kernpoetry.com

Poems

LisaAnn LoBasso featured at April Open Mic

Story by Portia Choi

Photographs by Ezekiel Espanola

 

LisaAnn LoBasso was the featured poet in April 2018.  LoBasso has performed in California and nationally.  She has performed as a featured poet with past California Poet Laureate Al Young and also in well-known venues such as the Bowery Poetry Club, the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe, Cornelia Street Cafe, and A Gathering of Tribes in New York City.

LoBasso said that she “started performing when I was about 18 years old. I began performing while in college at Berkeley and then performed at the art gallery at Bakersfield College (BC) while back in Bakersfield for the summer.  During my time in town back then, I also curated and organized exhibits at BC.”  Although she’s been on a long hiatus from performing, she has performed a few years ago at the Claremont Reading Series, in Los Angeles County, after being asked by a retired professor who has been her lifelong mentor, as well as at Bakersfield College in an event that honored poets of this valley.

When asked what it was like to recite her poetry to a local audience at the Open Mic, LoBasso said that “I can perform almost on automatic.  But, I always want to do something new.  I don’t write poetry right now, so I did not want to repeat the same poems again to the same people.”

At the April Open Mic, LoBasso commented that the photographer Ezekiel Espanola was a close friend.  She said, “He thanked me, how I had influenced him to pursue the arts, that said that without my influence he may not have conceived art as a career option.  I met Ezekiel when I had the nX (Non-Profit Arts Venue).  He felt we had created a true artists’ community and was doing his own work to try to influence the arts in our county and he wanted to be involved and try to combine some of our efforts.”

When asked about her writing habit, LoBasso said that when and if she writes, she “sets aside time, usually late at night or early in the morning when it is quiet.  In the past , I might have taken my computer into a corner in a dark bar where I’d be left alone to my soda water and thoughts, but now I don’t do that.  When I was very young, I hand wrote everything. And then typed it out on a typewriter. It was a cumbersome process. Sometimes when I was out, I’d write on anything, a napkin or a receipt, but eventually, as technology advanced, I wrote directly into the computer.”

About the book that she is working on she said, “I wrote 7,000 words in one day.  I’m a high intensive writer when I write, but I’m more restricted physically than I used to be. I cannot just sit at a computer and write. Instead, I may dictate to another person or voice record and then have it transcribed. If I write, I write whatever thoughts I have and avoid all self-editing on that first initial draft.”

When speaking about the poetry community in Bakersfield, LoBasso said “There is an interest in the community more than I have ever seen, but it doesn’t always feel like more people are involved in the organization of poetry events. It would be great to see more and more people who are interested step up and initiate more events.”

LoBasso is currently concentrating on a writing project which is not poetry but relevant to our current societal changes.

She has published two books of poetry:  In the Swollen and Oleander Milkshake.

Two of the poems that LoBasso recited at the Open Mic are “Sugarloaf” and “Third Marriage.”  LoBasso said, “’Sugarloaf’ was written in the first few months of Jasmin’s life in 1992 and ‘Third marriage’ was written in May 2015 when Jasmin married.”

 

Sugarloaf

by LisaAnn LoBasso

 

In Sugarloaf, in the center of 102

acres, her twenty-three inch body

watched trees grow, saw streams

flow below the earth, heard wet

sugar dripping from branches where

whispering birds shot from waterfall

to pine.

 

A poem always has rape in it.

Incest.

Molestation crawling from the walls.

Anger scrawled in a dark place, in a poem.

 

When she turned, I didn’t answer her gurgle.

Her white skin, pasting her body together,

Tightened as she smiled.

And I smiled.  What is this?

Everyone needs peace.

 

Yes, from the fear in a hollow space, in a poem.

Her syrupy body glimmers in the daylight.

Her eyes glaze over as the fog creeps around

her cheeks whining red.

She licks my nose, nodding her football head

when I laugh.

Her small hands clasp my hair, ripping it.

 

I stare at her lightbulb body.

How could anyone not love her body?

How could any man love her body?

She is my baby, my daughter dripping

sweet from her mouth like sap from leaves.

Her eyes are blue-grey like the pewter sky.

 

I don’t doubt for a minute that she loves her life.

Her grandfather blasts Gatorade cans off fallen

logs where I spot deer tracks.

Her grandmother wipes her diamond chin

As white slop flows like a river.

Why can’t life be like the forest, she crinkles

her question, her forehead growing old

like her mother.

I flatten my face in the icy creek

that dries up in seconds.  The tress fall.

Birds boomerang into oak trunks and crash

to the sad earth.

 

I am still mesmerized by her body,

its picturesque innocence dripping

sweet square sugarloaf, I almost cannot

hear the roar of the monster

eating the mountain

filled with rape, incest

molestation in the dark silent squirrel holes.

 

 

 

Third Marriage

by LisaAnn LoBasso

 

It’s 11:14pm, the night before you will wed

The rehearsal dinner just ending, we slipped out

hours early, for the needs

of our abandoned bear

scratches on her head

 

The girls henna and polish, scrub and thread

The black and white flashdrive missing

No, no, not in the hole

of my coral cross-body bag

 

It’s the final hour

The sweet short poem I was to read is tossing back

a nightcap with the flashdrive

I scour the world wide web for something to

capture a moment, a poet’s perfected ppppp

 

(But) there is no alliteration for marriage

I know I should be writing your wedding poem

But I dont write poetry anymore

I read Sharon Olds

 

We stood

            holding each other by the hand, yet I also

            stood as if alone, for a moment,

            just before the vow…

 

            …I felt

            the silent, dry, crying ghost of my

            parents’ marriage there…

            …one of the plummeting flies…

 

I’m zombie-ing through, you

insert yourself to claim a promise

set into motion more than two decades ago

Two weeks, only my back to you

as wedding moments whisk

 

I remember my apartment in Rockridge, 18, before you

As your Grandma and Grandpa set me out on my own

I remember my mother’s back

My father scolding

“Look what you’ve done now”

 

Stuck in the transition, I think liar,

my mother doesn’t cry

But, I edge around her

and I see

 

Today is your third marriage

I should be practiced for this rehearsal, but

Leanardo never took you from the sinking ship

Or my arms, when you confessed your love,

kissing the television

 

It was a marriage of sweet spirit

the storyline already laid out

 

Number 2 was simple too

your sister’s secret elopement with you

never made he newspapers

Or the scandal rags

 

It was a marriage of fantasy

sisters as close as hands and feet

 

Today, this marriage,

your third marriage

is all about reality

That you would rather share a coke

With him, than anyone

 

Mothers do not walk brides down aisles

lift veils, or shake hands

Letting go is in the grace

It’s a love like sugarloaf pines

 

High on the moantian

you stand to the left, my baby, pewter eyes,

tradition signaling marriage by capture,

your groom saving his fighting hand

to pick up the reigns, protect you

 

Weddings are the same everywhere,

families, complaints, promises,

reverie we can forget without the camera clicks

A few moments stick

 

Like Sirius XM calls

traditions disturbed by music

salesmen dripping uninvited

into this intimate moment

 

Your groom is quite sure

“No, no, I do not want to renew my service.”

