Thursday, March 31, 2011

John Z. Guzlowski at Bolton Hall on April 17, 2011

JOHN GUZLOWSKI is the author of Lightning and Ashes, a book of poems about his parents’ experiences in Nazi concentration camps; a portion of which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. His stories and poems appear in such national journals as Ontario Review, Chattahoochee Review, Atlanta Review, Nimrod, Crab Orchard Review, and Marge, and in the anthology Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust. Garrison Keillor read Guzlowski’s poem “What My Father Believed” on his program, The Writers’ Almanac. Czeslaw Milosz said that Guzlowski’s poems about his parents are “astonishing.” He blogs about his parents at

Asked about a personal statement about his poetry, John sent the following:

"I was born in a refugee camp in Germany after World War II, and came with my parents Jan and Tekla and my sister Donna to the United States as Displaced Persons in 1951. My Polish Catholic parents had been slave laborers in Nazi Germany. Growing up in the immigrant and DP neighborhoods around Humboldt Park in Chicago, I met Jewish hardware store clerks with Auschwitz tattoos on their wrists, Polish cavalry officers who still mourned for their dead horses, and women who walked from Siberia to Iran to escape the Russians. My poems try to remember them and their voices."

Here's what Czeslaw Milosz had to say about Guzlowski's book:

"In [Guzlowski’s] poems the land of his parents and the work camps are always present, although at the same time they are only part of his poetic repertoire. In the volume which I have at hand, there are a lot of completely different poems, completely free of the burden of the past. This slim volume even astonished me with its doubleness. The first part summons precisely the camp images from the life of the author’s parents, who were treated by the Nazis like beasts of burden. Their awkward language, because they were both half-literate, was for the Nazis a language of mules. The second part reveals an enormous ability for grasping reality with some distance." — Czesław Miłosz

An American poet, Lola Haskins, responded to a different aspect of this poignant book:

"Lightning and Ashes chronicles the terrible things that happened to the poet’s parents in the death camps of WW II. Of course, the atrocities perpetrated on the Jews (and others) have not gone unnoticed in our literature, but Guzlowski should join the annals of the great recording angels, not just for his unsparing yet compassionate language but also because he makes clear what is so easy to forget: that no matter how many years pass, such events never do. That what happened in the camps is like his father’s eye, fixed forever open. In Lightning and Ashes, which might as well have been titled Remembrance, Guzlowski shows us how his family might have lived had the war not happened, then describes unforgettably how they did." —Lola Haskins


John is visiting Southern California as a guest of the Modjeska Art and Culture Club which is sponsoring an event dedicated to the poetry of Nobel-Prize-winner Czeslaw Milosz. Called "Milosz in my Life" and held on April 16, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ruskin Art Club (800 S. Plymouth Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90005), this evening of poetry will juxtapose John's work and presence with that of Cecilia Woloch, and actor Marek Probosz. See the Modjeska Club blog for more information.

The Bolton Hall Museum Open Poetry Reading is organized by Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga. More details about the featured poets and dates of readings may be found on the margin of this blog.

Friday, March 11, 2011

March 27 with the Spiritual Quartet - Lois, Susan, Taoli-Ambika, & Maja

The Spiritual Quartet consisting of four female poets - Lois P. Jones, Susan Rogers, Taoli-Ambika Talwar, and Maja Trochimczyk - will be featured at the next Village Poets Reading, scheduled for March 27, at 4:30 p.m., at the Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga. Each poet comes from a different spiritual background, while sharing the focus on compassion, beauty, enlightenment, and a creative expression of positive energy. They weave their poems around themes of light, love, forgiveness, hope, and friendship. They contemplate nature, mountains, birds and gardens, and draw inspiration from the poetry of Rumi, Rilke, and their own spiritual traditions.

LOIS P. JONES’s poetry and photographs have been or will soon be published in American Poetry Journal, Raven Chronicles, Qarrtsiluni, Rose & Thorn, Tiferet, Kyoto Journal, and other print and on-line journals in the U.S. and abroad. She is co-founder of Word Walker Press and a documentarist of Argentina’s wine industry. You can hear her as host on 90.7 KPFK’s Poet’s Cafe (Pacifica Radio) on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month at 8:30 p.m. and see her as co-host of Moonday’s monthly poetry reading in La Canada, California. She is the Associate Poetry Editor of Kyoto Journal and a 2009 and 2010 Pushcart Nominee. In August 2010 her poem “Ouija” was selected as Poem of the Year by judge Dana Goodyear.

