Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2018 The Year of the Earth Dog

the year of the dog - 
soft fur of Tibetan spaniel
shines on green grass

After all the upheavals and fires of the Fire Rooster Year (2017), we will be able to catch a break in the homey and comfy Earth Dog Year - according to the Chinese Zodiac, at least...  The Year of Earth Dog will start on February 16, 2018 (Chinese New Year) and end on February 4, 2019. This is the eleventh of 12 zodiac signs and the Dog years have been in this century: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030, 2042... Since the Dog is an "auspicious" animal, it brings good fortune.

Let's welcome the Dog year with some Dog photos and haiku:

gold-furred dog rests
in my sunlit garden - 
happy, healthy, free

amber spaniel eyes
look at me with affection -
love conquers all

can dogs laugh?
dolphins nod in agreement
swimming in circles

a dog rests at my feet
his gold eyes full of promise - 
"my heart beats for you"

Artist Monique Lehman with her dog, Corcia ("little daughter")

angel in a halo
with her favorite friend -
an artist's spring

Since my Chinese Zodiac sign is Rooster and 2017 was the Fire Rooster year, I was hoping for some sunlight, smiles and a feather-light heart. But, instead, this....

The scorched earth, charcoal branches, and days of thick black smoke...  I got a whole lot of upheavals and dangers in 2017, including two huge fires nearby, one evacuation, a series of burglaries, and so forth. . . I came out of it all smiling, so I guess, all these things served to teach me to live with a "feather-light" heart, without worries, no matter how dangerous the situation seems.  It is funny to look, in retrospect at my last year's haiga card with a orange-red rose and my wishes...  We have to be careful what we wish for, I guess...

I have not written many dog-themed poems, though dogs appear in my love poetry book, Rose Always - A Love Story, as they played an important role in the unfolding of this mystery. Here is a sample of dog-themed poems from that book:

Dog Story

My dog ran away 
to bring me 
the man of my life 

a blond one 
like my first love
with smiley wrinkles  
like my last one 

(scoundrels both,
as the rest of them)

Are you different?

I cannot tell,
oblivious to all
but your beauty –

Be good, be truthful

A Desert Walk

Your dog welcomes me 
with mad displays of affection, 
overturning things
with his wildly swinging tail.

He brings the leash in his teeth,
ready for a walk, jumping with excitement.

We go out after sunset,
with my collie – beautiful and scared
of this boisterous stranger,
distrustful of his sudden attachment
to the lady of the house.

The blonde dog cannot be leashed
as he chases each cat, each squirrel.

Yet, he returns quickly, faithfully,
to stay right by my side.

I marvel at his obedience.

In a Flemish stained glass window based on a biblical story of Tobias and his unlucky wife Sarah (demons killed seven of her husbands on their wedding night!). Tobias found a fish, burned some of it in the fireplace and sent the demons packing, so the young married couple could rest happily, finally asleep, with their dog at their feet...

Light Centuries 

 by Maja Trochimczyk
                                             “Where are the days of Tobias?”
                                                             ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Second Duino Elegy

                                              “Let us grow old both together in health.”
                                                            ~ Sarah in The Book of Tobias, 8: 10

They are asleep
in a Flemish window,
their stained-glass bed
sheltered by curtains
of cerulean and crimson.

Like two doves
in white nightcaps,
Tobias and Sarah
rest on soft, white pillows,
after the nightmare,
dreaming alabaster dreams.

Yes, that was an angel
walking with you
through desert landscape.
Yes, there was a river,
demons, fire, and a fish.
The dog ran along, panting.

He rests with them now,
curled at their feet,
among the riches
of verdant foliage
painted on translucent silk.
The dog – their only witness.

Flames danced at night.
The demon fled the stench
of burning liver.
You did not see Raphael
bind him in upper Egypt.
You did not feel
the rainbow wings.

They found a refuge
in the domesticity
of an ordered life:
candle extinguished
on the nightstand,
slippers waiting
for the step of the master.

Above the bed,
the womb-shaped
knot of a red velvet
curtain foretells
Sarah’s future, the wealth
of children to come.

Listen: Cold wind
carries the echoes
of crying, wailing
through desert fog
outside. Demons
mourn their happiness.

They are asleep.
Fluted columns
twirl up to a ceiling
of gold-flowered
sprites guarding
their glass dreams.


 (c) 2010 by Maja Trochimczyk

NOTE: This ekphrastic poem is based on a 15-th century Flemish stained-glass window.