Inconvenient rings magnifying.  Freezing.

This is one of those stone moments

But hold them, don’t throw them

 

My father once said I will wed many times

I say, let the third be your last, my doll

 

My mother says:  What,

no chocolate cake?

Fluffy promises of a covert cake operation.

My eyelashes fall off. I say

 

Let them not eat cake!

 

 

 

Don Thompson, Poet Laureate of Kern County Honored by City Council and Board of Supervisors

Thompson recites his poetry at Bakersfield City Council meeting on April 11.

Story by Portia Choi

Photograph (at council meeting) by Ezekiel Espanola

 

Don Thompson is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Kern County.  It is a well-deserved recognition of a poet who has written about the south San Joaquin region for four decades.

Thompson is a native of Bakersfield, California.  He attended Bakersfield High School.  He currently lives with his wife, Chris, on her family’s farm.

During National Poetry Month in April 2018, as Poet Laureate of Kern County, Thompson recited his poems at the Kern County Supervisors meeting on April 10 and at the Bakersfield City Council meeting on April 11.  On April 10, Thompson recited his poem “Aqueduct” and on April 11 his poem “Yokuts.”  Both of these poems can be found at the end of this story.

Accompanying Thompson at these meetings were David Gordon, the Executive Director of Arts Council of Kern and Portia Choi of Kern Poetry.  The Arts Council of Kern was the organization that made the Poet Laureate for Kern County possible.

 

The following interview of David Gordon (DG) was done by email.

Could you comment on the Art Council of Kern’s role with the Poet Laureate for Kern County? 

(DG):  The ACK’s role with the Poet laureate is to further the role poetry plays in the arts and the arts in Kern County. By appointing the first Kern Poet Laureate, the ACK has demonstrated the importance of a person who represents poetry in our County. The Council’s mission is to provide, support, and promote arts access, advocacy, and education for all Kern County residence and visitors and that includes poetry. The ACK uses the Poet Laureate to validate and elevate this art form.

 

What was it like to be at the meetings with Don Thompson at the presentations? 

(DG):  Mr. Thompson is a serious artist. His command of his craft is professional, inspiring and emotional.  I felt pride in our City and County for supporting the art of poetry by giving Mr. Thompson the opportunity to read his work at these public meetings.

 

The following interview of Don Thompson (DT) was done by email.

 

How and when did you become interested in poetry? 

(DT):  Hard to say.  I was fascinated by Mother Goose rhymes as a child.  In high school, I came across a copy of Shropshire Lad in a box of old books in the garage and was blown away. Still have that book.  I started writing after high school and published the first poem I wrote.  But the real beginning, the vocational call, came with discovering William Stafford’s Traveling Through the Dark  while browsing in a library when I was a student in forestry school about 1965.

 

When did you write your first poem? 

(DT):  I was about twenty, newly married and with a baby on the way.  Reading Thoreau’s journal, I came across a phrase that grabbed me for some reason, sat down and wrote the poem beginning with his words:  “I saw a bat by daylight.”  I still have the magazine it appeared in. Stylistically a bit under the influence of Marianne Moore, whom I still read every few years–starting her again right now, in fact.

 

Do you have a discipline or practice of writing, such as certain time of day, so many hours? 

(DT):  Basically a daily writer–well, Monday through Friday.  Up at five, do push ups and stretching, pray and read the Bible, feed the animals, take my morning two-mile walk, and then write for about an hour.

 

Which poet(s) or writing influenced you the most?

(DT):  First major influence, as mentioned, William Stafford, whom I visited in Lake Oswego, Oregon, in 1972, on my way to grad school in Vancouver. Wonderful, gracious man. My influences and tastes have varied over a wide spectrum: Spanish and Latin American, Classic Chinese.  Early John Haines. All writers with a close connection to the land.  In later years Mary Oliver, though I can’t quite see what attracted me so much anymore, and especially Ted Kooser.

 

What inspires you to continue writing?

(DT):  Writing inspires me to write.  I have only about a dozen poems that I write over and over again like a jazz musician improvising on the same tunes every night.  The Valley landscape is part of me–as a person; but the writing itself comes from the language, from the actual word-work, which I love more than anything else.

 

What is it like being the first Poet Laureate of Kern County?

(DT):  Well, I have nothing to compare it with.  But being the PL (Poet Laureate) is gratifying, of course.  A validation–recognition of a lifetime of poems about the Valley, which is very welcome indeed, although I would have kept writing without any recognition.  Writing is more who I am than what I do.

“““““““““““““““““““““““““`

More about Don Thompson and more of his poems can be found at www.don-e-thompson.com.

Following are the two poem by Thompson which he recited at the Kern County Board of Supervisors and Bakersfield City Council meetings.

 

AQUEDUCT

By Don Thompson

 

Some rivers become so sluggish,

So depressed

They can barely feel their way around a rock;

Others are manic in spate & rip trees from the banks.

 

What about the California Aqueduct,

That bureaucrat

In a concrete suit, relentless, obsessed

With draining the North dry?

 

If you fall in, it’ll file you away forever

In its deep archives.

Drown in a ditch & we’ll close the weir

To search for you….

 

It’s personal.

But the Aqueduct flows on & on

& won’t stop for anyone:

Los Angeles is always thirsty.

 

 

YOKUTS

By Don Thompson

 

They say the dust rises by itself

Sometimes, even if there’s no wind at all,

But absolute stillness under the flat sky….

I don’t believe it.

 

They haven’t considered, for instance,

How the coyotes in their afternoon slumber

Where no one can find them

Breathe out their dream whimpering;

 

Or how the birds dozing on their perches,

Holding on so tight,

Puff & deflate like bellows—

Thousands of breaths that begin to add up.

 

Nor do they take into account the rodents

Down in their burrows

Busily opening passageways

Through which the earth itself can exhale;

 

Not to mention the Yokut ghosts

With nowhere else to go

Who wander aimlessly across the valley,

Their bare feet kicking up clouds of dust.

