Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chopin with Cherries - Poetry in Music, Music in Poetry

This volume of poetry celebrates the 200th birth anniversary of Polish pianist-composer, Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849). Ninety-one poets are represented here; they live in the U.S., England, France, Mexico, the Philippines and Poland - with family roots in Poland, Australia, China, France, India, Italy, Malta, Mexico, the Philippines, Serbia, and other countries. The anthology includes more than 122 poems in English, and one important Polish poem, Cyprian Kamil Norwid's Fortepian Szopena, in a new English translation by Leonard Kress (this is the first English translation of Norwid's masterpiece, considered too difficult even by the translator of his entire oeuvre, Adam Czerniawski). English-language classics include verse by T. S. Elliot, Emma Lazarus and Amy Lowell.

For the great German expatriate poet, Henrich Heine, who shared Parisian exile years with the composer, Chopin was "the great genius tone-poet" (1837). The search for the "poetic" in Chopin's music persisted over the years. Numerous poets dedicated their work to the "eternal eloquence, immortal pain" (phrases from Emma Lazarus, 19th century) or "nothing but moonlight" found in Chopin's music (a phrase from the composer's lover, writer George Sand). The latter expression was cited by poets Milicent Borges Accardi and Susan Rogers in the current collection. Chopin with Cherries brings together a variety of approaches and poetic forms, such as free verse, letter-poems, villanelle, sonnet, rhymed poems in couplets, prose poetry, and tanka.

Reading at Azusa Pacific University, 2010. Photo by Gene Schultz

Some poets write about details from Chopin's life, women he loved, Wodzinska and Sand, as well as the circumstances of his illnesses and death. Others focus on his music - on its meaning as a symbol of fragile beauty in the modern world, or on the emotional impact of individual pieces. Nocturnes are particularly popular as a genre (16 poems), but three miniatures attracted the greatest attention: the Prelude in D-flat Major, Op. 28, No. 15 "Raindrop" (5 poems), the Waltz in D-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 1 "Minute Waltz" (6 poems, including a cowboys' dance), and the Waltz in A Minor, Op. Posthumous (4 poems). Chopin is heard everywhere: in a Parisian church (Rick Lupert), on the plains of North Dakota (Thom Tamarro), in Ohio (Donna L. Emerson), in his birthplace in Zelazowa Wola (Margaret C. Szumowski), and on the radio (Ryan McLellan).

Marian Shapiro considers the meaning of Chopin's art "as if each measure were a casual ripple in a spring stream of melting centuries." Australian-born poet Katrin Talbot envisions Chopin's music as an accusation for our failures:"'Why didn't you . . . ? Why did you . . . ?'" John Guzlowski writes about Chopin's music replacing traumatic memories of "the hollow surge and dust of German tanks" ("A Good Death"). Ruth Nolan hears Chopin in the desert, "between the spaces of darkness and sound, blown across the sand dunes into magnificence." Poets fondly remember playing or listening to the music associated with their childhood, evoking moments of happiness and feelings of nostalgia or loss (Trochimczyk's "A Study with Cherries" that gave rise to the title of the collection).

Reading at the Ruskin Art Club, May 2010. Wojciech Kocyan
Maja Trochimczyk and Edward Hoffman of Krakusy.

A Study with Cherries

After Etude in C Major, Op. 10, No. 1 and a cherry orchard of my grandparents, Maria Anna and Stanislaw Wajszczuk

I want a cherry,
a rich, sweet cherry
to sprinkle its dark notes
on my skin, like rainy preludes
drizzling through the air.
Followed by the echoes
of the piano,  I climb
 a cherry tree to find rest
 between fragile branches
 and relish the red perfection -
morning cherry music.

Satiated, sleepy,
I hide in the dusty attic.
 I crack open the shell of a walnut
 to peel the bitter skin off,
 revealing white flesh -
a study in C Major.

Tasted in reverie,
 the harmonies seep through
 light-filled cracks
 between weathered beams
 in Grandma's daily ritual
of Chopin at noon.

 (c) 2010 by Maja Trochimczyk

Reading at Loyola College of Chicago, November 2010.


 CHRISTOPHER WOODS, FEBRUARY 2011: "For those who have been moved by the music of Fryderyk Chopin, this new international anthology will be a treat... One breathtaking aspect of the anthology is the diversity of voices, both stylistically and geographically... [Among] the striking aspects of the anthology is the way in which the editor, Polish born Maja Trochimczyk, arranges the various sections, not only by musical forms, but also into sections like beauty and death, words that often come to mind when considering Chopin's life, his passions and his early demise." Christopher Woods in Contemporary World Literature no. 5 (February 2011).