"Show what the light gave her

washing warmth into a neck
until it’s dune, a cliffside

that holds a head of surf.
Paint as you would before you awaken,

when sunlight falls like milkweed
and you are an empty silo

letting her grain fill you–
buttery malt and biscuit

for the love of honey."

(From "Ways to Paint a Woman" by Lois P. Jones)

SUSAN ROGERS considers poetry a vehicle for light and a tool for the exchange of positive energy. She is a practitioner of Sukyo Mahikari— a spiritual practice that promotes positive thoughts, words and action. She is also a photographer and a licensed attorney. Her poems were part of the 2010 Valentine Peace Project and have been performed at museums and galleries in Southern California. Her work can be found in the book Chopin and Cherries, numerous journals, anthologies and chapbooks Her work can be heard online or in person as part of the audio tour for the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, California. She was recently interviewed by Lois P. Jones for KPFK’s Poets Café.

"The dove knows the way
follow her.

Your heart knows the way
listen well.

Within your deepest self
are wings of light.

They cover the earth
with waves of love.

Do you remember?
You once knew.

Stand in the warmth
of sunlight and recall.

The origin of the world
is one."

From The Origin is One, a poem dedicated to Kotama Okada and inspired by a painting by Susan Dobay.

Long-time educator, published author, artist, TAOLI-AMBIKA TALWAR has been involved in holistic arts/sciences for many years. Her mission is to be a reflective, gentle and creative change agent. Her film, “Androgyne” won the best script award at a festival in Belgium. She has published two books, Creative Resonance: Poetry¬Elegant Play, Elegant Change (2006) and 4 Stars & 25 Roses (2007) and has two chapbooks from Laguna Press, Words for Hungry Tongues (2000) Songs of the Body. Kyoto Journal published her poem titled, “What the Trees Say” for their biodiversity issue. Taoli-Ambika has also been published in the anthology, Chopin with Cherries, Inkwater Ink, vol. 3 and other collections. Her photographs and paintings have appeared in Tiferet Journal. She teaches English at Cypress College, Cypress. “Because poetry is the bridge to new worlds.”

Where Flowers Wander

cells love it
when we smile
even if worlds break

nothing matters
but the great empty
from which all comes

chalice is passages
for the flow
of the fountain

always traveler
longs for the great empty
flowers grow there

© 2011 Taoli-Ambika Talwar

MAJA TROCHIMCZYK, the Sixth Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga, is also a music historian and non-profit director born in Poland, educated in Poland and Canada and residing in Sunland. As an author of four scholarly books and hundreds of articles, she is well established in the music history world, with two main specializations: Polish music of the 19th and 20th centuries, and 20th-century contemporary music. She founded Moonrise Press and published three books of poetry: Rose Always, Miriam's Iris and the Chopin with Cherries anthology. Her poetry and photography appears in such journals as the Epiphany Magazine, Loch Raven Review, The Huston Literary Review, Ekphrasis Journal, Phantom Seed, PoeticDiversity and many anthologies by Poets on Site and others. See:,


you too will find the way into the orchard
where green fruit ripens among late blossoms
I found the path, I'm waiting there already

the birds chirp and frolic among the branches
they fly - cheerful in the orange sun

you too -
the path is not too narrow
the gate too distant

will find -
the most amazing jewel
of deep peace

the way -
will open soon
you will see

into the orchard
of love's riches
you will come

(c) 2008 by Maja Trochimczyk


In the photos 1) Maja and Lois, 2) Maja and Susan, 3) Maja and Taoli-Ambika, 4) Taoli-Ambika, Susan, Lois and Maja.

Apple blossoms photo (c) by Maja Trochimczyk.

Poetry fragments (C) by the poets, used by permission.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Poetry of Mari Werner and a Birthday

On February 27, 2011, when the eyes of the world were turned to the parade of sparkly designer dresses on the red carpet of the Oscars, poets gathered at Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga to hear Mari Werner and to share their work. In fact, so many poets gathered, that the time allotted to one reader shrunk over the course of the afternoon from three poems and/or five minutes, whichever is shorter, to two poems and or three minutes, to one poem and one minute. The job of the MC, Maja Trochimczyk, was certainly challenging.

Our featured poet, the wonderful and witty Mari Werner, "makes her living" - as she says - "as a writer of technical materials, but lately makes her life as a writer of poetry and humor. She grew up in Santa Barbara, California, came to the Los Angeles area in the mid-70s, and now lives in Altadena. her work has been published in a number of local publications including the Los Angeles Daily News, The Latest, and the Valley Star."

