kernpoetry.com

Author: Portiachoi

Foundation for Second Chances

Story by Portia Choi

Photographs by Martin Chang and Portia Choi

A new charter school in Bakersfield, Foundation For Second Chances, had poetry as part of their developing leadership component.  The school focuses on at-risk young adults to obtain a high school diploma and to learn a skill in construction.

The Office Manager of the school, Alison Williams, wanted a poetry workshop.  “We want our students to see what is out there; help the students to expand and learn how to express themselves,” said Williams.

The poetry workshops were on June 2 and June 9.

On the first day, Don Thompson, the poet laureate of Kern County, recited from his poems.   Thompson encouraged the students to keep trying.  A line from one of his poems was “Now anything is possible.” (From “Sightings” in the book, Turning Sixty.)

The workshops were facilitated by Portia Choi, of Kern Poetry, who focused on experiencing various senses to enhance creativity.  Choi had mint and gardenias to enhance sense of touch and smell.  She struck a gong to help students focus on hearing.  She provided blueberries and granola bars for tasting.

One of the students, Aaron Cardenas, used seeing, feeling and smelling gardenias to write the following poem:

Gardenias

by Aaron Cardenas

The gardenias are soft, gentle and light, as if they were made of silk.

The smooth and soothing smell.  Plays a relaxing, relieving sound in my head.

Gentle and soft, as my grandma as she is sitting in the church, showing me a good,

spiritual example.

 

Another student was Bayley Brooks who has been writing since 13.  He said, “When I was younger, I was angry.  I wrote rhyming poetry and short stories.  I got feedback, thought I had talent.  I like putting smile on their faces.  It keeps me happy, inspired.  They tell me their story.”  Brooks is involved with poetry.  He has a social media site, riddlemepoetry.tumblr.com.  

After Brooks scratched and smelled a lemon, at the workshop, he wrote:

If life gives you lemon,

Squeeze it back into the eyes of life.

 

At the ribbon cutting for the Foundation For Second Chances school, Karen Goh, the mayor of Bakersfield met the students and attendees.

At the event, Bayley Brooks read an essay he wrote for the English class.

Brooks wrote “It’s crazy how I almost quit the Program, when I came back it was like a slam to the face.  Now things are easier that I’m keeping my own pace.  I’m doing this for me, nobody else and thank you Foundation for Second Chances for all your help. . . I had a lot of things on my mind.  It’s hard to live when you’re in a bind trying to find yourself and find a purpose and share my love ad knowledge, yeah, in surplus.”  

Cindy Rivas was a student who liked roses.  She said, “I like roses because of their fruity scent, looks beautiful, nice.”  She remembered, “When grandma passed away, I picked a rose, made a stick figure and prayed.  Soft, nice texture, when touched it gives it a smell.”

The students wrote a poem together, “Exquisite Corpse,” by taking turns writing a line seeing only the immediately preceding line.  The students who wrote were Bayley Brooks, Cindy Rivas, Chris Gredler and Jazell Vela.  The poem is:

 

Exquisite Corpse  

by Foundation For Second Chances students

The bloody person jumped fast

I’m a wonderful mom

Who lives happily in a tree

My self playground dog

Yay Life is,

Terrible

The most wonderful thing

I think about it as I sing

I’m High off Life!

 

Kelsy Watson, a case manager with the school, wrote a poem at the workshop as she was looking at marigolds.  Watson started writing poetry when 10.  Writing poems came naturally to her.  “Poetry comes from the soul, it’s soul deep,” she said.

Watson wrote:

Marigold

by Kelsy Watson

Early summer afternoon, 1992:  my sister, brother and myself all gather in the front yard in a circle, holding hands, spinning around (giggling amongsts) singing, “Ring around the rosies, pockets full of posies.  ashes, Ashes. . . . . .”

Daddy came outside with a subtle tone “Okay kids come on in a’ wash y’all hands and get ready for dinner.”

Our faces lit up with glee.  Oh, how we loved daddy.

The smell of daddy’s Love.  His gentle touch (so caring, so protective.)

I place these flowers on your grave site.  They have blossomed.  Just like you Always told me and sissy we would bloom into women.  (Queens.)  The stems are strong (holding up the flowers) just the way you always taught brother to be a strong man and to Always look out for his sisters.  

Oh how I love my daddy. . .

Nancy McCallion and Danny Krieger at Sheridan House

By Martin Chang

Photos provided by Nancy McCallion

Nancy McCallion and Danny Krieger will be performing at Sheridan House on July 14. Call 661-371-6118 for information. Suggested donation is 10 to 20 dollars.  They perform a mix of traditional folk music and McCallion’s originals.  Both musicians have toured nationally and internationally. Danny Krieger plays slide guitar and sings harmonies with McCallion.  Krieger has played with musicians like Andy Gibb and Eric Burden.

McCallion was first exposed to traditional music through her upbringing. She said, “I grew up with Irish folk music, my father was from Scotland and his parents were Irish.  When I was young, he was in the air force and we were stationed in England.  So, I got to visit my Irish family members.  That was a big reason I got into Irish Folk music.” She first learned music on the piano. At first, she wrote poetry.  Then she began playing professionally at 19.  She didn’t start touring as a musician until her late 20’s.

Nancy McCallion

When McCallion was asked why she liked traditional folk music, she said that she enjoyed the honesty of the emotions in first person ballad songs. She said, “There’s an old Irish folk song called ‘Blackwater Side.’ It’s a very real, human kind of story.  It’s not romanticized. It tells the story without telling you how to feel about the story, which is one of the things I like about the narrative songs.”

