kernpoetry.com

Month: December 2016

Upcoming Poetry Events in January 2017

bffforposter-smaller

First Friday Open Mic on January 6 will feature The Bakersfield Fan Forum, pictured above. BFF are, left to right, Barry Michael, Joseph Mosconi, Maryah Chester, Viridiana Pena, Marco Silva.

 

Story by Portia Choi

 

The First Friday Open Mic on January 6, 2017 will feature The Bakersfield Fan Forum.   The event will start at 6:00 pm at Dagny’s Coffee located at 1600 20th Street (Corner of 20th and Eye St) Bakersfield, CA 93301.   

The Bakersfield Fan Forum (BFF) was a class at California State University Bakersfield (CSUB).   One of the goals of the class was the production of a book by each of the students and the visiting artist.    Each book was displayed as a work of work at the Todd Madigan Gallery at CSUB.  The visiting artist was Joseph Mosconi of the Poetic Research Bureau in Los Angeles.  The students were Maryah Paige Chester, Barry Michael, Viridiana Pena Tapia and Marco Silva.   These books are available for purchase and can be viewed freely in a downloadadable version at http://thebakersfieldfanforum.tumblr.com/.  The BFF also had guest poets from Los Angeles and New York.

More information on the Bakersfield Fan Forum (BFF) and its participants are in a previous post on this website.

 

On Saturday, January 7, there will be poetry from the time that Dagny’s Coffee opens at 7:00 am until it closes at 6:00 pm.  The Dagny’s Coffee Shop & Eatery is in downtown Bakersfield, 1600 20th Street (Corner of 20th and Eye St).

If you have a poem to share, or just want to enjoy poetry, please show up anytime 7:00 am to 6:00 pm!  One of the activities is for you to participate in writing a poem about  NURTURING:  nurturing oneself, nurturing the poet within, nurturing each other, or nurturing our community.

Throughout the day, there will be reading aloud of poems that the participant has written, or works by their favorite poets, or well-known literature.

The event is sponsored by Dagny’s Coffee and Kern Poetry (www.kernpoetry.com)  The event is free and open to the public.

Ara Shirinyan performs at The Bakersfield Fan Forum

photos by Greg D. Cook

story by Portia Choi

 

Ara Shirinyan was the last guest poet of the Bakersfield Fan Forum at California State University Bakersfield (CSUB) Todd Madigan Gallery.  He performed at the gallery on November 30, 2016.

 

Shirinyan is a poet, publisher and musician.  He was born in 1977 in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. His works include Syria Is in the World, Your Country Is Great Afganistan-Guyana, and Handsome Fish Offices. He is currently getting the next sequence of Your Country Is Great to press. He co-founded the Smell, an all-ages music venue in Los Angeles and was until recently one of the co-directors of the Poetic Research Bureau (PRB).  The other directors of PRB were Andrew Maxwell and Joseph Mosconi.

Beyond the larger perspective of countries and cultures was his understanding of the microcosm of another form of culture, that of fishes and offices in his book, Handsome Fish Offices.  As he explained and performed the poems, there was delight in his voice and expressive movement of his arms and hands as he spoke about the fish cichlids in the Lake Malawi.   The book was fascinating and fun with the juxtaposition of his poems with clippings from other published writings.  (The writer of this story sensed in the poet a longing to be away from the neutral, impersonal nature of offices and to be with the fun-free movements of lively fishes in a lake in Africa.)

 

Excerpt from Handsome Fish Offices:

 

Lake Malawi has islands,

Lake Malawi has muddy

Oceanic coral islands,

 

Muddy water runs through huge rocks

Under twin, folding side shelves

Business-day deliveries of nutrient salts. . .

 

The many cichlids found there

Assembly service

Available (not included). . .

 

Glance through collegiate appointment books

Many Malawian cichlids dig into malfunctioning writing

Instrument feature needs available combination. . .

 

 

During the performance, Shirinyan shared a poem that he found on the internet “written” by another poet.  To be frank, the poem was technically not written, since there were no words, no use of letters of the alphabet, rather it had series of dashes of various length.

 

With his performance and his poetry books, Shirinyan shared his internal thoughts and impressions of his world.  He communicated and portrayed a way of seeing and understanding our world in a new way.

 

____________________________________________________________________________________

The following are reviews from www.futurepoem.com about Your Country Is Great by Ara Shirinyan

 

“Reading travel literature—not to mention postcards or emails from your friends—will never be the same after reading Ara Shirinyan’s hilarious and sardonic Your Country Is Great; Afghanistan-Guyana. Proceeding alphabetically and hence giving equal time to nations as diverse as Belarus and Belgium, Cameroon and Canada, and splicing found text to produce capsule descriptions of one “great” place to visit after another, Shirinyan exposes the fault lines of contemporary geopolitics with much wit and aplomb. In the end, maybe staying home—and reading Shirinyan—is what’s really GREAT.”
—Marjorie Perloff

 

“Ara Shirinyan gives us an early glimpse at the deadening effects of globalization on language. Collapsing the space between the ‘real world’ and the World Wide Web, this book calls into question: What is local? What is national? What is multicultural? Instead of accepting current notions of language as a medium of differentiation, Shirinyan persuasively demonstrates its leveling quality, demolishing meaning into a puddle of platitudes. In a time when everything is great, yet nothing is great, you can almost hear Andy Warhol—the king of blandness and neutrality—saying, ‘Gee, this book is great.’”
—Kenneth Goldsmith

 

Open Mic: December 2016

The Open Mic for December 2016 featured Yaritza I. Castro. Castro has been an active member of the poetry community and has performed at the Open Mic several times. She read from her first poetry book “Unfinished Poems for a Lover.” To read more on Castro you can read our profile here.  