Tim Vivian Featured at March Open Mic

Story by Portia Choi

Photos by Ezekiel Espanola

The featured poet for the Open Mic in March 2018 was Tim Vivian.  Vivian is a professor of Philosophy & Religious studies.  He recently retired from being the Priest-in-Charge of an Episcopal Church in Bakersfield.

At Open Mic, Vivian recited a number of poems including “Light, and its Children:  A Midrash at Dusk on John I” and “Shimon Speaks from His Cross:  A Midrash on John 19:18.”  These poems are reprinted at the end of following interview with Vivian.

What is a Midrash?

A midrash (plural: midrashim) is a Jewish term for a reflection on a passage of scripture.

What interested you to write this type of poetry? 

My midrashim offer a Christian perspective on passages of scripture, mostly from the New Testament but some from the Hebrew Bible. Scripture is often story; a midrash is a retelling of a story, after reflection, offering a different perspective.

In the poem, “Light, and its Children,” the words in the 6th & 7th stanza beginning with “Holy silence . . . we dare listen to darkness” impressed me.  Could you expand on these words?

Light is a key part of every religion that I know. Both light and darkness and their meanings go back to primeval times: the deep darkness of night with its fears and yet its rest, and the wonderful new light of the sun in spring, the light each day. John’s Gospel says that Christ is the light who has entered the world and the darkness has overcome it. It takes courage to confront the dark; the parents of the children in the poem refuse to do so.

 

From “Shimon Speaks from His Cross,” could you tell us more about Maccabeus and possibly why Jesus would have it tattooed?

The tattoo belongs to Shimon. Judas Maccabeus was a Jewish freedom fighter some 200 years before Jesus (and the imagined Shimon). I have no idea if Jews of that time sported tattoos, but I gave Shimon one because he stands in solidarity with the Maccabees against Roman imperialism and occupation. The two others on crosses are lestai, not thieves but bandits; banditry was a form of social protest—and traitorous to the Roman and priestly oppressors. Who are our oppressors now?

How did you become interested writing poetry?

I began writing as a teen, imitating the lyrics of some big rock groups at the time like the Byrds.

What was it like to share your poems in front of an audience?

First time! Since I’m a college professor,  I was mostly used to being in front of people. But poems are much more personal than the classroom, so I was a bit nervous.

Do you have a practice in writing?  such as designate a specific time of day, write as a discipline, or write spontaneously?

I’m very disciplined. I’m now semi-retired at CSUB, teaching two classes in the morning, and I’ve retired as a parish priest, so I devote my afternoons to silence, reading, gardening, and writing. After I finish my school prep and other reading (I daily read fiction, mostly novels), I turn to poetry, reading essays about poems, biographies of poets and, of course, poems themselves. This is also my writing time. Almost all my poems come spontaneously, usually the first line, and I take it from there.

Is there anything else you wish to share with the poetry community?

I think it’s great that we have interest in poetry (and song) in Bakersfield. Poetry, like fiction, opens up vistas, and deep valleys within, for us to explore. Thank you for your efforts.

 

Light, and its Children:

A Midrash at Dusk on John 1

by Tim Vivian

 

“ The light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not

overcome it.”

—John 1:5

 

The memory of light is

light. Even the light

in trees no longer here.

 

In their absence darkness

grows, like new growth

on a dying branch. In

 

solitude, birds are silent.

Decaying light from

dying branches of palm

 

trees offer annunciation,

even resurrection. Their

silence brings us renewal.

 

What measurements do

we here have to offer?

Yet superannuated

 

light—dare we name

it miracle?—is light.

Holy silence pervades

 

the opportunities we

have if we dare listen

to darkness, the children

 

she bears when we are

in defeat. Light once

overcame its darkness.

 

When

children heard the good

news, they clapped and

sang, danced, and told

 

the empty air to boldly

ring the church’s bells.

When their parents hear

 

these acclimations,

they lock their doors

and close each shutter.

 

 

 

Shimon Speaks from His Cross:

     A Midrash on John 19:18

by Tim Vivian

 

There they crucified him,

and with him two others,

one on either side, and

Jesus between them.

 

He probably didn’t see me

die, twisted as he was, north,

as if trying to see Jerusalem.

 

I wondered what he could see.

He was being executed like

any ordinary bandit, like me.

 

I had wondered why they had

left the middle post free, with

me and Judas on each side.

 

Maccabeus: I saw it tattooed

on his wrist, not in Aramaic

but in Hebrew, the language

 

God spoke when he brought

everything into being, even

these crosses we lived on.

 

When they brought him, like

us, carrying that crossbeam

across his shoulders, he had

 

a crowd. I had no one. His

followers were all women.

I didn’t understand that—

 

at least at first. When I did,

I was so far gone that it

looked to me like the sour

 

wine someone had given him

had mixed with his blood and

was running into the women’s

mouths.

 

*     *     *

“Shimon” is “Simon”; “Judas”

was a very common name in

Jesus’ day. The Judas of the

poem is named after Judas

Maccabeus, leader of the

Maccabees, Jewish freedom

fighters 200 years earlier.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

One of the musicians, Brandon Todd, was interviewed about the creative process in writing a song.

What was the name of the song?

The name of the song that I wrote, played, and sang was called “Love Song.” It was originally about a girl I was starting to “fall in love” with in my early high school days (long term). The only difference is (especially from other typical love songs) is that I am questioning on it because I’m very cautious and don’t want to hurt her or me. Because to me, it had to be “Love,” and not REAL LOVE because of the age I was. There was no way to me that I found REAL LOVE that quickly in my years of living. Hence, the name “Love Song,” with quotes on it. Later on in my senior year, I noticed that it could also pretty much mean anything other than girl/boy love. It could be a dream, family, etc.

 

What influenced you to write songs?

I started mostly in my sophmore year of high school. It was after that first part of the year when I got an electric guitar for my birthday. Then I started playing and practicing, soon joining a guitar club. Then I met a friend who seemed interested in writing and playing songs (later on he moved, I also didn’t think I’d be doing much with my writing, in my young mind thinking of it as just for fun). During all of that, I found out I was capable of singing during a guitar club session. My writing, playing, and singing only grew from there. My main influence was Green Day (my FAVORITE), but all this mainly played out in my life.

 

What was it like to play at Dagny’s Coffee?

It was interesting for me. It wasn’t much different from performing that song in a classroom my senior year.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Another thoughtful and entertaining evening at Dagny’s Coffee Open Mic.