One of McCallion’s favorite original songs is “I’m Not as Willing.”  It is a waltz. McCallion feels there is an emotional punch added by the rhythm of the style. “There is something mournful about the waltz time signature.”

McCallion enjoys performing “I’m Not as Willing” because of the moment the song captured. “I wrote the song when I was feeling down.  I was on the road and homesick. I had a long-term relationship that wasn’t going well. It was very real as far as what I was feeling at the time,” she said.

Below are the first few lines of the song.

I’m Not as Willing

Nancy McCallion

I saw you dancing with your sister in law

A black-eyed cajun in a Texas dance hall

Sure of your feet and sure of your smile

Good for a dance, and a kiss and a while

Oh but I’m not pretending you weren’t looking at me

But I’m not as willing as I used to be

 

McCallion was asked for a piece of poetry she would like to share. She chose this Sonnet to share with us.

The Kaibab Squirrel

By Nancy McCallion

The Kaibab squirrel, lacking in all shame

poses for pictures, grasps for commissions,

French fries, sugar cones, other concessions.

A squirrel, yes, perhaps, only in name

He would peel your pocket to find spare change.

No blinks at click or flash, his impression

posture perfect, in high definition

foregrounded in a rectangle, and framed.

What brings you here, for surely you are lost?

Sciurus, scurrying salesman confined

to posing for self-same selfies. It pays,

He says, now conversational. The cost

is minimal, the memories divine

da Vinci didn’t work for free. No way

Open Mic June 2, 2017

 

Story by Portia Choi

Photos by Martin Chang

At the June 2 open mic, Norma Camorlinga performed her poems before moving to the East Coast.

She has been performing regularly at the First Friday poetry event since October 3, 2014.  She first attended open mic to be supportive of another poet, Mateo Lara.  Later, she started to recite her own poems.

Norma had her beginnings in performance in the theater.  For her, performing poetry was different from the theater.  “At open mic, it was different because in theater you perform someone else’s work.  In poetry, you perform your own,” said Norma, “it is more intimidating.  But it felt good, to get out and there is energy to share.”

Norma especially felt good to write a poem, “Altars,” about her Dad with allusion to “Day of the Dead.”  The poem starts with:

Like time

I think distance is relative.

The three dance a number

Take turns twirling in and out of fragile realities.

 

The entire poem, “Altars” and the poem that Norma read on June 2, “Chaotic Particles,” is provided at the end of this story.

Of her beginnings in writing poetry, “I started writing in the 7th grade; my teacher had me enter a contest,” said Norma.  “It was a poem about my family, how everyone felt about my grandmother.  She was the root of the family.”

Another poet who performed at the open mic was Matthew Mendoza.  He memorized his poems in the spoken word style.  An excerpt from the poem that he recited at the open mic is:

“. . .with the borrowed voices of the leaves/ your laughter fills my chest.”

A poet who recited at the open mic, wanted to share this poem anonymously: “I’m a person.  I am a human being.  I am disabled.  I will be a success story.”

Another poet, Walter Stormont, performed with a red cap to enhance his recitation of his poem “On, What is Love?”

 

 Oh, What is Love?

(A Redneck Rime)

By Walter Stormont   © 2017 Walter Stormont

 

Oh, what is love?  Oh, what is life?

An empty ice box full of strife.

A flying fist you have to duck,

A rusty, worn out pickup truck.

 

The distant dreams and bouncing checks,

The prices at the multiplex.

 

A barking dog, an aching back,

Another pert-near heart attack.

 

A leaky roof, a storm above,

Oh, what is next?  Oh, what is love?

 

A long-time friend, a caring spouse,

A kid who draws me Mickey Mouse.

 

A blooming, fruitful family tree.

A universe of unity.

 

I best slow down, like pop the clutch.

I never thought I’d think so much.

 

 

 

The two poems by Norma Camorlinga mentioned in the story are:

 

Altars

By Norma Camorlinga

 

Like time

I think distance is relative.

The three dance a number

Take turns twirling in and out of fragile realities.

The hours here nor there are real,

All a figment of the imagination.

You may think I am mad for stating such a ludicrous idea,

But when I sit next to you

Your heart is no longer where mine lives.

The fire that tethered it here has extinguished,

The dreams we pieced together have shattered,

And this happiness is long gone.

Time has swept away such precious moments,

They no longer have meaning to you.

I sit on your bed,

Bring you flowers

Patiently wait for you to speak,

Move,

Return to me,

Yet you remain still… Breathless,

Always six feet under.

I want this circle to break

For you to tear at the earth,

At the prison that surrounds you.

I want to erupt from this mundane pattern of birthing, losing, mourning, and complacency,

This colonized notion that it could be worse.

Even if I have to offer myself up to higher beings to have you back

I’d do it time and time again.

But… this is reality.

You left your mark on me,

On this world and

Now all we have to remember you is a monument that arrived too late.

Your is face slowly fading from my mind

Echoes of your voice faintly sing a tune

Your smile is slowly decaying

Your bones rattling a steady beat

Regenerating heat into this cold world.

You aren’t a zombie coming back to life,

So I sit by the altar Latinos leave for their dead

Placing silly ideas into boxes and rearranging them in my mind.

