Rick Wilson. She is the spirit of poetry in the Foothills, of ever growing circles from her home in Pasadena, through Southern California, to the world.  There are so many wonderful poetry things that she has done and continues to do (Tanka, Poets on Site, art, jewelry,  photography, book  and journal editing, poetry salon and workshop hosting, hat wearing, and even dancing), so it is hard to pick just one thing. Thus, I will pick two: 1) a beautiful poem she wrote about Paderewski, the subject of my research projects in music history - for our joint appearance at a conference dedicated to Chopin and Paderewski and held at Loyola College in Chicago, in 2010, and 2) the series of poetry interviews she recently started for the Colorado Boulevard magazine online - that just featured my interview, she beautifully edited to the right size. 

Chopin with Cherries reading in Chicago, 2010, with Sharon Chmielarz
Rick Wilson and Kathabela Wilson in the front row, 

What Paderewski Taught Me About Being

by Kathabela Wilson

he tells me
the heart moves

moves like the ocean
sometimes like a mountain
constantly in greeting

his words
my pulse the same

holds back
rushes forward

washed always
in silence
silence for what is not

for what has been taken
for what is left
for what has been given

a nation for what is right
the dearly loved
what he always wanted

from the edge
of her seat
a woman leans forward

a breath
time waits

the woman breathes out
whish of wind
essence of man

dark and light
rubato of being
becomes being again

Sharon Hawley, Susan Dobay, Rick and Kathabela Wilson, Pauli Dutton, Erika Wilk and 
Maja Trochimczyk, in the back: Joan Stern, Rick Dutton, Bryan Story, and Just Kibbe, 2012.


Her weekly interviews with local area poets and artists appear in the Colorado Boulevard, a magazine created to highlight the local communities of the Foothills.  At you can sign up for their mailing list for announcements and other interesting news and tid-bits. 

The Interviews feature:
Kathabela also edits a weekly themed Poetry Corner that will love your comments and features faraway and local poets.

                                 Debbie Kolodji, Rick and Kathabela Wilson, Maja Trochimczyk at the Colonnade Gallery.

Once upon a time, Kathabela appeared in my Tarot Card reading as the Lady of Pentacles, the generous lady of this earth and manifold gifts.  She is truly a magical spirit of generosity, of a creativity that keeps giving, love that keeps flowing to so many. I wrote for her a poem about her hats, and, lo and behold, started to wearing hats myself. She does have that influence on you. You just want to be her! (Not really, with her, you are truly, deeply yourself). And Kathabela would not be the wonderful Kathabela without her astounding mathematician-musician husband, Rick Wilson. Some of my most favorite readings took place with the accompaniment of his amazing flutes. Many, many thanks to you both!


Maja and Lois P. Jones in KPFK studio, getting ready for the interview in October 2011.

I actually cannot remember when I met Lois; I feel I've known her all my life - as my long lost sister. She is an incredibly talented poet and photographer, and a wonderful, extraordinary person, with wise insights and a warm heart. I do not know whether it was because of that, or in spite of that, my Poets Cafe interview was quite challenging - she is known for asking tough, surprising questions. But on second and third hearing, I realized that Lois created a true, deep, intimate portrait of me as a poet, and as a human being - homesick for a country that exist only in my memory, and longing for what cannot be... 

Lois's  personal list of successes is very long and she is one of the "up and coming" poets, dedicated to her craft. She is equally dedicated to promoting others - as co-host of the famed Moonday poetry readings (with Alice Pero) and of the Poets' Cafe. We tried to form a Spiritual Quartet with Susan Rogers and Taoli-Ambika Talwar, and did some inspired readings together, but, at the end, it did not quite worked out. We are now members of a women's writing group, meeting for monthly workshops and poetry conversations - Westside Women Writers (see below for more on that group).  I'm also happy that Lois contributed to both of my anthologies. Her poem for "Meditations on Divine Names" (Moonrise Press, 2012), deserves a second, third, and fourth reading.


Listen!, the Rabbi said, God is One. Listen for what comes next.
When death arrives shema is a mezuzah on the threshold
of our lives, the soul’s last words before leaving a body.
But I no longer hear the hawk’s cry above the fields
where you left us. I can no longer count all the bones
that have buried themselves in me. Only the rabbi’s voice,
a stranger who entered the last ten minutes of your life
when the daughters and all their hours could not give the word
to let you go. This woman who spoke to you beyond a face

swollen from the fall, and your eyelids sealed
past opening. She told you what a good job you’d done, 

forgave all the secrets—locked drawers finally open—
their invisible contents drifting into the cold clinical air.

Her words were blood moving through us as we held hands.
The road and the river as we felt you pass.  Not so heavy as a song,
not even snow on the bough melting. I listened, I watched

you were so silent, Mother, I could not hear you leave.

(c) 2012 by Lois P. Jones

Lois P. Jones, portrait by Susan Rogers, 2013.


