L to R: Marlene Hitt, Joe DeCenzo, Elsa Frausto, Maja Trochimczyk
seated: Pamela Shea, Alice Pero, Dorothy Skiles, Passing of the Laurels ceremony for Alice, 2022
Poets Laureate of Sunland Tujunga, L to R: Elsa Frausto, Dorothy Skiles,
Marlene Hitt, Joe DeCenzo, Pamela Shea and Maja Trochimczyk, April 2017.
Village Poets of Sunland Tujunga is a group of former Poets Laureate of Sunland Tujunga who organize poetry readings in their community, write poetry, and publish books, making sure that poetry life is rich and vibrant in the foothills. You can read about them on the villagepoets.com website. Every two years or so Village Poets organize a competition for the Poet-Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga and, in order to involve the local community in the selection of its Poet-Laureate, establish a Poetry and Literature Committee of Sunland-Tujunga which selects the next Poet. Alice Pero is the current Poet Laureate, selected in April 2020, for a term of two years to April 2022; with her term extended to April 2024, due to Covid-19 lockdowns wreaking havoc on live poetry activities. The Passing of the Laurels Ceremony will be held on April 9, 2022 at the Art House in Sunland, a private sculpture garden.
Another important project of Village Poets is the Monthly Village Poets Reading at Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga, CA. You can read about past and future featured poets on the Village Poets Blog. The readings are also announced in local papers, including The Voice of the Village and Crescenta Valley Weekly. Since the summer of 2020 the readings have been held on Zoom, on the fourth Sunday of each month at 4:30 pm. The Village Poets organize many readings of others and also give readings as a group, for instance celebrating the National Poetry Month at the La Crescenta Library in 2013, at the Tujunga Library in 2014, and presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to Marlene and Lloyd Hitt in 2019. Every year, the Village Poets ride in the Fourth of July Parade of Sunland-Tujunga, giving out poetry bookmarks, postcards, and fortune cookies, thus publicizing poetry in the local community.
Village Poets at the 2013 Independence Day Parade
In 2020, Village Poets celebrated the 10th anniversary of its monthly readings at Bolton Hall with an anthology, edited by Marlene Hitt and Maja Trochimczyk, entitled We\ Are Here: Village Poets Anthology and containing work by 80 poets. The book received a positive review by Michael Escoubas, published by California State Poetry Society in Poetry Letter No. 3 of 2021 and reprinted on the Society's website.
This collection presents 80 poets featured during the monthly readings at Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga, CA as well as the group of current and former Poets Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga who organize the readings. The Village Poets have also had occasional visits to the McGroarty Arts Center, the former home of the California Poet-Laureate in 1933-1944, John Steven McGroarty. His Poet-Laureate title inspired the local Poet-Laureate program, initiated in 1999. The anthology's editors are both former Poets-Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga: Marlene Hitt was the First, in 1999-2001 and Dr. Maja Trochimczyk served as the Sixth in 2010-2012 when the readings were initiated.
The book consists of two parts: Guests and Featured Poets, represented by 1-3 poems each; and Poets-Laureate, with 10 local poets, represented by 6-8 poems each. A list of Village Poets Readings, a brief history of the program, and biographies of the poets are also included. The 290-page anthology is published in two formats, as a paperback and an e-book in ePub format. The colorful cover, designed by Maja Trochimczyk, features artwork by Polish-American poet and painter, Andrew Kolo, who appeared at the readings to present both his art and his poetry. The painting, entitled “Landscape with the Palm Tree” (oil on canvas), is a mosaic of vivid, saturated colors, contrasting, yet somehow in harmony with each other. This is a great metaphor for a poetry reading filled with numerous, distinct poetic voices.
The group consists of the former Poets Laureate: currently including Marlene Hitt, Joe DeCenzo, Pamela Shea, Alice Pero, Elsa Frausto. Former members are Dorothy Skiles who moved to Sacramento and Maja Trochimczyk who resigned in January 2023.
MARLENE HITT was the first Poet Laureate of Sunland Tujunga (1999-2001). She has been a member of the Chupa Rosa Writers of Sunland-Tujunga and the Foothills since its inception in 1985. In addition to numerous poetry chapbooks, anthologies and readings, she has authored a non-fiction book Sunland-Tujunga, from Village to City. She serves at the Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga as Museum Director and docent. In addition to her poetry activities, she has served as history writer for the Foothill Leader, Glendale News Press, North Valley Reporter, and Voice of the Village newspapers, as well as the Shadow Hills Property Owners Association newsletter. She has been honored as the Woman of Achievement by the Business and Professional Women's Club. She lives happily ever after with her husband Lloyd and an outdoor cat named Lautrémont. Her poetry collection Clocks and Water Drops was published by Moonrise Press in 2015 and her newest book, Yellow Tree Alone. Selected Poems appeared in March 2023, also from Moonrise Press.