Sitting breathless,

Hopeful,

With a marigold flower in one hand

And my heart in the other to greet you when you return

 

“Chaotic Particles”

By Norma Camorlinga

They say that matter isn’t created nor destroyed

That the molecules we see today are remnants of a burning universe
Reorganized matter fused together, torn apart with time
Chaotic and unpredictable 

Serendipitous and timely.
Perhaps, this is why your eyes burn a familiar fire,

A familiar fire, within my chest

Parts of an ancient past, a self once, once floating beside those dark brown pools on your face, 

Like a pair of stars burning their way into my soul
And now, like those cosmos, you lay naked before me on sheets as white as cosmic ivory,

This dust is dreams,
So, You sleep
Filled with desire.
I connect the spots on your back
Constellations of black and blue fading red into soft skin

My mouth: their creator
Their celestial architect
Building an empire, stardust,
Let these cold hearts melt with lust.

Let the particles around our bodies become one
If only for a night or two,
Let us carve out unity,

Just this moment, be a lingering flame,
For Tomorrow we’ll rearrange this greatness,

We may become static,
But who is to say that the effects will not impact what we have created.
Like the Big Bang,
Catapult me into unforeseen futures,

Unforeseen sorrows

Inspire and caress my mind,

Be blind, but burst
Brighten my memories with clouds of stardust resting in your eyes
Idly waiting to fuse once again,
From the particles they once belonged.

We cannot create nor destroy,

but I’m suffering in this formation,

My eye sight begins to deteriorate with all the sadness in this world

Withering away into nothing

So let me build in the darkness of our space,

Where light cannot invade fast enough,

Let me cover your body in fading stars like braille

Small yet profound stars showing me the way

I’ll memorize them like some holy scripture

And learn to walk through the darkness

We can swallow these particles, though we won’t call it love,

We’ll only agree like the planets aligning with gravity,

To settle in this chaos.

 

Brendan Constantine Teaches Everyday Poetry

By Martin Chang and Portia Choi

Photos by Portia Choi and Martin Chang

When Brendan Constantine shopped at big box stores, he saw the same word over and over.  “I was shopping at a place like Smart and Final and they would have industrial versions of different products, and they were all about how to get the most out of them,” he said.

This inspired Constantine to think about teaching poetry differently.  “If I address poetry in that way, as a thing that is practical, something that is not just a hobby, or because something that you do because it’s pretty, but a day to day means to clarity. That could be the way to teach poetry.”

This is how Constantine came up with the workshop titled Industrial Poetry. He taught the workshop at on June 1, 2017 at Walter W. Stiern Library of California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB.)  The workshop was so popular that it had to be moved to a larger room in the library.

Constantine performed for the students at the 5-hour workshop like a comedian giving high energy examples of techniques and methods of inspiration.  These methods include writing exercises and prompts with titles like A Change of Season, Poverty, Divorce, I was so Drunk, and After the Wedding.  Or to write about “We were never to talk about . . .” and “What are the stars waiting for?”

He spoke of the “openness of possibilities.”  That there are two directions of most poetry.  One is the lyrical that moves by association and the other being the narrative that moves with time.

From vocabulary to job hunting, Constantine believes that the teaching of poetry can help people communicate. He believes that this communication can bring people together. “It’s not enough to tell you I’m sad. I haven’t told you very much. If I can get you to feel it with me, maybe I get you closer to what I am talking about. People with skills with things like simile and metaphor and image will just write a better letter, even a letter for a job,” he said.

This can extend to the current climate of division. “People are being separated by beliefs.  These divisions are becoming greater through semantics, people not being to articulate how they feel.  I feel that right now, with a country that everybody is saying is divided, that anything that we can do to stimulate communication is great.”

On a deeper level, teaching poetic expression can help people become more complete.  This is what Constantine believes he can give to students. “When it comes to poetry, metaphor is a gateway to compassion.  If I can fill a room full of people, who on a daily basis, is tasked to empathize with everything from nature to a chair, that is someone is also concerned with how others feel, that to me is a healthier world.”

Runda Osman took the workshop with her daughter Rawiah Mohamed Osman.   Runda enjoyed experiencing the workshop with her daughter. She said, “In my culture, we do not communicate by talking but by spending time doing something together. So taking this workshop was doing something with my daughter.  I am Middle Eastern, Sudanese.  It is the first time for me to be in a writing workshop.” Rawiah wrote when she was younger and is planning on writing poetry again.

Jorge Lopez took the workshop to “improve writing poetry. I write short stories and plays at CSUB.”  Lopez said, “The workshop was fun, liked it a lot.  Creative way to write poetry.”

Priti Devaprakash of East Indian heritage, also took the workshop. She found Constantine “animated, enthusiastic and creative.” She enjoyed one writing activity called Why and Because. In this activity, one side of the class wrote five sentences starting with “Why.”  The other side wrote five sentences of “Because.”  In random order, a participant said a “why” and then a person on the other side responded with one of their “because.”

Devaprakash enjoyed the freedom of the activity. She said, “In school classes there are rules on what you can’t do.  The workshop showed how randomness goes into creativity.”

During the workshop, Constantine did not read any of his poems even though he has several published books of poetry. His first collection, Letters to Guns, was released in February 2009.   The book is used extensively in schools.  His website is Brendanconstatine.com.

Here are poems from two of the participants of the workshop.

 

Jorge Lopez wrote the following poem during the workshop, in the activity he was asked to write a his choice.

My dream will be found

by someone who talks to loud.

They will lose their voice

and utter no sound.