Dogs become parts of human families and are missed when they are gone. Here's a tribute to a tiny dog named Hazelnut:


Somewhere a ballerina was born on Friday,

a trapeze artist, a clown or a juggler with a circle of balls
lined up in the air above her curly head.
A new life began, a life ended.

Somewhere, sometime. We are left with memories
of Orzeszek, Miss Hazelnut of Boston.
She practiced controlled skidding
across lacquered hardwood floors to accelerate
reaching her ball she never tired of bringing back
to be thrown again – delighted with the game
on instant replay. She’d step out for a dinner on town
in her fancy haircut and a red bowtie.

She’d gallop across the vastness of a meadow,
ears flapping in the wind, a picture of freedom.
She’d rest in her favorite hiding spot
under an arch of antique pink roses.

Ever cheerful, she could sleep
on Marcin’s head, on his chest,
tucked under his armpit, full of warmth and comfort.
Courageous, she’d walk across his face
if it were in her way, or lick his nose
in a fit of affection.

Hazelnut, oh, Hazelnut, too curious for new scents,
with oversized paws too fast across the pavement,
in front of the car that did not even break.

Your heart beat quickly; stopped beating too soon.
We are sorry you had to go. We wish you could stay longer.
You left us behind to play in dog heaven.
Farewell, Hazelnut. Don’t forget your ball!

(c) 2014 by Maja Trochimczyk

And here's an eulogy by Just Kibbe for his favorite companion, Loki:

Just Kibbe with Loki in Los Angeles

Thank you Loki for teaching me so many of the magic words. You were many things as the Norse God of Mischief: a hunter, a trickster, a hardcore cuddler, a teacher. I think of you often, and you are running and leaping and licking my face and alive in my heart as you always will be!
                                                                                                                                 ~ Just Kibbe

Just Kibbe's dog, Loki

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

~ From Puck Monologue in Mid-Summer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

As the official PR dept of Ravendaisy Farm, Loki touched many hearts and went on so many adventures in his 15 years.  On to the next, my love. We love you and miss you and can't wait to meet again.                                              
                                                                                                                        ~ Just Kibbe

Just Kibbe with his dog Loki and a horse

Happy Earth Dog Year 2018! 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Music of Paderewski and Gorecki in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Marcin Szerle.

In early January 2018, I was honored by an invitation to present two Polish composers at the 75th Annual Meeting of the Polish American Historical Association. At the Awards Ceremony held on January 6, 2018 at the Residence of the Ambassador of Poland, Prof. Piotr Wilczek, I discussed "Poland 1918-2018: Remembering Ignacy Jan Paderewski" and quoted many poems written for the great pianist composer. The full text of this speech is reproduced on my Chopin with Cherries blog, so there is no reason to reproduce the whole here.

Vintage postcard of "Improwizacya" - Paderewski playing Chopin. early 1900s.

During, the reading, I was accompanied by Paderewski himself, from a CD of piano roll recordings, played on a modern Steinway, and professionally recorded. The Minuet, Melodie, Legende, and Nocturne written by Paderewski were followed by two Rhapsodies by Franz Liszt, and provided the shifting moods for the recitation of lofty and ardent poems (though a bit old-fashioned to modern ears) written by luminaries of  American culture.

To decorate the stage for my Paderewski and Poland's presentation, I unrolled two piano rolls by Paderewski, one with his portrait and a copy of his signature - and fixed them in place with a box of vintage Paderewski postcards, chocolate gold coins, and some jewels. This was to symbolize the multiple types of "gold" associated with the pianist of "gold-red" hair... and riches collected through his music and given away to charitable and patriotic causes... The piano rolls are very original stage decoration... and you can find lots of them on eBay!

Paderewski piano rolls and vintage postcards- stage setting for the poetry presentation.