Dana Gioia, California Poet Laureate performs at Walter Stiern Library.

By Portia Choi, with contributions by Martin Chang

Photos by Martin Chang

 

On December 1, 2016 the California Poet Laureate, Dana Gioia, was the presenter at the December Room of the Walter Stiern Library at California State University, Bakersfield.  He was friendly and easy mannered, just as he looked in the internet photographs of him.  He performed his poems by memory.  His feelings for the words and subject matter was expressed in his voice and enhanced by his hands and arms. Gioia’s presentation at CSUB was part of his promise to himself as the Poet Laureate of California.  He had promised to visit each of the counties of California during his tenure as the Poet Laureate of the state.

 

The information about his life are taken from the program at the event at CSUB and from his official website, danagioia.com.   The program stated that “Gioia was born in Hawthorne, California, the son of a Sicilian father and a Mexican mother.  He became the first person in his family to attend college.”  His website stated that “he received a B.A. and a M.B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University.”  In the program, it stated that Gioia “was the chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts from 2003 to 2009 and launched several nationwide programs to expand public support for the arts and for arts education with a focus on fostering youth creativity and expression. . . .The California native has received wide critical acclaim including his 1991 volume Can Poetry Matter? which was a finalist for the National Critics Circle award and triggered national discussion on the role of poetry in American public culture.  Gioia is also a winner of the American Book Award and was honored with the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2008 for his public service in support of the arts.”

 

Gioia spoke of how he started to write poetry.   It was when he was 19 or 20 years old that he started writing in a notebook.  Before then, he thought that he would be a musician.  In his home as a boy, he remembered that his mother would recite poetry that she had memorized.  While growing up, he thought that poetry was part of all homes.  One of the poems which his mother recited was shared by Gioia with the audience during the evening.  The poem was “Annabel Lee”  by Edgar Allan Poe.

Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, attended the reading.  Recent events inspired Huerta to go to the reading. Because of these events it was something she needed as a person. She said, “I loved it. It was exactly what my soul needed tonight.  With all the turmoil and everything, it was something I needed desperately.”

 

Gioia performed a number of poems during the presentation.  He gave background and commented on each of the poems that he performed.  The first and the last poems of the presentation were the following:

 

The first poem was written forty years after an experience in his youth.  Gioia remembers that as a child and young man, he had only lived in the greater Los Angeles metropolis.  When he later traveled to northern California, he had an intense experience during a trip to the Sonoma countryside, at an apple orchard.  Gioia describes this experience, “I always had a kind of hunger in Hawthorne, I realized many years later that there was no nature. I visited the ocean but that was a little different. There was this moment where I got what the world was doing. It was a revelation.”

When Gioia visited the apple orchard that inspired the poem, the visit had an air of romance.  “I had this crush on a girl, the two of us when across the Golden Gate Bridge and we found ourselves in an apple orchard in Sonoma County.”

The Apple Orchard

You won’t remember it—the apple orchard
We wandered through one April afternoon,
Climbing the hill behind the empty farm.

A city boy, I’d never seen a grove
Burst in full flower or breathed the bittersweet
Perfume of blossoms mingled with the dust.

A quarter mile of trees in fragrant rows
Arching above us. We walked the aisle,
Alone in spring’s ephemeral cathedral.

We had the luck, if you can call it that,
Of having been in love but never lovers—
The bright flame burning, fed by pure desire.

Nothing consumed, such secrets brought to light!
There was a moment when I stood behind you,
Reached out to spin you toward me . . . but I stopped.

What more could I have wanted from that day?
Everything, of course. Perhaps that was the point—
To learn that what we will not grasp is lost.

 

 

 

One of the last poems that Gioia performed was “The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet.”  He shared that he rewrote this poem almost a hundred time to get the words, the beat and the tone just right.

The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet

The tales we tell are either false or true,
But neither purpose is the point. We weave
The fabric of our own existence out of words,
And the right story tells us who we are.
Perhaps it is the words that summon us.
The tale is often wiser than the teller.
There is no naked truth but what we wear.

So let me bring this story to our bed.
The world, I say, depends upon a spell
Spoken each night by lovers unaware
Of their own sorcery. In innocence
Or agony the same words must be said,
Or the raging moon will darken in the sky.
The night grow still. The winds of dawn expire.

And if I’m wrong, it cannot be by much.
We know our own existence came from touch,
The new soul summoned into life by lust.
And love’s shy tongue awakens in such fire—
Flesh against flesh and midnight whispering—
As if the only purpose of desire
Were to express its infinite unfolding.

And so, my love, we are two lunatics,
Secretaries to the wordless moon,
Lying awake, together or apart,
Transcribing every touch or aching absence
Into our endless, intimate palaver,
Body to body, naked to the night,
Appareled only in our utterance.

When asked what is the best way to participate in poetry as a literary pursuit, Gioia said that the best thing to do is to perform.  “We make poetry more interesting by going back to what it originally was, which is a spoken performative art.  Poetry is language shaped into music,” he said.  “That is what people respond to. The entry way into poetry is in the music of poetry.”

Gioia believes that public spaces like the Open Mic at Dagny’s is a great place to celebrate this musical side of poetry. He said, “You may get some bad poems, but you also get good poems.  Everyone who listens to it, participates in heightened language.”

Gioia also believes that events like the open mic can become a great place for people of different backgrounds to connect. “If you could use poetry and use art as a way for everybody who lives in a community to come into contact with each other, that has cultural importance.”