Being forced to listen

to the noise of the crowd.

They have talked over so much.

 

 

Rawiah Mohamed Osman provided the following poem that she had written previously for the Kern Poetry website.

American Superheroes

by Rawiah Mohamed Osman in 2015

There are heroes who are fighting for our freedom and voice

They are courageous, brave, mentally and physically tough

Will always be waiting for the day they return so we can rejoice

God, please bring them home safely and keep them strong which is enough

 

While we worry about what we will wear today, they worry if they will see their families once again

Those are our troops who without we wouldn’t be who we are today

Unlike the immortal heroes we grew up with like Superman and Wonder Women, they are real women and men

They are mortal, they fight and die, while others get captured and never able to get away.

 

Even though you might not know them and they don’t know you

They are the reason you are here to stay and will protect you

While you’re complaining your life is hell, they are going through it for you

But they won’t quit or accept defeat because they always push through center of gravity

 

Because what’s starts with an S and protects as all

 

Soldiers, thank you to all the women and men who serve

Surprise Guest Poet at Open Mic May 2017

Story by Portia Choi

Photographs by Ezekiel Espanola

The councilman, Andrae Gonzalez, came to the open mic on May 5, 2017.  He represents the Bakersfield downtown area that includes Dagny’s Coffee where the open mics are held.  Gonzalez recited his poem, “Echo,” about his father.

At the open mic, the featured performers were Katie Collins and Frances Eghre-Bello, the top contestants in the Poetry Out Loud contest in Bakersfield.  Their English teacher, Andrew Chilton, at Stockdale High School made the contest possible.  It was the first time that the contest was held in Bakersfield.

The contest is a national contest.  “Poetry Out Loud encourages students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation,” states the Poetry Out Loud website.

Collins said she memorized poems through “Repetition and reading out loud to her friend, pronunciation of some of the words.”  Eghre-Bello said she memorized by “reading the poem a lot; and writing it out.”

For the students, the experience at the open mic to a live audience was different than at a contest.  Eghre-Bello said, “it was a lot of fun.  I was more relaxed.  I liked the environment here, people passionate about poetry.”  Collins said, “it was the most comfortable performance, not being judged.  I enjoyed it.”

One of the poets at the open mic was Christopher Robert Craddock. He has been writing poetry since he was four.  His first poem was:

“The tree looked at me

Up jumped the tree

Up jumped me!”

He read “Yertle the Turtle” by Dr. Seuss as a child.  Craddock said, “I searched for inspiration.  I was inspired by W.B. Yeats, Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Delmore Schwartz, Gerard Manley Hopkins and, of course, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.”

At the open mic, Craddock recited a poem, “Hummingbird.”  He said, “My sister has a garden with aloe vera,” where he saw the hummingbirds.  In the poem he contrasts the hummingbird and the poet in the last stanza of the poem

“. . .Hummingbirds

Never know the words

Because they’re in too big a hurry

To ever learn the lyrics–

Discuss philosophy with clerics

In the middle of a circus.

No, they’ll leave that to the poets.

Words are all they have to work with.”

 

The complete poem by Craddock is presented.

 

Hummingbirds Never Know the Words

By Christopher Robert Craddock

Hummingbirds

Never know the words

Because they’re in too big a hurry

To ever stop and worry.

They move on to the next flower and

If the nectar isn’t sour

Then they will take a sip . . . .

 

“Hmmmmmmm,” hummed the hummingbird. “Tra la la,

hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

 

One flower down, only nine-hundred and ninety-nine to go–

Not that I’m counting, but scientists, ornithologists,

I am told–with their slide-rules and microscopes,

And their probes, have clocked us at a rate of a

Thousand flowers per diem, which is the fancy-pants

Scientists’ way of saying per day. In Latin, no less,

Only used now in surgical, or situations liturgical,

Or when naming the flora and fauna, by genus and species,

Like calling me Calliphlox Amethystina ‘stead of plain old

Amethyst Woodstar, or Metallura Phoebe for Black Metaltail.

Heliothryx Aurita for Black-eared Fairy;

Lesbia Victoriae for Black-tailed Trainbearer;

Trochilus Scitulus for Black-billed Streamertail!

 

One thousand per day! ‘Hmmmmm,’ the scientists say.

‘That’s a lot of nectar.’

 

A heck of a lot of nectar. Hmmmmmmmmmmm, and tra la la la.

But it takes a heck of a lot of nectar to fuel this plane.

I never stop to count the flowers. Hmmmmmm?

I guess you could say, ‘I wing it.’

 

While wending my way through the warp and woof of time,

Weaving my way through the warp and the weft,

Why worry about words and whether they rhyme?

Why wonder what word best describes my emotion?

When what really matters is: my wings are in motion.

 

The tortoise, porcupine, or possibly opossum,

Move at a pace where such notions may blossom.

Maybe a mirror in a palace of perfection

Could afford the luxury to support such idle reflection?

 

I have not the time, as I hover in space.

Look how fast I have to flap my wings

To remain in the air,

Suspended in one place?”

 

Hummingbirds

Never know the words

Because they’re in too big a hurry

To ever learn the lyrics–

Discuss philosophy with clerics

In the middle of a circus.

No, they’ll leave that to the poets.

Words are all they have to work with.

 

© Christopher Robert Craddock 2017

Visions of Words: Art and Poetry

Licet Romero stands behind her painting she created for the Visions of Words poetry event.