JOE DECENZO grew up in Los Angeles and majored in theater and English Literature. From 2004-06 he served as the third poet laureate of Sunland-Tujunga. He produced the Shouting Coyote performing arts festival and was a Department of Cultural Affairs grant recipient. His published works include The Ballad of Alley and Hawk and the Study Guide and Poetry Primer. His poems also appeared in Meditations on Divine Names anthology (2012) and on Village Poets blog. Joe currently serves on the planning committee for the Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga and as Chair of Poet Laureate Search Committee. In addition to his volunteer work for Village Poets, Joe DeCenzo was involved in developing or creating: 2002 Shouting Coyote Poetry Festival, 2004 Shouting Coyote Performing Arts Festival, 2005 Mother's Day Brunch at Bolton Hall, and 2006 Commerce Ave Fair/Shouting Coyote Poetry Slam.
ELSA S. FRAUSTO, the eighth Poet Laureate of Sunland Tujunga (2014-1017) was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in the Foothills with her family for over twenty years. Her work has appeared in a number of local and international publications, among them Porte des Poetes, Speechless the Magazine, Poem of the Month in Poet at Work, Badlands, the anthology Meditations on Divine Names and many anthologies by Poets on Site. She was the coordinator and host for Camelback Readings held at the Sunland-Tujunga Library. Elsa is a member of the Chuparosa Writers, volunteers at the Friends of the Library Bookstore and at the Noise Within Theater (Pasadena) and is poetry editor and translator for the Spanish language literary magazine la-luciernaga.com. Her new venture as Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga (2014-2016) is the blog Poetria.org where poetry and travel with stops along the way from philosophy to food are welcome. Her local musings Walking Around could be read monthly in the local paper, Voice of the Village. In 2017, she published Sunland Park Poems, co-written with Alice Pero (Shabda Press, 2017).
PAMELA SHEA, the ninth Poet Laureate (2017-2019), has lived in the Sunland-Tujunga area for nearly 40 years. She is a writer and poet who chronicles her life through verse. Pam was born and raised in the foothills community of La Crescenta and studied at the University of Redlands. Her professional life has included medical office work, from which she is retired, and teaching in the fitness field, in which she is currently active. She has a long history of community service, which she has combined with her writing. She finds inspiration in family and nature as well as in triumph and strife. She enjoys sharing her poems in hometown open poetry readings. Poetry has been her passion and therapy for as long as she can remember. Her poems appeared numerous times in the local Voice of the Village newspaper, as well as in the monthly newsletter for Salem Lutheran Church in Glendale and the fundraising literature for the Health Ministries of the Foothills. Other poems appeared online in the Village Poets and Poetry Laurels blogs.
Ms. Shea was a featured reader at the Shouting Coyote Performing Festival in 2004 and also led a workshop at that event on the Poetry of Nature. Since then, she participated in many readings with the Wide Open Readers, led by Elsa Frausto, and the Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga at Bolton Hall Museum.Her extensive record of community service includes many endeavors, such as volunteering for the Verdugo Hills Family YMCA's annual Current Campaign Support Fund Drive for several years. She was also a member of VHY's Senior Advisory Committee. She started a poetry group that met weekly at VHY as well as served as a board member for two terms (six years of service) for the Health Ministries of the Foothills. She has also been involved in the Relay for Life.Ms. Shea is the proud mother of three and grandmother of two. She has been married 43 years and has lived in the same house in Sunland for almost 40 years.
ALICE PERO is the Tenth Poet Laureate of Sunland Tujunga, elected in March, to start her term on April 26, 2020. However, COVID-10 Stay at Home orders intervened as all public poetry readings were cancelled. Her term has been extended from 2022 to 2024, and the "Passing of the Laurels" ceremony takes place on April 9, 2022. Pero's poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies including Nimrod, National Poetry Review, River Oak Review, Poet Lore, The Alembic, North Dakota Quarterly, The Distillery, Fox Cry Review, The Griffin, and G.W. Review, California Quarterly, Coiled Serpent, Wide Awake, Altadena Poetry Review, and many others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Altadena Poetry Review and California Quarterly. Her book of poetry, Thawed Stars, was praised by renowned poet, Kenneth Koch, as having “clarity and surprises.” In 2017 Shabda Press published a book of poems, Sunland Park Poems, written in Sunland Park by herself and former Sunland/Tujunga Poet Laureate, Elsa Frausto. The book also features photographs Pero took in the park.
Pero is a teacher of poetry to children in schools for 29 years and a member of California Poets in the Schools. She is the founder of the reading series, "Moonday", ongoing in the Los Angeles area since 2002 and now located in Sunland. An accomplished flutist and former dancer, she created the performing group, "Windsong Players Chamber Ensemble" in 2015 which gives concerts regularly around the Southland. Pero continues to teach poetry to children throughout the Los Angeles area with a current residency at the Delphi Academy in Lake View Terrace. Pero lives on the edge of a Southland desert wash with her husband, Dennis, a pastoral counsellor, and she is the mother of two and grandmother of five. She frequently takes her five year old grandson on walks in the desert wash in back of her house in Sunland, and he has developed a profound interest in nature, the local flora and fauna, particularly the bees that flourish on her very large rosemary bush.