 

 

Helen Shanley honored at Open Mic in February Open Mic

 

 

 

Story by Shanna O’Brien

Photos by Ezekiel Espanola

Dagny’s was packed again this month at our February Kern Poetry open mic. More and more poets and musicians are showing up to share their artistic selves.  Newcomers as well as seasoned poets open their hearts and pour out words and melodies.  It’s a joy to behold.

This month our featured poet was selected by our hostess, Portia Choi, who started the evening off by making a tribute for Helen Shanley.  February was the month in which Shanley was born.  Choi said, “Helen was my mentor in poetry.  Helen held poetry groups in her home each month. She was a genius with an IQ of 188.  She remembered lines of poems during the poetry groups which revealed her remarkable memory.  She was also a gifted poet.”  Choi read four of Shanley’s poems.  Two of them were “My Mother’s Hands” and “Note to an Embalmer.”  More about Helen Shanley and her poems can be found at http://kernpoetry.com/tributes-to-helen/

My Mother’s Hands

by Helen Shanley

Your blue-veined hands
swept all things into light;
a box of apricots, a peeled grape,
a sick dog that had to be chloroformed,
a child to be led down hallways of ideas
up staircases of words
–anything to be fixed,
mended, made out of nothing.
How could you whirl about
when you loved the little things
–lillies of the valley, forget-me-nots?
And, when you lost your memory,
your hands themselves remembered how
to Southern-fry a chicken.

After a world of loss.
your funeral was lovely.
People and roses overwhelmed us both.
I put on a big brown hat,
hid under its dowager roundness,
but could not make something from nothing,
nor put Humpty Dumpty back.

So this is a poem for you, Mother,
whose blue-veined hands
remembered how to do
past your last thought,
whose light still sweeps the world,
whose memory has come to mine, and I

forget you not

 

Note to an Embalmer

by Helen Shanley

Do not remove the heart.

Extract the brain through open nostrils,
but leave the paradise within
my heart of hearts.

It is a point
so hot it would burn your fingers.
This pulse-point is the drum of Shiva
calling Shakti
–and when she dances
my heart rises to the doorway
to that small ether which conceals
a Spirit so vast the universe
cannot contain it.

There is a pulse-point
in my heart no perfumes reach.
From here the shadows of God have descended
to form/reform my body.

Draw out the guts.
Fill the great cave with sweeter things.
Do not remove the heart.

 

We thank you Portia Choi for sharing the works of Helen Shanley with us.  Helen Shanley is truly an inspirational poet.

 

~~~~~~~~

The night was filled with many enthusiastic poets and one who caught my eye was Jay Squires.  Jay agreed to participate in my interview questions.  Please read his insightful answers as well as his amazing poem, “I am the Skimmer of Stones,” at the end of the interview. When I approached Jay about my interview he said:

I’m thrilled with your response to my poem, “I am the Skimmer of Stones,” Shanna. I must admit it’s one of my favorites. When, after successive readings of it, I still come away feeling there is a depth to it I’ve yet to plumb, I know I’d tapped into something approaching a universal vein of truth. Saying that, I’d have to add that I’m all too aware of the personal limitations of the mind I wake with in the morning and take to bed with me at night… And that poem never had full residence in it.

Any good thing I’ve written that comes to me too easily; I’ve always felt there’s been a fairy nearby, tinkering with it. If it had the scent or flavor of true inspiration, then that fairy had to be holding hands with an angel.

When did you realize you were a writer?

My first novel was “Sawdust and Glory,” about a high school high-jumper. I was home sick from school and my Uncle Jimmie Duncan promised if I wrote it, he would sell it in front of Woolworth Five and Dime. It was scrawled in pencil and bound at the “spine” by Mama’s needle and thread. I know I wasn’t more than six. It was raining and Uncle Jimmie tried to bow out, but I wouldn’t let him. A deal’s a deal. The book fetched a nickel, and I learned the valuable lesson of farming out book marketing to others.

Tell us about your process.  Do you write on the computer, use notebooks, pen and paper – how do you write?

Other than my brief foray into writing, above, I’ve never created by pen or pencil. Before computers, I did my writing on the typewriter, a pink Olympia I brought back from Tripoli, North Africa. I always favored the poetic image of having words flow out from the tip of a pen or pencil. It’s nonsense, though. I prefer my words to dance out onto the screen as on taps. When you look for the single event that most revolutionized the human mind, right up there elbowing Gutenberg and his rusty, oily printing press out of position, was the nerd who envisioned the “insert key” on the computer. Before his brilliant intervention, imagine the writer giving his manuscript a final once-over before slipping it in the manila envelope when he discovers he left out a word on page two. Moreover, it was a loooong word on a page that was crammed from margin to margin. Got the picture? He could return to the typewriter and retype that page, adding in the word, but when he finished there would be one or two words left over at the end. These were realities I personally lived through, and I’m sure a few of you are bobbing your heads and wishing you could shake that nerd’s hand for what he freed us from.

What scares you the most?

No humor in this answer. It’s losing my mental faculties. It’s hard to fathom, but it’s too much around us to deny it could slide into our lives so quietly, and progress so gradually that by the time we realize it there’s little that can be done. I just noticed how I democratized the process by sharing it with the reader who became “we” and “our” and “us.” Yes, it’s too scary for one person alone to endure even the thought of.

How many poems do you throw away – if any?

Hearkening back to the image of my pre-computer days when I would wad up a typed poem and toss it in the trash, I must say I’ve saved and filed away not just a few poetic abortions I thought I might play God with and resuscitate later–but didn’t.

What inspires you the most and keeps you going?  

I was thinking about this subject just today and considering whether I should include it in a blog post. I’ve observed the physical effects of aging over the years, as many of us have (and the rest of you get to look forward to). I’m not as fast as I once was, nor as strong. My eyes tire when I read or write too much. More than once I’ve fallen asleep at the computer because my body tells me I didn’t sleep enough the night before. (When I was younger, my body wouldn’t win the battle against fatigue.)

But there’s one thing that steps out in front of my aging, striding on the legs of a teenager … and that is hope; hope which is fired by enthusiasm. I am self-publishing my novel on Amazon at month’s end, and I’m as excited about the process and possibilities as I was forty years ago when I had my first publishing success. Hopes and dreams and the excitement they produce are a part of us that doesn’t age. It is something that age will never defeat.

           I Am the Skimmer of Stones

           by Jay W. Squires

I Am the Skimmer of Stones

and I fancy myself as well

the smooth stones skimmed

(imagination lets me, you see);

I, too, am the surface of Jacob’s Pond

they skim across

or not entirely across

or not across at all.

But if the stone falls short

I do not become the pond’s depth;

oh, most assuredly not the pond’s depth

(even imagination won’t take me there)

 

though years and years ago it would and did.

 

To be a skimmer of stones

I first must find the perfect stone;

for I am not a pitcher of balls

to be given the full game’s span

to peak the perfection of my throw

  1. I allow myself but one—

one toss to test my form and faith

my existential curriculum.

 

It must be smooth and flat, of course

but not too flat and light that at first skip

my leading edge will lift me up to glide too high

then fall before my enthusiasm’s spent.

The perfect stone will fit the half-mooned slot

between crook’d forefinger and thumb

as snug there and seamless as a duck’s webbed foot.

The wrist knows when the stone is right;

from the body’s deeper knowing, I listen

and watch my wrist test the heft.

 

And, when the time is right

I measure the span from lapping water’s edge

to the far concave that curves its arms toward me

while it holds within its caress

the surface of its length and breadth

I’ll soon lay the spinning stone upon.

 

The stone and I have learned to admire

the stateliness of skimming the surface of things,

whirring past the center’s downward pull,

the perpendicularity of the mystery below.

 

They say at the center the pond’s immeasurably deep

that the depth of the pond’s mysteriously deep;

they say, and I say I must agree

that sometimes a mystery’s best left to mystify.

 

But once I thought my courage deeper

than Jacob’s Pond could ever be.

So I became one with the stone I skimmed

that hummed and skimmed and skimmed again

but not entirely across.

 

And where it sank, there too I plunged

down from the surface of Jacob’s Pond

down with immortal youth and a lungful of air

down into the heavy-black-deepness of Jacob’s Pond.

 

That Jacob’s Pond went deeper forever

was not mine to know that day

for fear soon squeezed life from courage

and a blur of my spider’s legs and arms

sent me scrabbling up the bubbled web

to light and air and breath and the safety of surfaces.

For, it’s a blessing now

to be once—and only once—young

And once to test the depths

once to dare to fail

and Once to Succeed in Failing

and in failing, yet survive

with a greater knowing

that there’s a near infinity of learning

oh, a precious, near infinity of learning

from lightly skimming

from blithely skimming

the safer, monocular surface of things.

~    ~    ~

Author Information

Jay Squires

Email: gwsquiresjr@gmail.com.

Join the Readers’ Group at: http://jaywsquiresstickywords.com and receive TWO FREE e-book novelettes*

* BENT: Wake or Cross, by Jay Squires

* Lying on the Alter of Self-Sacrifice, by Jay Squires

 

Thank you Jay Squires for your brilliant poem, “I Am the Skimmer of Stones, and for your participation in the interview.  Please keep writing and sharing your incredible imagination and words with us!

 