 How Paderewski Plays 
by Richard Watson Gilder (1906)

If words were perfume, color, wild desire;
If poet's song were fire
That burned to blood in purple-pulsing veins;
If with a bird-like trill the moments throbbed to hours;
If summer's rains
Turned drop by drop to shy, sweet, maiden flowers;
If God made flowers with light and music in them,
And saddened hearts could win them;
If loosened petals touched the ground
With a caressing sound;
If love's eyes uttered word
No listening lover e'er before had heard;
If silent thoughts spake with a bugle's voice;
If flame passed into song and cried, "Rejoice, rejoice!"
If words could picture life's hopes, heaven's eclipse
When the last kiss has fallen on dying eyes and lips;
If all of mortal woe
Struck on one heart with breathless blow by blow;
If melody were tears and tears were starry gleams
That shone in evening's amethystine dreams;
Ah, yes, if notes were stars, each star a different hue,
Trembling to earth in dew;
Or, of the boreal pulsings, rose and white,
Made majestic music in the night;
If all the orbs lost in the light of day
In the deep silent blue began their harps to play;
And when, in frightening skies the lightnings flashed
And storm-clouds crashed,
If every stroke of light and sound were excess of beauty;
If human syllables could e'er refashion
that fierce electric passion;
If ever art could image (as were the poet's duty)
The grieving, and the rapture, and the thunder
Of that keen hour of wonder, -
That light as if of heaven, that blackness as of hell, -
How Paderewski Plays than might I dare to tell.

How the great master played! And was it he
Or some disembodied spirit which had rushed
From silence into singing; and had crushed
Into one startled hour a life's felicity,
And highest bliss of knowledge—that all life, grief, wrong,
Turn at the last to beauty and to song!
Paderewski's contacts with Richard Watson Gilder (1844-1909) resulted from the latter's long-lasting friendship with the Polish actress Helena Modrzejewska. Gilder, the editor of the Century Magazine, published numerous volumes of poetry and that many of his poems dealt with other arts, painting, acting, and music.  The Polish pianist became a good friend of the poet, considering Gilder's house to be his "real home during those first years in America." There, Paderewski had the opportunity to meet Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie, among other members of American societyGilder was also among the first Americans creating the myth of the Archangel Paderewski, a spiritual genius.

For some reason, I have not been able to write anything about Paderewski. I think I have been angry with him for destroying his compositional talent and career to serve a political cause, of restoring Poland's sovereignty. Finally, urged by my colleagues at PAHA, I penned a short ditty:

Maja Trochimczyk recites Paderewski-themed poetry, Photo by Marcin Szerle.
Residence of the Ambassador of Poland, Prof. Wilczek, January 6, 2018.

Paderewski in Gold
 by Maja Trochimczyk (2018)

Gold halo of curls on his portraits
Gold crowns of Polish kings above his keyboard
Gold riches in his bank account
Gold heart beneath it all
The gleam of a gold ring on his finger
The gleam of brilliance in his eyes
The gleam of fame bright around him
Gold heart beneath it all

The dream of making music in his youth 
The dream of happiness at his prime
The dream of free Poland on concert stages
Gold heart beneath it all

Made of gold, making gold, pure gold
of  kindness - Paderewski  the immortal 
asks us to love music, love Poland 
and to always follow his noble path of gold
January 6, 2018
(c) 2018 by Maja Trochimczyk

Maja Trochimczyk reciting Paderewski-themed poems, photo by Marcin Szerle.
Residence of Poland's Ambassador, Prof. Wilczek, Washington, D.C. January 6, 2018.

My second presentation was a paper on "The Myth of the Third Symphony: Gorecki in California" presented on January 5, 2018 during a PAHA session on Americans on Poland. I I discuss this presentation and my "Gorecki in Context" book on the Moonrise Press Blog.

Photo by Marcin Szerle

The presentation focused on the performance history of the Third Symphony Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (composed in 1976, world-famous since the Nonesuch recording of 1992, and conducted by Gorecki himself in Los Angeles).  The author organized his visit and ensured that the composer, who was not thrilled about metropolitan performances, but rather interested in small-town ambience of "ordinary people" was comfortable and able to express his unique musical vision.  Among other aspects of the Third Symphony, its use of the lullaby as an expressive and melodic model was pointed out and illustrated by singing the Polish lullabies. 

The lullabies are characterized with limited melodic outlines, reduced to three or two notes, slow repeated motion, that may be associated with rocking a baby to sleep. The step-wise semitonal motion in Bzi-bzi-bzibziana is cited in the strings in the opening of the Third Movement of the Third Symphony. It is the same rocking motion that underlies the movement of trauma victims, calming themselves by rocking back and forth, to recover from shock by returning to the state of ultimate comfort, being held in the mother's arms. The same slow, steady motion is of walking in a funeral procession - these associations co-exist in a unique way drawing from universal human archetypes, to form a music that appeals to everyone, everywhere... 

Photo by Marcin Szerle