Poetry Society of Colorado: Centennial Anthology
Editors: Susan Rocco-McKeel & Curtis Pierce
79 poems ~ 134 pages
Price: $17.00; sales tax exempt
Publisher: Poetry Society of Colorado, Steuben Press
ISBN: 978-0-578-32616-0
To Order: PSC by contacting Curtis Pierce for PayPal instructions

Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

In 2021 Poetry Society of Colorado observed its centennial year. This is remarkable given that poetry groups seem to pop up like spring flowers and go to seed just as quickly. Not so here. This well-run organization has stood the test of time. Over the years PSC has remained faithful to its original charge,

          “To create and nourish a vibrant and flourishing community,
          wherein the appreciation and sharing of poetic voices can thrive.”

As a dues-paying member, I can attest to PSC’s faithfulness to this charge. This is personal for your reviewer as I have experienced first-hand, not only devotion to craft but heartfelt mentoring and friendship. It is this “devotion to craft” that I wish to highlight.

The anthology features the works of 43 PSC poets. Editors Susan Rocco-McKeel and Curtis Pierce have done a superb job of choosing and placing the poems for optimal effect. Each poet was allotted 2 poems. If I liked a poem by one author, I excitedly searched for that author’s second contribution. Free verse, classical forms, shape poems, and fun novelty poems were welcomed by the editors.

I begin with Gloria Viglione’s “The Blessing Realm”:

          Some mornings
          I look at my reflection
          to see who I am but

          today I am retracing the
          becomings of the words–


          that fall from the mirror
          that is my soul.

          I call it the Blessing Realm–that
          place that presses the fragrance
          from the Source

          This morning
          I re-awake
          after a pre-dawn poetry episode
          to find tiger lily petals


Notice how the poet allows the poem to “expand” into individual “realms” of interpretation. There is no need to “tell” the reader what it means. Sensitivity to life conflates with imagination to create an epiphany that lingers in mind and heart.

From verse libre, I move to classical forms in this sonnet by Norm Chichester (1932-2020). Mr. Chichester was one of PSC’s most beloved and respected members. His death in 2020, brought many tears. He was both wise and talented as is evident in “A Lesson in Living Love”:

          Love grows when it is nourished by respect.
          Each kindly thought enhanced by sweet caress,
          Amazing as it seems, one’s smiles reflect
          Rich bliss to bless a loved one’s happiness.

          No doubt, at times, it is not easy work.
          It takes some effort to maintain this skill.
          Now note, it is a duty, do not shirk!
          Give freely of your love, “twill fill the bill!

          These lessons may reflect love back to you!
          Once given, it quite often is returned!
          Let love become a habit all life through,
          Oh God, we know your love cannot be earned.

          Victorious love o’ercomes, defeats despair
          Each time we speak sweet love in fervent prayer.

Mr. Chichester’s command of iambic pentameter, rhyme sequences, and volta at stanza 3, are the envy of this reviewer.

Classical forms continue with a villanelle by Daniel Angel Martinez’ “Color Me Proud.” In an age of racial sensitivity, Daniel’s poem contains just the right amount of “edge”:

          I can’t believe all the categories they put me in.
          To be sure, they aren’t very flattering or even kind,
          but color me comfortable being in my own skin.

          How did I become so damn odd, alien and foreign?
          And though I was born here my birthright was declined.
          I can’t believe all the categories they put me in.

          Here I am, waiting for the “good old days” to begin–
          civil rights seem to have said it all but some paid no mind,
          but color me comfortable being in my own skin.

          The same old story of “us” versus “them” is wearing thin.
          It seems like some folks moved forward but some were left behind.
          I can’t believe all the categories they put me in.

          “Person of color,” “dark complected,”–whatever the spin,
          I can’t figure out why some folks call themselves “color blind?”
          But color me comfortable being in my own skin.

          What to call me is not that difficult to determine,
          just another human being is how I want to be defined.
          I can’t believe all the categories they put me in,
          but color me comfortable being in my own skin.

“Pillow Fight,” by Ellen Bonnifield, brings nature front and center. The poet uses alliteration and personification to near perfection:

          A pillow fight erupted last night
          Under velvet blue coverlet
          Fluffy flakes swirled and tumbled
          Laughter rang silently in the icy air

          Downy feathers scattered
          Billowy piles rest on evergreen branches
          Exhausted, exuberant
          Mother Natured tiptoed away

As Mother Nature “tiptoes away,” Cristina A. Bejan, finds an idyllic life in her poem “Duck”:

          If I were a duck
          I would tuck my head away
          Nap all through the night
          And hide from the horrors of the day

Technical limitations prevent me from including several “shape” poems in this review. I want to describe three standouts: “Soap Opera” by Seth, is shaped like an hourglass. The omnipresent TV show Days of Our Lives,” comes to mind. “Lovers,” by Joyce P. Wilson, is in the shape of a key fitting a lock in perfect conjunction. “A, B, C – 1, 2, 3, by Sandi Rae Rhynard, bears the contours of a bullet. Not only is the shape remarkable but its words penetrate with profound social impact.

It seems fitting to close out my review with a poem that captures the Centennial spirit of Poetry Society of Colorado. Here is “In Poet Language,” by Loretta Sturgeon:

          Beautiful in poet language
          Where every flaw in form
          Defect by design
          Model malady and bereft body
          Is meant to be
          An examination in intricacy
          Of incredible incarnation
          Flawlessly formed
          Defined by design of a model mind
          Sculpting the beautiful body
          In poet language.

Congratulations to a group of artists which has “sculpted the beautiful body” of poetry into a community where poetic voices will thrive for another 100 years.


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