~~~~~~~~

After such a seasoned poet as Jay Squires spoke, I found it stimulating to hear a new-comer to our poetry open mic, Bridgette Love, share her written word for the first time.  Even though it was Bridgette’s first time to stand in front of our open mic, she spoke with confidence and clarity.  Here are her answers to my interview questions and at the end is her poem, “Mantra.”

When I asked Bridgette to give us a little insight into her poem, “Mantra” she said:

The first poem I shared during the open Mic at Dagny’s, which was untitled at the time but I now have decided to call “Mantra,” was inspired by a couple of feelings that play a significant role in my life. Anxiety and sorrow tend to coincide inside me on a regular basis and I work on reducing how heavy they feel. I meditate to try and clean out my being so I can function in a more positive and clear place and this poem is a peek into the journey my mental state goes on in an attempt to cleanse away those messy feelings. There are deeper layers in this poem but that is what this poem boils down to.

When did you realize you were a writer?

I realized that writing gave me solace in junior high. I’ve always been someone who feels with their entire being. Writing has gotten me through a lot of tough times.

Tell us about your process.  Do you write on the computer, use notebooks, pen and paper – how do you write?

I typically prefer to write on paper with a pencil but if I don’t have those available, I will use the notes app on my phone. It starts with a rush of feelings, an interesting thought, and a sense of urgency to write down those things.

What scares you the most?

What scares me is stunting my own growth in life, and also I fear not giving enough kindness to people.

How many poems do you throw away – If any?

I generally won’t throw away my writing at this stage in my life, I’ll just scribble things out, and sometimes if a couple poems are on the same wavelength I’ll combine the lines I like.

What inspires you the most and keeps you going?

What inspires me and keeps me going is the power of human connection, love, and kindness.

 

“Mantra”

by Bridgette Love

 

Yellowed teeth

Manic heart

Rip my guts out and shove them into my pockets

Frantic and overwhelmed by the stench and my oozing fingertips, caking inside the crevices that make up my fingerprints

Disheveled, hot, and squirming with uncertainty

The very hair on my head agitating the volcano erupting at the base of my being, the hair brushing up against my cheek seemingly burdening

My truths and irrationality tickle my ribs, crawl up my throat and tickle my lips

Inhale the good, exhale…anxiety, worry, uncertainty, inferiority, sorrow, doubt…

Better, but I feel the left over gunk residing in the walls of my belly and the edges of my breast bone…

Inhale the good, exhale…suppressed anger, unresolved arguments, hurt feelings, unworthiness, anxiety, sorrow, doubt, uncertainty, inferiority…

Mantra…mantra

Clarity, peace, confidence, courage

Clarity, peace, confidence, courage

Clarity, peace, confidence, courage…

 

WOW!  There is such honesty and authenticity in this expression of your feelings, Bridgette Love.  We can all identify.  Please keep writing and sharing your true self with us!