 ELIZABETH KANSKI, SEPTEMBER 2010: "In Poland, June is the month for Bing cherries (czeresnie) and July for sour cherries (wisnie), but it is Chopin season year-round, especially in 2010, the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great composer. Maja Trochimczyk, Polish American music historian, poet and photographer, decided to celebrate Chopin's birthday in an unconventional manner: with 123 poems by 92 poets, gathered together into a handsomely produced and exciting new anthology." From a review by Elizabeth Kanski, in the Polish American Journal, September 2010, p. 21.

ALLISON ROSS, MAY 2010: "What is most striking about this verse tribute is how deftly the editor weaves together the various themes, treatments and styles within the volume, meticulously detailed in the introduction and then presented format-wise in the book... All in all, I am immensely pleased with how this anthology turned out. In fact, it exceeded my expectations, because it is so comprehensive and cohesive. The poems are fascinatingly diverse in voice, topic, content, and style, and the poems reveal such richly individualistic interpretations of Chopin's powerful pathos. . . "Chopin with Cherries" is an anthology to treasure as intimately as one might cherish Chopin's compositions. From Cherry-fully Chopin (Book Review)" by Alison Ross, in Clockwise Cat, May 27, 2010

JOHN Z. GUZLOWSKI, FEBRUARY 2010: "Maja Trochimczyk's Chopin with Cherries... is a masterful celebration of this composer and the complex range of emotions, impressions, memories, and dreams his music evokes... Finally, let me say that I cannot remember reading an anthology of poems centered around a single-theme that I liked more. The poems Maja Trochimczyk has gathered together to commemorate Chopin's 200th birthday are inspiring and exhilarating, as I have already noted, and - I don't know how else to say this - fun to read." John Z. Guzlowski in The Cosmopolitan Review 2 no. 1 (Spring 2010).

The review is accompanied by a selection of poems from the book including works by: Kerri Buckley, Ryan McLellan, Rick Lupert, Elizabeth Murawski, Ruth Nolan, William Pillin, Katrin Talbot, and Maja Trochimczyk.

 List of Poets 

The poets in Chopin with Cherries include: Millicent Borges Accardi, Austin Alexis, Lucy Anderton, Sheila Black, George Bodmer, Lia Brooks, Kerri Buckley, Allison Campbell, Peggy Castro, Sharon Chmielarz, Victor Contoski, Clark Crouch, Beata Pozniak Daniels, Jessica Day, Diane Shipley DeCillis, Lori Desrosiers, Charlie Durrant, T. S. Eliot, David Ellis, Donna L. Emerson, Charles Ades Fishman, Jennifer S. Flescher, Gretchen Fletcher, Linda Nemec Foster, Emily Fragos, Jarek Gajewski, Helen Graziano, John Z. Guzlowski, Lola Haskins, Shayla Hawkins, Elizabyth A. Hiscox, Marlene Hitt, Roxanne Hoffman, Laura L. Mays Hoopes, Ben Humphrey, Carol J. Jennings, Charlotte Jones, Lois P. Jones, Georgia Jones-Davis, Christine Klocek-Lim, Jean L. Kreiling, Leonard Kress, Emma Lazarus, Marie Lecrivain, Jeffrey Levine, Amy Lowell, R. Romea Luminarias, Rick Lupert, Radomir V. Luza, Mira N. Mataric, Ryan McLellan, Anna Maria Mickiewicz, Elisabeth Murawski, Ruth Nolan, Cyprian Kamil Norwid, Rosemary O'Hara, Dean Pasch, Nils Peterson, Richard Pflum, William Pillin, Kenneth Pobo, Carrie A. Purcell, Marilyn N. Robertson, Susan Rogers, Alison Ross, Mary Rudge, Russell Salamon, Gabriel Shanks, Marian Kaplun Shapiro, Joseph Somoza, Lusia Slomkowska, Kathi Stafford, Maxine R. Syjuco, Fiona Sze-Lorrain, Margaret C. Szumowski, Katrin Talbot, Taoli-Ambika Talwar, Thom Tammaro, Mark Tardi, Cheryl M. Thatt, Tammy L. Tillotson, Maja Trochimczyk, Helen Vandepeer, Devi Walders, Erika Wilk, Martin Willitts, Jr., Kath Abela Wilson, Leonore Wilson, Meg Withers, Anne Harding Woodworth, and Marianne Worthington.

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