After being interviewed for the Poets' Cafe radio program (KPFK Los Angeles), Lois was asked to serve as a host - her voice is uniquely fit for the radio. She has since interviewed dozens of poets and her shows, produced by the brain behind the whole enterprise, Marlene Bond, are archived on the blog of Tim Green, the editor of Rattle. All friends among friends. Here's the list of poets that Lois interviewed and KPFK broadcast, on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.  - 30 minutes each. 
Here's her official bio from Poet's Cafe archives:
Lois P. Jones is host of “Poet’s Café” (KPFK,  Los Angeles 90.7 fm), and co-produces the Moonday poetry reading series in Pacific Palisades, California with Alice Pero. She is the Poetry Editor of Kyoto Journal and a four-time Pushcart nominee.  She has work published in Narrative Magazine, American Poetry Journal,The Nassau Review, Qarrtsiluni,Sierra Nevada ReviewAskewRaven Chronicles, and Antioch University’s Lunch Ticketas well as Destinations, the number one jazz CD in the U.S. (Tamir Hendelman, 2010) and other journals in the U.S. and abroad.  Several of her photographs have been published in national journals.   Lois’s poems have won honors under judges Kwame Dawes, Fiona Sampson and others.  New Yorker staff writer, Dana Goodyear selected “Ouija” as Poem of the Year in the 2010 competition sponsored by Web Del Sol.  She is the winner of the 2012 Tiferet Poetry Prize and is featured in The Tiferet Talk Interviews, which includes interviews with Robert Pinsky, Ed Hirsch, Julia Cameron and others 2013.


Millicent Borges Accardi

I met Millicent after I already published her poetry in the anthology Chopin with Cherries: A Tribute in Verse (Moonrise Press, 2010), celebrating the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth. I loved her poems: not being Polish she was able to capture the impact of Polish folklore on Chopin, as well as the impact of Chopin on Polish music and on the world.  Wonderful work, I thought. 

Then, we had a reading with Wojciech Kocyan playing the piano and the poets reading their works, at the Ruskin Art Club in Los Angeles.  The mansion was an elegant, if somewhat neglected, setting for a poetry salon, with artwork on the walls, a piano and an inspired atmosphere of the Gilded Age.  At the end, I gave all poets bouquets made of piano keys with some green leaves from my garden. I took apart an old piano from my garage, specifically for that... hence the delight of the poets seen in the pictures. 

Millicent, a Topanga artist and hippie, as she often describes herself, then invited me to a new poetry workshop for women, Westside Women Writers, that has now grown to eight members, and meets faithfully each month, reading poems, discussing poetry matters, sharing meals and companionship. I have grown tremendously as a poet in these workshops and I owe my most recent book, Slicing the Bread, to this august company. Cheers to Millicent for bringing us together and making sure we focus on poetry and the good things in life. And thanks for the many wonderful meals at her enchanting Topanga Canyon cottage, that has seen many disasters but survived... Here are two things I'm grateful for, Millicent's poem about Chopin and her interviews with poets. 

Chopin with Cherries Reading at the Ruskin Art Club, LtoR: Millicent Borges Accardi, 
Georgia Jones-Davis, Gretchen Fletcher, seated Kathabela Wilson and Kathi Stafford, 2010.


Millicent Borges Accardi      

                        Into the wide world, with no very clearly                                    
                                 defined aim, forever

One without
the other,
says Delacroix,
both will come together.

Find the mirror
of a mirror.

Wait for the sound
of a nightingale’s full round

A waltz in A-flat,
uncertain where the music
will settle
for good

A tormented heart,
one that dared not
inform him
no one else was listening.

mazurka, waltz, nocturne, étude,
impromptu and prélude—
the piano begins
Blue rings out
sounding in the ears,
cloud in his lungs.

Uncertain is the shape
of romance

Sketching and observation
nothing but moonlight.

Mediterranean and dawn are
written from life.

Millicent Borges Accardi, Kathi Stafford, Georgia Jones-Davis, at the Ruskin, 2010.


Millicent  publishes profiles of internationally based writers of Portuguese descent. 
The Interviews feature:
And here's her "formal" bio, for those who do not know her...

Millicent Borges Accardi is a Portuguese-American poet, the author of three books: Injuring EternityWoman on a Shaky Bridge (chapbook), and Only More So. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), CantoMundo, the California Arts Council, Fundação Luso-Americana (FLAD), and Barbara Deming Foundation “Money for Woman.” She organizes the literary series Kale Soup for the Soul: Portuguese-American writers reading work about family, food and culture. Follow her on Twitter @TopangaHippie.  

Her husband, Charles Accardi, is a painter, who created the beautiful portrat of Millicent, gracing the cover of her book - "Woman on the Shaky Bridge" (Finishing Line Press). Another portrait by Charles is reproduced below. What an extraordinarily talented couple.

Portrait of Millicent, by Charles Accardi.