We Are Here: Village Poets Anthology
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
In the 1950s my parents took my brothers and me to a science fiction thriller entitled,
Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Such movies were the “in-thing” at the time. For three
impressionable grade-school boys, the whole thing was pretty scary. As our parents came
into our bedroom to say evening prayers with us, they sensed our upset. Leaving the
room, they touched our hands saying, “We are here, nothing bad is going to happen to
you.” Eventually, we got over our fright.
I thought about their words as I worked my way through the poems collected by editors
Trochimczyk and Hitt. We Are Here, resonates with me on two levels. For over a decade
Village Poets of the Sunland-Tujunga community have borne witness to Californians
about the magic of poetry. They organize poetry readings, write poetry, and publish
books keeping the art and craft of poetry alive for generations yet unborn.
On another level, I found myself taking notes on those poems which spoke to me as my
parents did long ago. We are Here, became for me, a series of windows which nourish
my life here and now.
The volume is attractively organized under two headings: Part 1. Featured and Guest
Poets; Part 2. Poets Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga. Contributor’s names appear in all-caps
followed by their poems on successive pages. With some 80 participating poets, the
designers have done a masterful job of pagination for optimal aesthetic appeal. At the
end, each contributor is featured with an interesting biographical sketch.
If the pure love of poetry is your thing, We Are Here, will not disappoint. The Village
Poets use virtually every poetic device in their well-stocked toolkits: end-rhyme, alliter-
ation, assonance, consonance, prose poems, wild and exciting indentations such as
Peggy Dobreer’s “Exquisite Harmonics.” There are metaphorical connections, which had
me smiling with Ah! Ha! moments all the way through. In addition, I was impressed with
both the complexity of some creations as well as many poems which featured simplicity
on the page. Bill Cushing gets a lot done with his poem:
drops like a stone
Then climbing the
air, he stops, and
with a single
motion of wings,
glides on the wind.
Thankful for the ride, I reluctantly dismounted!
We Are Here—Opening Windows to Life
Christopher Askew opened a window to outer and inner “place” in this excerpt from
“There Is a Place”:
there is a place
where sun and wind collide
with towering fortresses of rock and cloud
where time and rivers flowing
carve in ruddy plans deep spaces
vast and clear
in one such deep a hollow curves
a dimple in the palm of God
Humor is a delightful window opened by Beth Baird in “Ode to a Temporary
You documented my existence
We took photos capturing moments
From our 753 days together
For this and more, I THANK YOU!!
But now you lie in state
I felt your energy slipping away
You could not hold your charge any longer
The poem goes on to reveal the poem’s true subject … don’t miss out on this one!
An impressive range of subject-matter and depth of thought are revealed by interesting
titles: Madeleine Swift Butcher’s “What She Cries,” treats the very personal theme of
parental disappointment, Butcher, “carries her mother on her back.” Educator, Don
Kingfisher Campbell’s poem “Showing a DVD on the Galapagos to a Ninth Grade
Class,” is irresistible in its showcasing of diffident students. Jerry Garcia invited me
along, “While Walking the Dog Last Evening.” You won’t believe where this poem takes
you. Another title, “The Magic of Mom,” held me at gunpoint:
Oh, MOM, your name’s a palindrome;
it’s letters they form that.
It reads MOM going to the right.
From left? It reads MOM back!
Dependable that MOM word is,
in quality so true.
The YOU we always do count on,
Today, you get your due!
Three hundred sixty-five the days,
just one we celebrate.
We ought to celebrate you more;
perhaps a weekly fete?
A magic MOM in ambigram,
so please, do take a bow!
For even more— —just flip that name,
And MOM turns into WOW!
In each of these poems and many more, I came because of the title; I stayed because of
Windows opened by the Poets Laurette of Sunland-Tujunga
First off, I was struck by the interesting history of former and current poets-laureate. This
section features photos, brief biographies, and selected poems by each.
Marlene Hitt’s “Arrival,” displays tender pathos as she anticipates the return home of her
first-born son. “I will open my arms / to you, my firstborn child / so long traveling.”
Katerina Canyon’s “Feet,” is a riveting poem that took me to places, times, and memories
that surprised me all the way through.
Wherever I looked among these poems, the windows I opened never failed to nourish my
life-sensibilities, adding to my life the fresh air of love and wisdom. Maja Trochimczyk’s
“What I Love in Sunland,” provides ample proof:
The strong arms of the mountains
embracing, protecting our town
The lights scattered in the night valley
during my drive to the safety of home
How clouds sit on the hilltops
squishing them with their fat bottoms
The river playing hide-and-go-seek under the bridge
to nowhere: “now you see me—now you don’t”
The towering white glory of yucca flowers in June—
we are Lilliputians in the giants’ country
The Mockingbird’s melodies floating above
red-roofed houses asleep on little sunny streets
Armenian fruit tarts sweeter than fresh grapefruit
and pomegranate from my trees
Hot, shimmering air, scented with safe and star jasmine,
carved by the hummingbird’s wings
The rainbow of roses, always blooming
in my secret garden
It is little wonder that the Village Poets have served their community and the larger world
of letters with singular distinction.