Short version published in March 2015:
Maja Trochimczyk: Poetry is a window into the soul; an opening into the rift between the earthly and the divine; a unique way of communicating the beauty, and the richness, and the love, and the sorrow of the world. With poetry, first we prove our own existence, then we document the “real” world inside and around us – that has nothing to do with the “reality” created and perpetuated in the media – and then we share the joy of words creating worlds with other poets, listeners and readers. Poetry is written to be read and to be heard, t is best when performed with music. My first, and most favorite musical accompanist is Rick Wilson, flautist extraordinaire, who can set the mood for each poem and describe its trajectory with his music played on a variety of flutes. I was so thrilled to perform my Awakenings poem inspired by Susan Dobay’s painting, City Whispers, with Rick, and you, and Jean Sudbury on the violin at Susan’s salon. It was a group improvisation of the highest caliber. Unfortunately, it was not recorded: the poem is published in the On Awakening book. Rick played for all of my readings for Poets on Site at the Pacific Asia Museum that included the Illuminata (known as “I want that crown…”) – my humorous take on the Buddhist virtue of renunciation of the worldly riches. Rick was amazing on his Tibetan flute, as he was in many other performances, for instance A Box of Peaches and the recent Woman in Metaphor reading at Beyond Baroque. As one of the original members of Poets on Site, I participated in all Poets on Site events and have poems in ALL Poets on Site books – this is a perfect marriage of poetry, music and art, by the way. Here’s your “telescope” answer, then, the perfect marriage…
KAW: Your Polish roots are strong, and have been set into our local poetic world deeply and with vital expression. What have been the influences of both, the activities, extensions and blends.
MT: I first read poetry in Polish and my Mom had a huge poetry collection at home in Warsaw, including Rilke, Miłosz, Szymborska, and bilingual editions of Guillaume Apollinaire and Arthur Rimbaud in Polish and French. (She was learning French until she died in 2013, 13 years after being shot in a 2000 home invasion robbery, that also seriously wounded my father who died after a protracted illness in 2001). I inherited her love of poetry. Interestingly, Apollinaire was a Pole, born Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki, and French was his second language. I still do not speak much French, but when I learned English, I started to read poetry in the original: I had three favorite poets, T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings and Emily Dickinson.
MT: I started writing poetry in English after I emigrated to Canada in 1988; the loss of the “ground under my feet” – my family, language, culture – was just too painful and my first hundred poems were the saddest ever written. It helped – even now I write poems or journal entries for psychotherapeutic reasons and never publish those poems or notes. I continued after coming to California in 1996, trying to express the inexpressible in a language I started learning in my teens. When my daughter, Anna Harley Trochimczyk (USC Graduate and Ph.D. Candidate at UC Berkeley in Chemical Engineering and an accomplished jazz singer) asked me to enter the competition for the Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga, I read my poems in public for the first time.
A year later, in 2008, I met you and a great poetic and artistic friendship was born. I’ve had many titles and wore many hats – Professor, Director, President – but that title of the Poet-Laureate, mine in 2010-2012, is still my favorite. (I was so delighted I wore a silly grin during most of my Passing of the Laurels ceremony, when I was crowned with an actual laurel wreath at the McGroarty Arts Center, a former home of California Poet Laureate John Steven McGroarty).
I marked my tenure with publication of two anthologies – one dedicated to the music of Chopin called Chopin with Cherries: A Tribute in Verse that saw numerous readings and concerts in the Foothills, Los Angeles and even Chicago, and another one about religion, the Meditations on Divine Names that included work of all four of former Poets-Laureate who form the core of the Village Poets. We put together the monthly readings in the Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga, Los Angeles’s Historical Monument No. 2, built of river rocks in 1913. The readings were started during my tenure, but the credit goes to poets Dorothy Skiles, Joe DeCenzo, and Marlene Hitt, plus our newest addition, current Poet Laureate, Elsa Frausto. I select and invite featured poets with the group’s approval and we rotate the duties of the host. We have one Featured Poet on each fourth Sunday of the month (no readings in December) and have presented many Pasadena poets, we are all a part of the Foothills, after all.
KAW: What are interior qualities of your artistic life? Why are you a poet?
KAW: You are a mother and also I know your professional work involves supporting and encouraging others to be creative. Can you elaborate, and show how this motivates and extends your creative work?
MT: I love being a part of the poetry community in California. In addition to being the core member of Poets on Site and Village Poets, I belong to the group of eight Westside Women Writers, so named by Millicent Borges Accardi, our fearless leader. I am active, sometimes, in the Southern California Haiku Study Group, and attend a variety of readings. My three children are scientists – Marcin graduated from USC with two computer science degrees and moved back to Poland, Ania is a chemical engineering and jazz singer, and Ian studies theoretical physics at UC Santa Barbara and has great hopes for the future. They are not into poetry and are not the subjects or recipients of my poems, except for a couple of educational ones, about virtues.
These particular poems have proven very useful for my “day job” as the Senior Director of Planning and Research for Phoenix Houses of California. I occasionally organize poetry readings at our various rehabilitation facilities, with residents reading their own poems about their lives and recovery. Poetry is a great tool for therapy. An unnamed trauma remains horrific, when you name and describe it, you put a limit to it, a border around it – you enclose it in words. That’s what I did after my parents were shot, I wrote about grief and loss. Many poems like that are not for publication during the poet’s lifetime. But you can sublimate the pain into art, and leave the details behind while capturing the essence…