Licet Romero stands behind her painting she created for the Visions of Words poetry event.

Story by Portia Choi

Photographs by Ezekiel Espanola

It was a celebration of the arts in the sculpture garden of The Arts Council of Kern on April 21, 2017.  There was art inspired by poems, and a poem inspired by art.  There were two poets who displayed their art work.

Danny Martinez wrote a poem about feeling deserted.  The artist Licet Romero said she was inspired by the words to paint a large fetus.  Towards the end of the poem, Martinez writes of wars and how we are connected at the human level.

The lines from the poem reads,

“Same heart,

Same blood,

And all from an egg.”

 

Untitled

By Danny Martinez

Welcome to this special presentation,
Locked within a cell without prison inhalation,
Deception facing black curtain drop mind erasing,
To the zombie apocalypse of which mankind is pleased to choose,
Phones, IPads and TVs to form our views,
Thoughts outside the box are shot down and resisted,
Every soul in four corners are expert politicians and gifted,
Only shown what they want,
Not from the puppet we see,
The man behind the curtain let loose and deceive,
Never stand down!
Load up the REVOLUTION!!
To see the real clear depth of the sky,
And wipe out the pollution,
Institutionalized without bars in our face,
Back and forth on wars on depictions of race,
Same heart,
Same blood,
And all from an egg,
United as one is correct spawn as a pledge,
Our thoughts must be found and not pulled from the clown,
Resuscitate the brain and don’t let it be drowned,
Brenda’s baby is where we can never be found…
DESERTED!

 

Shanna O’Brien, who has entertained internationally, performed her songs at the event.  She is also an artist.  She is pictured standing between two of her paintings.  One of the songs she sang was “We are One.”

Musician and poet Shanna O’Brien stands between two of her pieces at the Vision of Words poetry event.

We Are One

Lyrics by Shanna O’Brien ©2015

We are one light, one heart, one love.

We are one.

Everybody’s different

Everyone’s unique

Some considered normal

Some considered freak

One thing we have in common

I think you will agree

We’re each a drop of water in a never-ending sea

We are one light, one heart, one love.

We are one.

Even though we’re different

The truth is we’re the same

Cause deep inside each beating heart burns a little flame

A flame that’s been ignited by a spark from something higher

We’re all just little flames in this great ball of fire

We are one light, one heart, one love.

We are one.

Every day’s a journey to the limitless unknown

We’re on this road together, no one is alone

Some of us are running some are walking slow

But in the end we all get there and then we know

We are one light, one heart one love

We Are One.

 

 Greg Stanley is a poet and an artist.  He said, “I began writing poetry, limericks, in high school.”  He began painting after receiving a paint set from his mother who also painted.   Here are two examples of his poems and art.  More of his poems can be found on PoetrySoup.com.

 Green Eyes and Pigments

Greg Stanley created a poem and painting inspired by the green color of his cat's eyes. He read the poem and showed the painting at the Visions of Words event.

Greg Stanley created a poem and painting inspired by the green color of his cat’s eyes. He read the poem and showed the painting at the Visions of Words event.

By Greg Stanley

Look in my green eyes, what do you see?

Is it something before or after me?

If only you could understand what I have to say.

All of you are the same… acting in the same play.

Not so different from one another.

But simply blends of the same color.

You are sienna, whether from Africa

China, Russia, North and South America.

Borders are division created through arrogance,

Thus, so many not given the chance.

All have the same goals… the same dreams,

But using the same damn machines.

How I know this, you ponder why?

Does it really matter, must I clarify?

Evolution has built you over millions of years,

Over that time, independent thought disappears.

No one is better… no one is worse

Every one of you is on the same course.

So please understand to make it safely to the end

A mix of Love and Kindness is the perfect blend.

 

Greg Stanley performs at the Visions of Words event.

Mother Earth (Re-Birth)

By Greg Stanley

While standing in a field gazing the sky above

I pondered all the things we are made of.

Then a bright light flashed through the sky

How did we begin, what is the reason why?

Four and a half billion years objects fall to earth

Some believe seeded life or created its birth.

By placing amino acids in the primordial ooze

The building blocks of life… but who’s?

We find these black stones… hold in our hands

Put on our shelves and display on our stands,

Mother Earth (Rebirth) by Greg Stanley

Mother Earth (Re-birth) by Greg Stanley

Each has an attraction one cannot explain

To desire and study the minerals they contain.

Do you ever wonder if we’re here for a purpose?

Or is someone watching us performing in a circus?

And did they shower us with all this matter?

Letting it dissipate in such random scatter.

Perhaps it was planned or just an… “oops”

As he never meant to send in the troops.

If that is so perhaps more will fall

Beginning a re-birth and destroying us all

I see another flash and many more still

Then a blinding glow just behind the hill

I remember nothing, nothing at all after that

As I lay in the grass still on my back

Then a bright light flashed through the sky

How did we begin, what is the reason why?

 

 

Mateo Lara performs.

Mateo Lara performs at the Visions of Words event.

Mateo Lara’s poem “Neon Candles” inspired Jesse Lemus’ to paint “A Whispered Summoning.”  Lara is author of two books of poetry, Keta-Miha and La Futura Tuga.  Lara said, “Tuga is sadness in Croatian.”