 

~~~~~~~~

 

So many wonderful poets followed and Carla Martin made me smile with her poem titled, “Coffee Cafe Customers:  The Barista.”  I was delighted when Carla agreed to participate in my interview.  When asked to share her inspiration for her poem, “Coffee Cafe Customers:  The Barista,” Carla said:

I am a frequent customer at local coffee cafes in the late afternoons, and have been inspired to write several poems about the interesting people I have observed there. You see a real slice of America. I love checking folks out and imagining what they are thinking, or what their lives are like. Sometimes I get to talking with them, as I did with “Coffee Cafe Customers: The Barista” and their stories become even richer.

I am a poet, a teacher, and a mother, not necessarily in that order. I have lived in Bakersfield for thirty years now. I recently joined Writers of Kern, a wonderful organization of published and soon-to-be-published authors who hone their craft together. On a whim, I signed up for a Poetry Critique Group, and that really got me writing again. It is made up of some remarkable folks who read each other’s’ work and make insightful comments. We have become fast friends—you really show your soft underbelly to people when you share your writing—and there is a sense of trust and respect that grows. I have started sending my poems out for publication—wish me luck! 

When did you realize you were a writer?

I remember writing my first poem when I was in third grade, laying on a boulder in the middle of a stream up in the San Bernadino mountains. It had a line in it that read something like, “And the great pines rise above me/ like the loftiest of cathedrals.” I can still recall the beauty of that scene and the closeness I felt to God at that moment. Writing a poem about that feeling was just something that poured out. And that’s what poetry is, isn’t it? It captures the essence of experiences.

Tell us about your process.  Do you write on the computer, use notebooks, pen and paper – how do you write?.

I write most often on my trusty laptop. Sometimes poems come to me when I am napping on my family room couch. Then I scribble lines on post-it notes to transcribe later.

What scares you the most?

Standing in front of a room of elementary students each morning as the substitute teacher.

How many poems do you throw away – If any?

I don’t throw away any poems—there are just some that are still works in progress, percolating away in my mind.

What inspires you the most and keeps you going?

I am inspired to continue to write poetry because it makes me feel healed! I have written out all kinds of emotions and experiences in my poems. As a friend wisely pointed out to me, giving these things a name and creating a work of art out of something that was hurtful, or wonderful, is extremely cathartic. I also love to fashion language— find imagery or metaphor—to convey an idea. I often ruminate about poems while driving and get the perfect word I’ve been searching for while turning left onto Truxtun

Extension.

Additional Information:

I just created a blog and have promised to write two new posts every week until May. I would be delighted for all to read it and see my latest poems and prose. Its address is www.carlajoypoetry.com

 

“Coffee Cafe Customers:  The Barista”

By  Carla Martin

 

Her high cheekbones

Are smoothed with pancake make-up

And thick, false eyelashes

Flutter on her heavy lids

She smiles

And gracefully takes my order

 

She repeats the liturgical litany

“What would you like today?

Are you a member of the Bookstore Cafe

And receive a 10% discount?

Would you like cream and sweetener with that?”

 

Do these phrases repeat in her mind

Through her dreams at night?

An endless stream

Of garbled gibberish?

 

Does she wake up

Longing for Dostoevsky

And complex plot turns

And deeply introspective characters

Wrestling with conflicting desires

Galloping through sweeping vistas

On glorious steeds?

 

Stuck behind the formica counter

Surrounded by a fortress of blenders

Cappuccino makers

And  bottles of syrup

She is trapped by these sentinels

Of modern addiction

Her life is bound in chains

Of service to pleasure seekers

Craving their afternoon fix

 

She is the cover

Of last month’s Cosmo magazine

Filled with snippets

Of bedroom wisdom

Gained by wise vixens

In deep decolletage

That whisper the secrets

Of how to arouse him

While waving lavish, lacquered nails

 

In brief, two-minute conversations

I try to pierce the perfect facade

And gain a glimpse

Of the cracked vessel within

 

She lets slip

That she has a daughter

That she had when she was eighteen

Who is finally doing better in second grade

after spending many afternoons in the principal’s office

Because she can’t get along with her peers

She is used to being around adults

The only youngster in the family

She can’t fathom the confusion

Of all her squirming classmates

But a child can learn

And now she is doing much better,

Thanks for asking

 

Everyone has a story

That’s as complex as a classic novel

Don’t let the glossy cover fool you

The dog-eared pages are tear-stained within

Such a wonderful poem and observation of people, Carla Martin!  Your poem expresses the art of carefully listening, which is a true art in itself.  Keep writing Carla.  You are a joy to read!

 

~~~~~~~~

 

Well that’s it for another fabulous night of sharing poems and words at Kern Poetry Open Mic night that happens every First Friday of the month.  Please come join us and share yourself!  You are one-of-a-kind and we want to hear your words and get to know you.  Until next time – KEEP WRITING!

Julie Jordan Scott featured at Open Mic, January 5, 2018

 

 

 

Story by Walter Stormont

Photos by Ezekiel Espanola

It’s 5 p.m. at Dagny’s Coffee Company in the heart of Bakersfield.  It’s Friday… First Friday.  The downtown arts district is coming alive, with music, painting, jewelry, crafts, and the spoken word.

“About an hour from now, this room will be taken over by poets,” I tell a group of ladies meeting in the side room of Dagny’s.  They know the deal… by 5:45, they’ve relocated and the room’s furniture has been moved around to accommodate poets and observers.  Open Mic is getting underway.  Before long, 35 people are in the room, jockeying for position to take in the proceedings.

“Full house here,” announces guest emcee Shanna O’Brien, an accomplished singer-songwriter.  “We need everyone who wants to perform to sign up.  We can’t start late tonight.”  The signup sheet goes around as some performers eagerly get on the list and others try to summon the gumption.  Attendance would swell to more than 50 poets and aficionados.

Shanna offers a friendly admonition to the audience to be polite to the poets.  “They’re sharing their souls, opening up their hearts,” she explains.  No looking at your phones while poets are performing.  Don’t slide the chairs around… that’s pretty noisy.  And please keep the door closed to block out the loud chatter from the front part of Dagny’s.

On with the show.  Shanna introduces tonight’s Featured Poet, Julie Jordan Scott, who steps up to the mic.

“You people are my people,” Julie says.  “The poets of the world are my people!”

The people prove it by helping Julie with an interactive poetic exercise.

She starts out by clapping her hands to set a rhythm.

“Find your own voice and use it,” she chimes. “Use your own voice and find it.”

Again: “Find your own voice and use it.  Use your own voice and find it.”

Beforehand, Julie had passed around painted pages from old dictionaries that the audience could use to help them select words to toss at her.

“Give me a word!”

“Grateful.”

“Grateful!” Julie repeats. “Breathe in grateful, breathe out poetry.”

“What are you grateful for?”

“Connection.”

And so it continues as the people bond.

Her session finished, Julie hands the mic back to Shanna, who introduces the night’s sign-ups in small groups.  She does her best to keep things moving, because there are so many who wish to share – and some of their poems are rather long.  I count 16 performers, including one dear lady who can’t go on at first because her emotions take over… but the night is young.

We hear offerings like “Different Sports” and “What is Love” and “The Lowly Substitute.”  Thomas Brill startles us when he starts out screaming, “I hate poems about poetry!”  Many topics presented might be shocking to some, as poets bear their souls like Shanna has pointed out.

One young man comes up and feigns stage fright, then announces, “I don’t write poetry… I kind of misunderstood this whole thing!”  He then tells a joke that doesn’t go so well.  But it’s an offering nevertheless.  Michelle Moreno reminds us all that “love wins.”  Some performers at Open Mic Night are singers like Elizabeth Privett who captivates us with her hauntingly beautiful ballad (all songs performed must be original compositions).

