Thursday, May 31, 2018

Grateful Conversations: A Poetry Anthology by Friends

Grateful Conversations: A Poetry Anthology 

Edited by Maja Trochimczyk and Kathi Stafford

Paperback, 280 pages, with black and white illustrations

I am very happy to have completed the bulk of the work on the anthology of poetry by my writing group, Westside Women Writers.  Entitled Grateful Conversations: A Poetry Anthology, after a prompt by the founder of our group Millicent Borges Accardi, this 280 page volume was co-edited by Kathi Stafford and published on May 30, 2018. 

Grateful Conversations is a portrait of a group of female poets from California, who come together each month to hone their craft and share their verse.  Known as Westside Women Writers and active as a group since 2008, they include Millicent Borges Accardi, Madeleine S. Butcher, Georgia Jones Davis, Lois P. Jones, Susan Rogers, Kathi Stafford, Sonya Sabanac, Ambika Talwar and myself. 

In the words of the WWW founder, Millicent Borges Accardi, this is “a community of women writers working together to support each other with strong attention to craft, to grow as writers and as people in community.” The volume includes poems written for seven workshops and self-portraits in poetry of the nine writers. 

WWW at the Norton Simon Museum.August 2013.
L to R: Maja, Susan, Lois, Georgia, Sonya, Madeleine and Millicent.  

To read the preface and find out which poems are included in which workshop sections, please visit the Moonrise Press Blog.  My poems are found in most of the workshop sections: 1) Millicent's prompt, "The Lake of Claret," 2) A harpist at the Getty Villa - "Song of Stillness," 3) Van Gogh at Norton Simon Museum - "Into Color, Into Light," and "The Mulberry Song" 4) Grandparents - "How to Make a Mazurka," from Chopin with Cherries, and "Ciocia Tonia" from The Rainy Bread; 6. The Broad Museum - "The Infinity Room" and 7. Rivers - "Easter Apocalypsis."

The Lake of Claret

Maja Trochimczyk

The scent of cinnamon and nutmeg in the air
Hot sangria in my glass, white light shines
Through the rich hue of claret, opalescent
Like my silk scarf at a California party

I savor the taste of long ago – that evening 
On the lake by the bonfire heating a huge metal pot 
With cheap wine from bottles marked “Wino” 
In a fake handwriting – no provenance, 
no appellation controlée

We put plums, apples and piernik spices
Into our grzane wino during that fateful sailing trip
Spending nights under dark fir branches
Picking mushrooms and blueberries 
In the underbrush

They thrive in acidic soil fed by rotting needles
Where a pungent smell of decay and fruit lingers
Beneath prickly juniper swathed in cobwebs
Drops of moisture gather on pine bark 
Striped by shadows

A handful of wild strawberries glisten 
Among delicate blades of grass in forest clearings
We lose our way, lured on by their promise 
Of sweetness, their carmine hue, light aroma 
Brightened by sunshine

We did not talk much then, my last year
Of wandering through Mazurian Lakes
Stopping at island coves, setting camp, moving on
After a morning dive to the sandy bottom, 
Scattering the fish

It was best to listen to the wind in the treetops
Pine branches whispering to each other
About the end of summer, snow that will break them, 
Icicles that may kill –grateful conversations never had

But now taking place

In my own Self-Portrait section, I put two poems about writing and our group, two about immigration and nostalgia for lost country, two about romantic love, and two about spiritual lessons in life. Some of my poems have been previously published and only one brand new: "Definition: Writing;" "In Millicent’s World;" "An Ode of the Lost;" "On Eating a Donut at the Kraków Airport;" "Shambhala; "“Look at me…”; "On Divine Comedy and Ice Cream;" "Repeat after Me;" and  "In Morning Light." 

I also selected a variety of illustrations from my thousands of nature photos, it took a while to pick them and then I had to change the selected images, because they did not work in black and white of the original paperback book.  There will be color versions soon, so that's not a complete loss. 

In an essay about my personal approach to poetry, I wrote: 

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. I close my self-portrait with 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! 

