Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Poets Hitt, Mataric, and Pero About "Grateful Conversations" Anthology. November 25 Reading

"Grateful Conversations, edited by Maja Trochimczyk and Kathi Stafford, brings to its readers a wealth of women's wisdom and talent.  This beautiful book contains poetic self-portraits of nine poets that form the Westside Women Writers group.  The poets selected their own favorite poems that represent their worldviews and experiences; they also provided illustrations - photos of nature and families. A large portion of the volume is dedicated to verse based on shared themes, prompts, or site-visits to museums.  Wisdom comes with age, and all nine poets featured in this anthology are over 50 years old so they have lived through a lot.  While I feel compassionate towards the tragedies they describe, both personal and of others, I particularly like poems about family, the little blessings of daily life that are too often overlooked and should be cherished, with gratitude and grace. Rarely can one find in one place so many deeply moving and inspired poems, about the traumas of the past, the gifts to be cherished in the present, and hopes for a bright future."

             ~ Marlene Hitt,  author of Clocks and Water Drops  (Moonrise Press, 2015)

"I highly recommend "Grateful Conversations" for every library and poetry class. This anthology, edited by Dr. Maja Trochimczyk, a Polish American scholar and poet, and Ms. Kathi Stafford, an attorney and poet, presents work by Westside Women Writers, a group of nine poets that meet every month to share poems, encourage and learn from each other. As a poetry teacher, I know how important such feedback is, and I appreciate seeing in print the proof of this work in the form of workshop poems written after site visits to local museums. As a Serbian American poet and writer, I'm also very pleased to see the work of my former poetry student, Sonya Sabanac, featured so prominently in this anthology, especially her poems about our war-torn homeland and the trauma of displacement as an emigrant. I am also very happy to read the poems of Dr. Maja Trochimczyk, whose work I have known and appreciated for many years. These two fellow Slavic authors are joined in the anthology by poets with roots in California, whose names are well known in the literary circles of America, such as Millicent Borges Accardi, a Portugese American, Ambika Talwar, an Indian American, Lois P. Jones, or Georgia Jones-Davis.  Some of the poets are Jewish, some are Christian, some are spiritual without a religious denomination. All share the women's wisdom and maturity. All share their talents and poetic inspiration for which all readers should be grateful."

              ~ Dr. Mira N. Mataric, Poet, Writer, Translator, and Educator, Pasadena, California

"Nine women poets converse, wake us up, send us to higher ground. Grateful Conversations carries us in and out of the emotion of memory, family, spirit, solid things and landscapes. Unlike much modern poetry, the nine writers present life and hope, not death and loss. This anthology gives us abundance, not scarcity, joy, not the grating irritations of guilt, fear and dissolution. There are generous portions for each poet: Accardi, Butcher, Jones-Davis, Jones, Rogers, Sabanac, Stafford, Talwar, Trochimczyk each get twenty to thirty pages of poetry with photographs taken by the poets and also there are seven sections of workshop poems. These are poets on quests for spiritual renewal, yet the poems are not sticky with New Age platitudes, but articulate, moving, textured and the reader is grateful, uplifted. “Look at these dogwood blossoms/caught in the act of flying,” writes Lois P. Jones.  We look and we fly.

           ~ Alice Pero, author of Thawed Stars

Maja Trochimczyk, Sonya Sabanac and Susan Rogers


Grateful Conversations anthology was represented by Susan Rogers, Sonya Sabanac and Maja Trochimczyk, with a reading focused on the themes of gratitude, personal history, and life wisdom.

Maja Trochimczyk read her "Ode of the Lost" as well as the Lady with an Ermine" and Ciocia Tonia, about the fate of her maternal great aunt, deported to Siberia by Soviets in 1940/

Ciocia Tonia

~ for my Mother’s Aunt, Antonina “Tonia” Glińska, 
   deported by the Soviets to Siberia in 1940

Only a pear tree
between fields of sugar beets and corn.

Ripe pears — that’s all left from the house, 
barn and orchard. The farm where she raised 
her sons, milked her cows, and baked her bread.

Only a pear  tree. A lone memento 
standing forlorn in an August field.

They ploughed it over— the village church and bus stops, 
the neighbors’ corrals, where their horses used to neigh.
They ploughed it over — her garden of herbs 
and cosmos, its fragile lace of leaves kissed 
by sunlight, a dream of a flower, really — 
she used to so love its ephemeral beauty, 
a ghost of the past.

It was the worst, then, to see her neighbors 
running with news — her husband shot 
in the middle of the dusty village road.

No time for grief, she saved her tears for later.
The orders came at once: a day to pack,
a long train ride to an unfamiliar city, 
near a river she never longed to see.

They said, pack wisely — take only
 the warmest clothes, boots, pillows. 
Bring as much food as you can carry. 

Where you are going, there is nothing, 
except for freezing breath 
and bitter cold. 

It is not painful now, just surprising, 
her whole life gone, and only one tree left.
No trace of her ancestral village on the maps.

Only a pear tree 
in an empty field of stubble.

Only a pearl tree 
in her golden field of dreams. 

(c) 2018 by Maja Trochimczyk

Sonya Sabanac read poems about her immigrant experience as a war refugee from Serbia, who left during the Balkan war. Having lost everything and having left her country in a rush to save her life, she made a powerful anti-war statement in a poem that took over 10 years to write.

Susan Rogers presented five of her favorite poems, including perennial favorites, The Origin is One, Grass, and Longing for October, as well as the Grateful Conversations title poem of the entire anthology.

Susan Rogers

Grateful Conversations 

Everything we have we’re given
in love to use in love, in grace.
There is nothing we alone have written.

We are but a conversation
of light. Through this exchange we trace
everything we have. We’re given

sour and sweet, lemon, raisin
and grain to bind them into place—
There is nothing we alone have written.

We eat cakes but have forgotten
their origin. We have erased
everything. We have; we’re given.

We look. We laugh. We love. We listen.
We welcome gifts we embrace.
Yet there is nothing we alone have written.

Watch sunset turn to a ribbon.
Remember honey and its taste.
Everything we have we’re given.
There is nothing we alone have written.

(c) 2018 by Susan Rogers

Sonya Sabanac

Poets from Nov 25 reading. L to R seated: Sonya Sabanac, Andrew Kolo,
Susan Rogers, Konrad Tademar, Liliana Tademar. Standing: Mira Mataric
Maja Trochimczyk, Joe DeCenzo, Marlene Hitt, Phil Larsen, Pam Shea, and
guitarist Mark Achuff, special guest musician.

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