Neon Candle

By Mateo Lara
you’re staining the room with your electric blue sadness,
and last night around 4 in the morning,
You rustled around with maroon stained hands,
and told me to turn on the lights,
so I could see the silver tips you wore.
you kissed the angel of bitterness,
and I sat in the darkness for weeks.
I guess this was the last of it,
these candles, these bleeding memories,
on my shoulders and the burning of this bed,
the one where you laid out all your secrets,
on the white sheets that glistened in violet lust filled ink stains,
of the past, of yesteryear, you tell me not to come here or else there will be agony,
you took me in with your golden fingertips,
and told me to pretend the universe was way bigger than any of this,
so don’t dwell,
but I do dwell,
and we’re just as big as the splitting of the stars,
and the death and crash and burn of something,
being sucked into the black hole.
I am oblivion from every piece of me you stole and were unaware of,
I am chaos on your fury tongue, every dripping name,
has stretched before me like a carpet of rage,
and I stain you with tundra blue and midnight red,
I see the orange nova of the end and the pink sweet gin,
I am in place for you, when you leave,
You show me all the blazing glory of the neon soul,
before you go and I am without you now.
I lit the match of aftermath and shed my skin to sleep,
I whispered your name once or twice for a summoning,
and lit candles as the yellow embers led you out of my dying light.
When you blew me up into crackling purple smoke.

 

Diana Ramirez performs at the Visions of Words event.

Diana Ramirez is the co-planner for the “Visions of Words” event.  She also imagined then produced “Words Come to Life,” an event where art inspired by poetry was displayed at The Metro Galleries in Bakersfield.  Poets recited their work at the event.  Ramirez’s poem, “I Am Frowned Upon,” inspired Cuca Montoya to create a photographic collage.

I Am Frowned Upon

By Diana Ramirez

(an excerpt from poem)

I am frowned upon,
My choices are frowned upon,
My actions are frowned upon,
All because I have a vagina,
A birth canal to which life is born,
And a moist admission to which you moan,
Entrance accessed,
Perhaps entranced
by my rapture,
Yet I am the one captured
By the whispers,
By the faces that stare with disdain,

. . .

Frown upon me you might,
But I have been created to create,
And you were born to see the light,
In me,
In her,
Strong,
Stronger,
Strongest,
And our story
Is the longest
Ever told,
And I refuse to be a mold,
Molded in the image that man has sold.

 

Thomas Lucero painted this painting of Budda for the Visions of Words event.

Thomas Lucero painted this painting of Budda.

A painting by Thomas Lucero was displayed at the event.  Portia Choi, one of the planners of the event, was inspired to write a poem.  Choi had asked Lucero if he had a painting of the Buddha.  This inspired Lucero to do the painting.   An earlier version of the following poem was recited at the event.

Siddhartha Transformed

            By Portia Choi

Siddhartha in lotus repose,

palms touching in mind and heart,

soles raised in gratitude.

He was grooving with his brother, the Bodhi tree.

 

The past was a mist-the castle, wife, feasts.

He lived the rock years of self-denial and hunger.

 

Now sitting and breathing,

no thinking, no eating.

 

An orange cloth loosely covering a being of light.

The energy oozing from all pores.

Effulgence flowing, the cosmic Om.

 

Buddha sat in silence, in nonattachment,

of oneness to serve all beings.

 

 

Writing Poems of Awe and Wonder

The taste of a grape and the fragrance of a crushed mint leaf, help writers to compose poems.

On April 10, Portia Choi facilitated a workshop on “Writing Poems of Awe and Wonder” at the Art and Spirituality Center of Dignity Health, 2215 Truxtun Avenue.

Choi had the participants connect with their creativity through touch, taste, smell, sight and sound.

Choi started the workshop having the writers breathe slowly, feeling the air entering the nose, then gently exiting through the lips.

Then she recited poems by Don Thompson and Helen Shanley.

Then, Choi asked the participants to taste a grape or a chocolate candy bar.  She had the writers roll the grape in the mouth, then bite on the fruit to release its juice.

Another exercise was to crush a mint leaf and inhale its fragrance.

The writers were also asked to look at one spot in the room.  It could be part of a painting or the stained glass, or any other object in the room.

The participants commented on the workshop.

Annis Cassells said that it “was very worthwhile.  It stimulated creativity by use of the senses.  It reminded me to take time.  I was able to write . . . reconnecting with sensory images by slowing down.”

Another participant, Diane Lobre said the workshop “encouraged creativity. . . with ways to challenge the senses into poems.”

Ron McGowan thought the workshop was informative.  It “got my creative juices flowing,” said McGowan.

Barbara Burress said the workshop was “enlightening, fun and challenging.”  Burress said that she “found out that she can still write poetry, and will continue to do so outside of the workshop.”

One of the participants, Stephanie Gibson completed two poems during the workshop.  Gibson said, “It was special to voluntarily come together to write.  Usually writing poetry is a solitary endeavor.  It was refreshing and enjoyable being able to be in a place for writing in a group.”

The two poems that Gibson wrote at the workshop are “Fragility of a Poet” and “Primal Greetings.”

 

 

The Fragility of the Poet

By Stephanie Gibson

 

Cracker.  Chipped.  Dented & Scraped is Poet

Nursing old wounds

Caring for them daily, gently is Poet

Poet sees what others do not

Eye sight is really heart sight

There is silent weeping

The paper absorbs what pen pours out

Sensitive is Poet

Fragile is Poet

Ever transforming pain into meaning,

Mundane into significant,

Beauty into wonder

Already cracked, Chipped.  Dented & Scraped is Poet

So new injury is substance

To be consumed, digested, and re-crrated

As an offering of grace

Ever listening

Ever sensing

Fragile is Poet

Delicate and beautiful is she

Cracked.  Chipped.  Dented & Scraped.