FORMER MEMBERS OF VILLAGE POETS PLANNING COMMITTEE
Maja Trochimczyk at Scenic Drive Gallery, 2011, Photo by Susan Rogers.
DR. MAJA TROCHIMCZYK, the sixth Poet Laureate of Sunland Tujunga (2010-2012), is a poet, music historian, photographer, and non-profit director born in Poland and living in California (www.trochimczyk.net). She selects poets to feature at the Village Poets series (the final approval is made by the whole group). She published four books on music, two volumes of poetry (Rose Always and Miriam’s Iris), and two anthologies (Chopin with Cherries and Meditations on Divine Names). Hundreds of her articles and poems appeared in English, Polish, as well as in German, French, Chinese, Spanish and Serbian translations. The venues for her poetry included: Altadena Poetry Review, Loch Raven Review, Epiphany Magazine, Lily Review, Ekphrasis Journal, Quill and Parchment, Magnapoets, SGVGPQ, The Cosmopolitan Review, The Scream Online, The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, Lummox Journal, Phantom Seed, Spectrum, Poezja Dzisiaj, OccuPoetry, as well as anthologies published by Poets on Site, Southern California Haiku Study Group, the Altadena Library, and others.
She taught music history at McGill University and USC, as well as creative writing at McGroarty Arts Center and the Pitchess Detention Center (county jail). Trochimczyk presented papers at over 70 national and international conferences in Poland, France, Germany, Hungary, U.K., Canada, and the U.S. She received awards and fellowships from ACLS, SSHRCC, USC, McGill University, MPE Fraternity, Polish American Historical Association, City and County of Los Angeles, and Poland’s Ministry of Culture. The Senior Director of Planning at Phoenix Houses of California, Trochimczyk serves as Communications Director and Board Secretary for the Polish American Historical Association. She is also on the editorial boards of the Ecomusicology Newsletter and Diagonali, and a member of local poetry groups, Westside Women Writers and Village Poets. She is the owner of Moonrise Press and maintains several blogs: poetrylaurels, chopinwithcherries, moonrisepress, PAHAnews, and this one – all on blogspot.com.
DOROTHY SKILES, the seventh Poet Laureate of Sunland Tujunga (2012-2014), has been writing poetry since her teenage years and claims that "poetry has always been in my blood." The first poem she wrote was about her grandmother who died when Dorothy was fourteen years old. In 1970, Dorothy graduated from San Fernando Valley State College earning a B.A. in English. That same year she started her career with the County of Los Angeles, Department of Public Social Services, and retired after 34 years of public service. While married, raising twin boys, and managing a career, Dorothy published her first chapbook entitled The Sidewalk Gallery (1979). Other chapbooks followed including Ear to Earth (1996), Spine Flower Blues (1999) - a collaborative effort with fellow members of the Chuparosa Writers of Sunland-Tujunga, and Riddle in the Rain (2003) - a joint venture with Marlene Hitt, former Sunland-Tujunga Poet Laureate.
Over the last 15 years Dorothy has read her poetry in coffee shops, book stores, and other venues including special church services. Also, her poems have appeared in various community publications. Dorothy is currently the President of the Village Poets Planning Committee and is an active member of the Chuparosa Writers. She is also an active member of SAGE, which offers continuous learning for seniors and operates under the sponsorship of the Tseng College at CSUN and the Lutheran Church in the Foothills located in La Canada.
VILLAGE POETS PHOTOS
Maja Trochimczyk and Cile Borman with Village Poets Anthology, 2020.
Zoom Reading from the Village Poets Anthology, October 2020
Marlene and Lloyd Hitt receive Lifetime Achievement Award from Village Poets, 2019.
Hosts Joe DeCenzo and Maja Trochimczyk with Pamela Shea and Elsa Frausto,
Passing of the Laurels 2017, McGroarty Arts Center.
Village Poets at Margaret Saine's feature, September 2016.
Village Poets at the feature by Debbie Kolodji and Naia, November 2016
Village Poets at the feature by Shake Mankerian, with Shandy & Eva Duo, October 2016.
Village Poets at the feature by Jerry Garcia and Marcia de la O, May 2016
Village Poets (Trochimczyk, Hitt, DeCenzo) with Bill Cushing and Chuck Corbisiero, July 2016.
Village Poets (Frausto and DeCenzo) with LA Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez, 2015
Village Poets (Frausto, Hitt, Trochimczyk) with Ed Rosenthal at the McGroarty Arts Center, 2015
Village Poet Reading featuring Mariano Zaro and Peggy Dobreer.
Village Poets Reading featuring the Los Angeles Poet Society,
with Jessica Wilson Cardenas and Juan Cardenas, McGroarty Arts Center
Village Poets at the "Bite Me" Exhibition at the McGroarty Arts Center, 2011.
Village Poets with "Meditations on Divine Names" edited by Maja Trochimczyk.
L to R: Marlene Hitt, Joe DeCenzo, Dorothy Skiles, and Maja, 2012.