Painting by Maxine Sumner


– Collaborative Poetry by John Guzlowski & Martin Stepek 

“There were no rules, no plan, no end in sight. Just playful creativity…”

The following poetry excerpts reflect a poetic collaboration that evolved over the course of several years, using a variety of social media, email, and traditional publishing platforms.

In Martin Stepek’s volume, Mindful Poems (Fleming Publications, 2015) the poet includes a poem titled Before, written in response to a John Guzlowski poem titled After which John posted on Facebook in early 2014. Two years later John read Martin’s poem and emailed him to say that he couldn’t remember the original which he had written. Martin replied with some thoughts about how John might retrieve his lost poem and explained that he had taken John’s words and started “changing words and meanings so it was almost a mirror image.” This email was dated January 11, 2016, marking the starting point for their joint venture. John had written a poem and Martin had replied with one of his own. But they weren’t simply sharing, their method was more like a call-and-response correspondence. Because Twitter restricts the characters the dialogue often had to be compressed. The Chinese and Japanese forms of poetry Haiku and Tanka were therefor influential. 

The poets began responding to each other s’ work on a regular basis. Typically John began each dialogue. He was writing and sharing several poems daily. Sometimes the call-and-response went far beyond one poem each. There was a domino effect and the poets did not limit there responses to single entries. Some times John would write three or four related micro poems in a row in response to one or two poems by Martin. Other times, Martin went on a creative mini spree. There were no rules, no plan, no end in sight. Just playful creativity, instantaneous and freewheeling within very tight constraints.

By March 2017 they had more than enough poems for a book. Martin’s publisher, Fleming Publications in Glasgow, Scotland did the rest. Waiting for Guzlowski was published later that year, the conclusion of a unique and thoroughly enjoyable creative process by two people who have yet to meet face to face, the collaborative work all having been done on Twitter and by email. Currently, Martin and John are working on a collaborative sequel, Waiting for Stepek. Coloring the following excerpts, Australian artist Maxine Sumner, lends a third lens illuminating the poetic landscape with her paintings, all in the spirit of

Painting by Maxine Sumner

In the Beginning


Wakes up in the morning

Has a Starbucks

Goes to war

Later after dinner

It goes to war again 

It will ask you

To join it

You will


History never sleeps

one damned thing after another

it starts a war

asks you to enlist

Resist its lure

run for your life


No cause

no effect

only flow


A poem will explain the world


Painting by Maxine Sumner

Dear Poetry


Dear Poetry,

Thank you for the flowers.

They’re beautiful.

Especially the roses.

Each one a soft wind.


Great that good poetry can be this concise.


It’s interesting reading your own poems

in a message.

Like it’s new

someone else’s work.

Painting by Maxine Sumner

All I Remember



What do I remember?

What do I forget?

The sum of both

Is a figure drawn In lead.

all you forget

all you remember

the sum total is nil

empty contains full

and the moment exists unto itself


“All language is metaphor.”

A word is not reality

Reality is wordless

Reality needs no words


In the early morning

The silence of birds wakes you

And the dawn

Becomes the only thing

Worth waiting for

Painting by Maxine Sumner

After the Flood


Dear Poetry,


do you hear how quiet it is?

no birds no wind no geese among the clouds.

Is it always like this?


God came down like a hammer.

He drowned the mountains and the cities,

left the dead to float in the dirty water.

Noah was safe.

after the flood

The Earth awash with dead bodies

Mammals, reptiles, insects lying everywhere

Welcome to God’s paradise Noah

Painting by Maxine Sumner

Real Life is Quite Good


Habit is easy as TV.

Imagination asks you to turn off the TV

and step into your life.


Real life is quite good.

You should try it some time.


When you come close to death

a sparrow appears in your hand

and begins picking at the lines in your palm

Don’t worry It won’t go away


We all have our own birds haunting our dreams.

Mine are sparrows.


I’m me and not me at the same time,

now and always and not always.

Good to meet You


More bizarrely we are not the same person even once

Just a flow of change

Only flow.

Painting by Maxine Sumner




You’ll hear the sun set. 

Don’t even say a word.

Not a whisper.


In early spring the river moves fast

a sparrow in flight

a hungry bear

I pull the skiff to the shore

and drink a cup of wine


in late spring

the river slows

a sparrow takes rest

on a sleeping bear

I stand by the shore’s edge

and drink the ocean spray


There is a fire which does not consume

A flame that creates life

I am burning in it

I am devouring it

Let me burn this fire to eternity

Painting by Maxine Sumner

Butterfly Dreams of Taoist Chatter


Lao Tzu

Is the world unkind?

Nature burns up life like a straw dog.


Chuang Tzu

Is the world kind?

Who knows what is good or bad in this world?

Nature creates life like a horned dog


Hope is kind

Hope is a door and a window

Hope is our mother.


Be greater than hope

Be the door

Be the window

Be the dream that others long for



Martin Stepek


Martin Stepek, from Hamilton, Scotland is the author of three volumes of poetry, two books on mindfulness, and the producer of two films, one on poetry, the other on his father’s life. His first book, an epic poem, For There is Hope, was published in 2012 and acclaimed as “this astonishing poem which is at once a monument, a meditation, a prayer and an epic.” the work reflects on the wartime deportation to Siberia of his father and his father’s family. In 2015 Mindful Poems was published, a series of short poems reflecting the minutiae and beauty of everyday experiences. Stepek followed up in 2017 with the publication of Waiting for Guzlowski, originally an online collaboration with the Polish-American poet John Guzlowski.


John Guzlowski


John Guzlowski‘s writing appears on Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac and in RattleAtticus Review, Joyce Carol Oates’ Ontario ReviewNorth American Review, and many other journals here and abroad. His poems and personal essays about his Polish parents’ experiences as slave laborers in Nazi Germany and refugees making a life for themselves in Chicago appear in his memoir Echoes of Tattered Tongues (Aquila Polonica Press).  Echoes of Tattered Tongues received the 2017 Benjamin Franklin Poetry Award and the Eric Hoffer Foundation’s Montaigne Award. 


Mac Sumner


Maxine (Mac) Sumner lives in Canberra Australia with her husband and much loved Jack Russells. Mac is a member of the Artist Society of Canberra and the Queanbeyan Arts Society, and has won many prizes for her work in acrylics, mixed media and watercolours. Her art has been awarded “the best in show” on several occasions including 2018 Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council Heritage competition. Other prestigious prizes and awards include the Southern ACT Catchment Prize 2015 and the 2017 Capital Chemist David Hatton Award for watercolour. Mac has also perfected the highly specialised art of painting on plastic coated paper known as Yupo. This form of art allows the paint to flow and create its own magic. Using this medium, Mac likes to leave areas for the viewer’s own interpretation. Mac was a guest artist for the Canberra City Walk  ‘ Soldier On ‘ Exhibition in 2015.