 

Primal Greetings

By Stephanie Gibson

 

Dogs approach each other and sniff

They’re checking each others’ scent

Trying to know who they’re dealing with

 

What gift to humanity is your scent?

What’s your vibe?

Your attitude?

Your spirit?

Your bent?

Just give us a hint.

 

Is your energy that you exude

Love, acceptance, and a good mood?

When others are in your presence and they’re trying to get a whiff

Of who they’re dealing with

Is Kindness your special scent?

Is your attitude heaven-scent?

Is it communicating what you really meant?

 

 

“Snow on Elk Hills” by Don Thompson and “Lilacs” by Helen Shanley were featured at the workshop because they elicit awe and wonder.  

 

SNOW ON ELK HILLS

By Don Thompson

 

Once in a decade maybe, the snow

falls here too, even here

on scrub ugly slopes where oil birds feed.

 

Not much.  Just a dusting,

but sufficient to cool slightly

the overheated mind

 

of anyone who stops to look

long enough to see

that everything barren will be blessed.

 

From Everything Barren Will Be Blessed by Don Thompson.  Pinyon Publishing

 

 

LILACS

By Helen Shanley

 

I remember that lilacs enfolded the night

in a soft, June kiss,

a never-never land

of love in a candy store.

They floated like clouds of stingless bees

in mesmeric rivers of honey

around your tender face.

There was a sound like water falling

or clusters of little bells

or birds about to sing.

 

Sometimes I touch that lilac night

when your grave opens,

when dreams take us deep, deep

to love without time, without loss.

 

 

 

 

Nancy Edwards’ Mother Remembered

 Nancy Edwards’ Beloved Mother

story by Portia Choi 

       

Nancy Edwards

Nancy Edwards

Nancy Edwards’ mother is remembered today on Mother’s Day.

She often spoke of her mother’s Southern background, her gentility and graciousness.  It was during our lunches while planning poetry events that Nancy spoke of her mother.

Nancy Edwards, Ph.D., was a Professor of English at B.C. from 1968-2009.  She was a well-known poet in Kern County.  She was a vital and integral organizer of poetry events.

I knew that Nancy was fond of music.  She had collaborated with Howard Quilling, the former Professor of Music at Bakersfield College (B.C.)  She provided the poetry which inspired him to compose his music.

At the memorial celebration for Nancy, John Gerhold sang the compositions of Quilling and Edwards.  Gerhold is the Chair of the Performing Arts Department at B.C.  and the chairperson of Fenlinson Endowment Committee.  Gerhold said, “Nancy’s mother was a music teacher.  Nancy made a scholarship honoring her mother.  Nancy was a generous person, and helped students and future generataions.  Many of the students went on to be music teachers.”  The scholarship is named Frances Edwards Music Scholarship.

Nancy also collaborated with Rosa Garza, a Professor of Social Studies at B.C.  They published a chapbook, Beloved Mother, Querida Madre.   In the book Nancy wrote the poem “Beloved Mother” and Rosa translated the poem into Spanish.  At the memorial service, Rosa recited the Spanish translation.  Sheena Bhogal, a professor of English at B.C. recited the poem in English.

 

Beloved Mother

By Nancy Edwards

 

In the webbed flesh of your

Inside elbow

In these layers of tender skin

I am born once more

When you hold me,

Beloved Mother

 

When you hold me

I want to return

To the perfume of

Your vanity table

And douse myself

In Mother’s love powder

Cake flour fine

Only mother has it

 

I am in the webbed flesh of your

Inside elbow Mother,

You are my cradle,

My beloved mother,

I live in the fragrance

Of your loose powder

And flower perfume

 

You are always

The place inside

You hold me forever

In the stream of my birth

When I am in your arms

You are my beloved Mother.

 

 

Querida Madre (Beloved Mother)

Translated by Rosa Garza

 

En la tela de tu codo

En esas capas de tierna piel

He nacido otra vez

Cuando me acaricias otra vez

Querida Madre

 

Cuando me acaricias

Quiero volver

Al perfume de

Tu tocador

Y ponerme polvo

Polvo de amor materno

Harina fina

Que solo la madre tiene

 

Estoy en la tela de tu codo

Tu eres mi cuna

Mi querida madre

Vivo en el polvo

Y perfume de flor

 

Siempre eres

El Lugar adentro

Donde me abrazas para siempre

En la corriente de mi nacer

Cuando estoy en tus brazos

Tue eres mi querida madre

 

Source:  Beloved Mothers Queridas Madres, BAKERSFIELD COLLEGE, 1992

Diana Ramirez and Thomas Lucero Featured at Open Mic

First Friday April 7 features Diana Ramirez and Thomas Lucero

Story by Portia Choi                                      Photographs by Ezekiel Espanola

Event hosted by Kevin Shah

The two featured poets, Diana Ramirez and Thomas Lucero, performed poetry in the “spoken word” style.  They memorized the words and used dramatic intonation and rhythm.

Diana Ramirez has participated at First Friday Open Mic regularly.  Ramirez memorizes a poem by recording herself and listening many times.  “I listen in the car, before I go to sleep,” said Ramirez.   She memorizes a small portion of a poem, at a time.