Bodhi, who tells us he’s “60-some years old,” offers a moving reminiscence of the tumultuous 1960s… Vietnam War, protests, peace marches.

Tonight, we have witnessed the best of what Tony O’Brien describes as “the greatest show on earth,” the human race.  Soon after he shares, the night’s final poet approaches the open mic… the same woman who earlier could not get the words out.  Now they flow wonderfully.  She has a lot to say, and she ends it with the meaningful phrase, “Show’s over.”

The poets then find their way into the night as First Friday continues.

* * * * *

Two of tonight’s artists graciously agreed to answer some questions about themselves and their work.  We start off with Featured Poet Julie Jordan Scott:

Please share about your background and life.

My most important creative project has been my three children who are now grown or nearly grown.

I am involved in a variety of arts here in Kern County: my photography and mixed media art has been shown and sold locally.  I do a weekly Art Livestream Broadcast on Periscope where I show my process and often read favorite (and newly found to me) poetry.

I have been involved in theater (on stage as well as a technician, Director and Producer) for the last 12 years.  I’ve won awards, both The Empty Space and Bakersfield Community Theater.  I’ve also done work at the Spotlight Theater (now Ovation Theatre) and Stars Theater.  Most recently I’ve appeared in films with Inclusion Films.

My first poetry performance was at Spotlight Theater in Les Femmes Artistes, which upped the ante from my hosting of the Open Mic at Barnes and Noble which I did in the early 2000s.

When did you first become interested in poetry?

I have loved poetry since elementary school.  I actually started writing before I was literate: I would dictate to my mother and then I would copy the letters with my crayons, having no idea how to translate what I wanted to write in letters and words.

I self-published a collection of poetry for my grandmother for Christmas when I was 13.  It was primarily confessional, dealing a lot with my family’s dysfunction.  My grandmother was impressed with my wordsmithing: it may have been a cry for help.

Who are some of your creative influences?

I have a profound love for the women writers who went before me.  The literary canon too often leaves them out.  I especially admire and learn from Ina Coolbrith, Mary Hunter Austin, Alice Walker, Mary Oliver, May Sarton.

I also wonder about the propensity for women poets to commit suicide and sometimes feel like my continuing with the craft somehow helps their work survive: Sara Teasdale, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton are examples.

What are some of the places you’ve been published or shared your work?

Some of the better known include Chicken Soup for the Soul of America,

American Greetings, several anthologies including a Co-authorship of Writing for Self-Discovery with Sheila Finkelstein.  I self-published my first ebook in 1999.  Quite a trendsetter!

As a poet, do you lean toward any particular style?

I attempt to be eclectic and enjoy experimenting.  I enjoy forms of micro-poetry like

haiku and tanka.  I enjoy playing with metrical verse.  I enjoy the flow of pantoum.

What is your writing life like?  How often… computer or longhand?  That kind of stuff.

I write on whatever is convenient.  Notebook, computer, phone is great for poems-in-the-moment.  (People think you’re texting!)

How did you develop your technique involving improvisation and audience participation?

It all started because I was producing something called a Poetry Concert the night before my 49th birthday.  Most people had no idea what a poetry concert was, but they wanted to support me, or liked poetry, and they were curious.  It was the culmination of an art show I had curated at The Empty Space theater called “Visible Poetics.”

I hated the thought of people arriving at the event and not having anything to do, so I decided I would offer everyone painted pages and ask them to add words to the page or circle words on the page and when the time came, they would speak their words and bring them (somehow) to the center.  Some people threw the pages onto the stage, some people marched onto the stage with their words and I had volunteers gathering up and speaking words for the more shy people.

It turned into a “happening” of sorts.  I have a video of it somewhere (I believe).  Portia was there (Kern Poetry Director, Portia Choi).  I sort of stood back and let it happen, unfold as it wanted to.

It was a great way to get people involved from the moment they entered the theater and sort of let them know this wasn’t a “sit back and watch” kind of experience, it was a “I am a collaborative partner in art” sort of experience.  As in all forms of improvisation, each member doesn’t really know where it is going, we sort of agree to agree AND add what will further the work along.

(This is so interesting as I have never put it into words before).  I believe every person is a creative person, just need to have the spark to bring that creativity to life.  In my work as a Creative Life Coach (I have a website, CreativeLifeMidwife.com) my catch-phrases include “Inspiring Artistic Rebirth” and “The World is Waiting for Your Words.”  I believe each and every person on this planet has a valuable voice and a valid, important story to be interwoven with whomever we are blessed to find along the path.

I have also used different forms of audience participation including personalized haiku I create on the spot, offering words for the audience to create a line of poetry with me (you may have seen that at Dagny’s.)

I also have a creative experience called a “Soul Poetry Session” where I ask questions and we spend about 20 to 30 minutes in deep connection, and then I write a poem.

Please share one of your poems.

Now Begin

By Julie Jordan Scott

Take away the degrees, titles and accomplishments –
What is discovered at your core?
What is your unique, special spark?
Buried deep, neglected, that you’ve chosen to ignore?

 

Seeking to please whomever.

Drowning out the pure longings of your heart

Struggling, freezing, suffocating –

Until finally, you choose to start.

 

Whispers from the spirit.

Soul’s song from deep within.

After dancing, stranger among strangers –

Claim it.  Your life.  Now Begin –

 

* * * * *

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

We also reached out to Elizabeth Privett, who performed her song tonight:

Please share with us a little about your background and what you do in your daily life.

My name is Elizabeth L. Privett.  I am 21 years old.  Born and raised in Bakersfield, CA.  I work full-time and take classes at Bakersfield College.  I wrote my first song for a book report at Fruitvale Jr. High and from there I have performed my songs for talent competitions, fundraisers, small venues, street fairs and other functions across the city. Now, I am not as passionate about large performances, but I still enjoy playing music with my friends and my mom at small gatherings or venues.  In my daily life you might find me catching a film at Maya Cinemas, eating waffles at J’s Place, or drinking with friends at Imbibe or Dionysus.

What is the name of the song you performed?  Can you share a few lyrics?

The name of the song is “Olivia,” and a few of the lyrics include, “Through time we’d speak ideas of girl who’s yet to be.  She fills our world with bits of wonder.  Fall into the storm; scream into her warmth until you’re cold.  How else could we know you’re still mourning?”

How did the song-writing process go?