Mari Werner amused, educated, and inspired her audience with the following poems and prose pieces: Fire and Friendship, Confessions of a Tree Hugger, For My Father, Warmth, Two Eyes Looking, Scarcity, Miranda for Civilization, Keep on Singing, Night Falling, Fighting, Napping, Squirrel haiku, Moorpark Park, Cops and Seat Belts, Finding the Holy Grail, Penguin Power, and Consciousness.

We previously quoted here Mari's lyrical piece about the Crescent Moon. Here are two humorous poems:

Squirrel haiku

Squirrels foraging
Just two operating speeds
Overdrive and stop

Moorpark Park

On the corner of Laurel Canyon Boulevard
and Moorpark Street is a park
called Moorpark Park.
It doesn't have a parking lot.
but if it did, it would be called
Moorpark Park Parking Lot.

Before and after Mari's poetry, we heard a variety of poetic voices, from local poets and guests, some of whom came from very far away. Sharon Chmielarz from Minneapolis, visiting California on a tour of readings, definitely was the one to get the "long distance" prize. We arranged her visit having been forewarned of her arrival. She is one of the poets published in the anthology "Chopin with Cherries" (edited by Maja Trochimczyk). Sharon read "Burning" from her new book Calling. See her website, for more information. Her friend, Mary Kay Rummel of Ventura read a poem named after and based on one of Stephen Linsteadt's paintings: "Feminine Restitution."

We also had guests from Ventura, Santa Barbara, Monrovia, Pasadena, and Palm Springs. Kathabela Wilson, the leader of Poets on Site, sketched them in her notebook! She also organized a wonderful birthday celebration of a Palm Springs painter and poet, Stephen Lindsteadt, by asking "open mike" poets to read their work they contributed to her upcoming anthology of ekphrastic poetry dedicated to and inspired by his paintings.

The book, called Art and Alchemy, will be published by Poets on Site and available through online bookstores. Poets Mira Mataric, Kathabela Wilson, Maria Elena Boekemeyer (Stephen's wife and editor of the "Badlands" journal), and Maja Trochimczyk read their work, inspired by different pieces from the Lindsteadt collection. Rick Wilson accompanied some poets on a flute, creating a wonderful mood... For images of Stephen's paintings visit his website:


The next feature at the Village Poets reading, scheduled for March 27, at 4:30 p.m., will be the Spiritual Quartet, consisting of Lois P. Jones, Susan Rogers, Taoli-Ambika Talwar, and Maja Trochimczyk.

The Spiritual Quartet, formed in May 2010, consists of four women representing different spiritual traditions, while sharing the focus on positive values of compassion, inspiration, hope, illumination, creativity, and love. More information about the reading and the readers will follow!


On April 17, at 4:30 p.m., Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga will present the work of Dr. John Z. Guzlowski, visiting California as a guest of the Modjeska Art and Culture Club, in honor of the "Milosz Year" - celebrating the anniversary of Polish Nobel-Prize winning poet, Czeslaw Milosz, who spent half of his life in Berkeley, California. Dr. Guzlowski's blog about his parents' ordeal in Buchenwald is published as: He also maintains a "clearing house" for all matters pertaining to Polish American writing, at:

One of the "open mike" readers from our February event, Mina Kirby will soon appear at Boston Court Theater in Pasadena, featuring in Pasadena ARTTalk. On Saturday, March 12 at 1 p.m., she will present some of her poetry and songs. For more information see:

Another "open mike" reader, Mira Mataric, previously featured at Village Poets (in November 2010), will co-feature with Taoli-Ambika Talwar at Moonday Poetry in Pacific Palisades. The Moonday series is held at Village Books of Pacific Palisades, Mira and Taoli-Ambika will appear on March 14, 2011, at 7:30 p.m.


In the top picture (L to R): Dorothy Skiles, Rick Dutton, Pauli Dutton, Joe DeCenzo, Rick Wilson, Kathabela Wilson, Mira Mataric, Sharon Chmielarz, Cindy Rinne, Mari Werner, Maria Elena Boekemeyer, Stephen Linsteadt, and Maja Trochimczyk.

In the middle picture (L to R): Rick Dutton, Pauli Dutton, Kathabela and Rick Wilson, Cindy Rinne, Maria Elena Boekemeyer, Stephen Linsteadt, and seated Mira Mataric, Mari Werner, and Maja Trochimczyk.

The sketch from Kathabela's notebook includes faces of open mike readers surrounding Mari Werner wearing a halo!

In the fourth picture (L to R): Taoli-Ambika Talwar, Susan Rogers, Lois P. Jones, and Maja Trochimczyk.