The Infinity Room

At the Broad Museum, is closed, they say. 
I do not trust them, anyway. I would not go in.

I find my own Infinity on the beach –
floating on the waves that cross the Pacific
to lick my toes covered with sand crystals.
It is scattered among multicolored pebbles 
in shallow tide pools I walk through to reach you.

I’m home now.

My infinity stirs in dewdrops on the grass –
diamond sparks on moss green, chartreuse and celadon, 
shining  in early spring light.

It tastes refreshing in cold juice of an orange 
picked in my garden when it is 33 outside. It echoes 
in the melodious phrases of the mockingbird 
that claims the top of my pine, its contours 
outlined against the misty hilltops 
and the bluest of California skies.

Where is yours? Where have you found 
that spark, that voice, that calling?

Is it in the sunrays bouncing off the mirror surface of the lake,
splitting into a myriad prisms between your fingers -
your private rainbow?  Or the hot desert wind 
that challenges you to a race across sand dunes? 

Maybe you walk into the white expanse of the museum 
filled with a bunch of Jeff Koontz’s metallic balloons 
and see yourself reflected in the smooth, polished skins, 
bright and translucent like air bubbles, a giant child’s delight?

I hold a bouquet of infinity in my hand. 
It opens to blossom in ellipses, circles, petals –
intersecting trajectories of light, reverberations
of energy reflecting a multitude of timelines –

crystal after crystal – wave after wave –
carnelian into amber into gold – emerald into sapphire  
into quartz crystals – sparkling above a multitude 
of mirrored cupolas – other infinities that pass me by.

In Morning Light

We live on a planet where it rains diamonds —
hard rain, sparkling crystal droplets — in the clouds, 
in the air, on the ground under our feet.

Here, the Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday.
Red strawberries, wine-hot passion and Ashes to ashes,
dust to dust — lessons of impermanence of the body,
constantly reconfigured in a vortex of quarks and atoms
until the pattern dissolves like snow at the end of winter.
Delicate snowdrops peek from under the melting cover 
of phantasmagorical shapes and figures.

Here, the Annunciation Day of Mary’s greatest joy
falls on Palm Sunday — from rainbow wings of Fra Angelico’s 
Gabriel bowing before the shy, blushing maiden in royal blue
we look ahead to the green of palm fronds lining the streets
of Jerusalem. We welcome the destiny of the King.
We see red blood on the stones of Golgotha, 
the Place of the Skull. Not even this is real.

No wonder, then, that Easter, the greatest Mystery —
of Death into Life, Spirit over Matter, the Divine 
in an emptied human shell — Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachtani — 
Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei — it is done  — 
yes, that Easter — is on April’s  Fools Day this year.

We fool ourselves when we see death as enemy.
We spin our lives into thin filaments of a spider-web.
Illusion woven into illusion. Deception after deception.
They rise and fall with the rhythm of seductive charm.
The smiling demon is the most persistent. Incorrigible,

it pulls us down, down, down into the mud, 
from whence we did not come. Nothingness 
ties us up with bonds of non-belonging.

My revelation is this — we live on the planet 
where it rains diamonds. We walk on untold treasures 
that we do not notice — we forget and forget and forget 
where we came from, where we are, where we are going.
We spin our future out of spider silk and shadows.

Our lives fill with the sand of dreams, changing 
like shards of glass, broken bits of colored plastic 
in a kaleidoscope — transfigured into the most 
astounding waltz of the rosettes, reflected 
in hexagonal mirrors of transcendence —

My revelation is this — we are the children 
of Sunlight — blessed by Radiance — wearing 
Love’s golden halos — we shine and blossom — 
in Light’s cosmic garden of stars — lilies — violets — 
peonies — daffodils —and roses — always roses — 
in this brilliant garden — on a diamond planet —
of what is — in the Heart of the Great, Great Silence —

— there’s no here — nor  there —
— no before  — nor  after —
— no inside  — nor  outside —

——— All is Always Now———
——— All is Always One———

——— Where We Are ———