Ramirez started writing in high school.  “Music inspired me to write.  I fell in love with lyrics and felt the urge to share my emotions through words.  That’s the only way I can express myself in a trughful way without hesitation of what others may think,” she said.

Thomas Lucero memorizes his poems by saying and hearing the cadences and the rhythm of the words.  He remembers a poem which he learned as a child, “There are rocks in my socks said the ox to the fox.”  He was only five.

He started writing poetry by listening to “rap,” when he was 15.

Lucero is also an artist.  He painted the mural that is on the inside wall of Dagny’s Coffee Company.  The painting is of a clock and an octopus.  Both symbols are of time.  “The octopus is a universal symbol for ogdoad, an eight,” said Lucero.  The eight turned sideway is the symbol for infinity.

Following Ramirez and Lucero, enthusiastic poets and musician performed their original works.

Here are poems of Ramirez and Lucero:

 

 

My Anima

By Thomas Lucero

 

Farther than mine eye can see,

and Further than my mind can conjecture.

I strive ever upwards

And climbed the Giants Scepter

to the right hand of the father

in Search of my Center. . .

I found the water,

Drank upon her

Sacred tonic.

A tincture of timeless wine

derived of the finer divining process,

my Secret obsession

objective of my infernal affection,

eternal reflection

internal, abnegation.

Lust and hatred, consummated

in the bridal chamber.

When Cupid met Psyche,

When two fools wandered away from the light nightly.

to sight see

to fight, +#c*, And fly free.

Conspiring to swipe the Keys to life,

And knowledge occulted.

Kept out of sight

of the unsightly”

 

 

Map

By Diana Ramirez

 

You don’t have to like me,

You don’t have to care,

You think I’ll share

The battle being fought in my head,

Well, I won’t.

You think I’ll hide,

Afraid of what, exactly?

And don’t fucking assume I’m alright

If you see me smile,

If you see me laugh,

Be careful,

It’s a map,

To all the detoured journeys,

Out on the road, where I’m trapped,

Caught between the wrong turn,

And the right stop,

But I keep driving,

This peculiar tune on repeat,

Skip, repeat, skip, repeat

But wait,

Can you hear it?

Delusional,

Driving through a mirage,

Mirrored through myself,

Blurred out of sight,

Through a tunnel,

Into the light,

Yet you never found me,

I got lost along the way,

Because I was rotting,

Transforming, perhaps,

In a cave

Made,

of all the walls I ever put up,

You think you know,

But, honestly,

These massive stones

Came crashing down,

Access denied,

As I try to find,

A way out,

With no amount

Of miles to bring me to my escape,

So, are you still trying,

To get through,

There’s no way,

You know nothing,

You assume everything,

And will never know my pain.

Poetry, A Vital Part of Life by Annis Cassells

 

 

Poetry, A Vital Part of Life

By Annis Cassells

Today is ‘Poem in Your Pocket’ Day,” I announced to the woman I’d just met at my assigned table at the Women’s Business Conference. “May I read you a poem?” I asked, whipping a piece of paper from my pocket.

Sure.”

And I began reading aloud Lucille Clifton’s “Blessing of the Boats.”

When finished, I handed her the poem to keep. She smiled. Not a big I’m-glad-to-see-you smile, but a warm, contented smile and said, “Thank you. That was just what I needed to hear today.”

Folks sometimes admit they just don’t “get it” after reading a poem, or they say they don’t like poetry. A huge reason is how poetry was taught in schools. Many who delighted in rhythm and rhyme from Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss got turned off in high school literature classes.

As an adult, I learned reading poetry produces several benefits beyond enjoyment. One is improving vocabulary since poetry often introduces unusual words, phrases, or allusions. Another benefit is long-term brain health can be improved by reading poetry. Studies have shown that people who memorize and recite poems are less susceptible to Alzheimer’s Disease. I’ll bet many of you still recall poems you learned in grade school or high school.

Poetry improves critical thinking. Since its meaning is not obvious or one-dimensional, poetry requires readers to actively analyze and decipher language and meaning instead of engaging in passive reading. And, triggering emotions and memories, poetry helps develop empathy as it unites people across time and cultures.

Set aside the time to read a new poem several times. Read it aloud so your ear can hear the language. Then read it again. Sometimes I do several readings, trying out different stresses and phrasing.

Why would anyone WANT to read (and re-read) poetry? To interact with the poet’s ideas, to learn something, feel something, and see how the poet’s experience relates to yours. Reading several times helps find meaning. There is no ONE meaning of a poem. Each of us brings our experience and life to a poem and may glean different meanings. That’s what turned us off in high school, searching for “the meaning,” usually what the teacher said it was.

April is National Poetry Month. Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world. Discover and participate in the many Kern County events to celebrate National Poetry Month.

Seek out some poetry, favorite poets, or new-to-you poets. Try writing some of your own poetry or pull out those poems you wrote long ago. “Poem in Your Pocket” Day is a large part of NPM. This year, it’s April 27. Choose or write a poem to share with others that day.

Add poetry to your life for the benefits and pleasure it can bring.

Copyright © 2017. Annis Cassells. All rights reserved. A life coach and speaker, Annis can be reached at HeyAnnis@aol.com. Follow her blog at www.thedaymaker.blogspot.com

.

The following is the poem, by Lucille Clifton, that Cassells referenced in her essay

Blessing of the Boats

by Lucille Clifton

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back     may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that
Lucille Clifton, “blessing the boats” from Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000. Copyright © 2000 by Lucille Clifton.

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