By Martin Chang
“Words Come to Life” was an event held to benefit CASA and celebrate the poetry and art of Kern County.
In her opening remarks Diana Ramirez, the organizer of the event, was emotional, and barely held back tears. She said, “Look at all these people, and look at this connection we are making as a community.”
Ramirez described the goals of the event as “bringing words to life through art.” She said, “Each artist was given a poem and through inspiration from that poem have created a unique art piece. Included amongst the sixteen are two poems by local foster youth.”
Mateo Lara had his poem “Neon Candles” interpreted by artist Jose Lemus. Lara enjoyed Lemus’ interpretation. “It’s exact how I envisioned it to be. The image makes me happy and sad at the same time. It speaks to what the poem is about.”
Here are the first lines of “Neon Candles:”
You’re staining the room with electric blue sadness,
And last night around 4 in the morning,
You rustled in with maroon stained hands,
And told me to turn on the lights,
So I could see the silver lips you wore.
In order to improve the emotional power of her poetry reading, Portia Choi dressed as “an anonymous woman who could represent anyone in the world.” She had rarely dressed up in such a way before, to impact the performance. “ This time I wanted to be sure that my outfit reflected a woman who didn’t have very much,” she explained.
Choi saw the outfit as a way of getting in touch emotionally with her younger self. “I was concerned about how believable I would be to those watching, since I am a woman in my sixties performing a poem of the experience and feelings of a two-year-old, in the middle of a war. I wanted to express the feeling of being left alone, wondering where my sister and mother were,” she said. “I wanted to capture the feeling of a little child not knowing what is happening in her world, of being displaced from the safety of home. The only thing that was real to me, was a ball of rice I was given to eat.”
Choi carefully picked out her outfit to give her performance an everyday-woman feeling. “For the performance, I wore a white scarf over my head tied around my neck, as many women do around the world,” she said. “I also wore a dark brown shawl which a woman might use for warmth and protection, and to become invisible and hidden among others.”