I wrote a small portion of the song about a year ago and was never able to find the right words for the rest of it.  For a long time I didn’t even know what I wanted to say.  Then, the Friday at the Open Mic I began reflecting back on the moments that inspired this song and I was able to write about it again.  I wrote and edited and wrote and edited some more, and within two hours completed the song.  I was so excited about completing it that I decided to share it that night instead of another song I had prepared.  So, I got off of work at 5:00 PM, drove home, found some chords on the guitar that would work with my melody, and drove to Dagny’s by 6:00 PM.  Part of me wondered if I should wait until the next Open Mic to share it, but the energy was there, so I went for it.

While performing a song, do you feel “poetic” or “musical” or both?

I would like to say both.  I am not very confident in my speaking voice, so the words I use to express my vulnerabilities and experiences tend to form themselves in melodies.  Songwriting allows me to speak my mind while being able to hide a little behind my singing.  I am still worried about people not enjoying my words, so if I can sing them, at least they might like my singing voice!

What are some of your other musical accomplishments?

I have been performing since I was 6 years old.  I have been songwriting and playing guitar since I was 13 years old.  I have been in a few bands.  I have been a finalist in a few talent shows/karaoke competitions in town.  Mostly now I play at open mic nights because I haven’t felt serious about performing for some time.

How often do you write?

Honestly, not too often. This is the second song I have finished writing in the last year, and the other song I completed I started writing a few years prior.  I usually rely on bursts of inspiration to write my songs, but as I am realizing that I use my writing to process my emotions, I am also realizing that I cannot rely on inspiration alone.  Ernest Newman, a famous and respected music critic from the early 1900s, once said, “The greatest composer does not sit down to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working.”  This quote has been pushing me to reconsider how I make music.  I am now starting to schedule making music into my week.  Additionally, my friend and I recently started hosting Art Nights for our many multi-talented friends to share their work and collaborate with one another.  That has also inspired me to work on my songwriting more, so that I have new work to share with the group when we meet.

* * * * *

Thanks to all our poets and attendees.  We hope to see you next month, and every First Friday, at Open Mic Night… because Poetry Lives!

Poetry at Women’s March, Kern County

Story by Portia Choi

Video provided by Anke Hodenpijl

There was poetry at the Women’s March in January 2018, Bakersfield, California.

Anke Hodenpijl recited two poems in front of a crowd to enthusiastic response.  Her performance was on video.  Hodenpijl was interviewed for Kern Poetry.

Two other poets, Mandy Anderson and Diane Lobre, were at the march.  They were also interviewed for this story.

 

INTERVIEW OF ANKE HODENPIJL

How did it feel reciting your poems in front of such a big crowd?

Looking out at the crowd made me feel small, yet somehow I know my words were important. As I started to read, the crowd grew quieter and then quieter again. I thought, “They are really listening!” This felt empowering. When it was all over and they yelled “Yes!” in support, I felt affirmed and among friends. I felt safe.

What influenced you to write poetry in general?

Poetry was how I learned to read English, since it was my second language. I like expressions to be insightful, descriptive and succinct. The power of poetry to move the spirit, my own and others, inspired me to become a poet for life.

What influenced you to write the two poems that you performed at the march?

Poetry gave me a voice to respond to the outcome of the last election. These poems in particular were aroused by feelings of disappointment and anger. I edited them for this years march, in response to the hope I felt through sharing my voice with other like-minded people.

The poems of Hodenpijl are “Work” and “being Her.”

 

Work  

by Anke Hodenpijl

that place in between

between imagination and satisfaction

between prayer and holiness

between spirit and love

between birth and re-birth

 

Gratitude is the dough I knead

with intentional hands

shaping and

caring for

that place in between

once again

retelling

this time with potent iterations

full-flavored, unconfused and knowing

Truth is the seed of swelling sophistication

 

Today, in my older years,

my Work is louder

because the ears of others

have forgotten

Or maybe they did not get

the text,

the instant message or

the tweet.

 

Let my work begin afresh,

rising,

not hesitatingly like a distant fog-covered sunrise,

but rather like an eruption,

unwilling to be punched down,

here

now

I say

 

My pussy is not yours to grab!

Your alternative facts, are not my reality.

My memory is clear.

Your words. Can. Not. reconstruct Herstory.

 

My Suffrage Brogue

creates an unmistakable landscape

as surely as the molten lava

claims the mountain side and the sea

from the center

to the heavens

 

this is who I am

this is where I’ve been

 

and, Yes, THIS is still my work.

© 2018 Anke Hodenpijl

 

 

being Her

          by Anke Hodenpijl

being Her

 

used to be her deficiency

became her necessity

became her hope

became her legacy

became her Opus

became our Birthright

 

we dance with Her descant

disremembering

the cheerless and sticky rejection

the pluck of her pushback

the rumpus of Her March

as she labored for

equal rights

equal pay

equal humanity

in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and still

in this millennium

 

as we claim our apologue

from her swindle sheet

we exhume the after birth

and the caterwaul of resistance

the unjust reincarnation

of the Philistine Shadow

rising like stench from a too shallow grave

 

Are we to be ransomed again?

Time’s up?

Me too?

 

And

 

What is the price for the uncaging of a fearless life?

When will we be able to fly with the quiet confidence of a flock

murmurating in unison

agreeing through conscious heart

that we are full-toned, muscled and mighty?

 

Is it true what I’ve been told?

 

A Woman’s Work is never done?

 

being Her

 

sure feels that way.

 

©2017 Anke Hodenpijl

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

INTERVIEW OF MANDY ANDERSON

What influenced you to write the poem you recited at Open Mic. 

I wrote this poem, (“The Coming of age,”) the night before the Women’s March. I was up late excited for my first March so I decided the best way to use my time was to write.

I wrote this poem having young girls in mind. The transition from being a girl to becoming a woman can be so awkward.

Teenage boys don’t understand that’s why I added in “Steven laughs as I run to the bathroom”. She feels confused and nervous that the world has told her because her body is bleeding that she has become a women.

I also added “Why do we have to pay 75c” because I feel that it’s not right that our public restrooms ESPECIALLY those for young girls at school have to charge for something that is needed. That just brings more anxiety and embarssment for those not prepared for that moment. Instead of going discreetly to the bathroom they have to ask. I really felt connected with this piece and I had a lot of influence from the Women’s March.

 

What influenced you to write poetry in general?

I have been writing since I was 14. Some where along the way I stopped writing books and started writing just these little pieces. Each little quote or writing I would create always had a story to it.

Last year I fell into a really deep depression that sort of just built up from a lot of trauma. I was at home one day on Facebook when I came across a video on a Facebook page called Button poetry. The video was called “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” by Sabrina Benaim. I listened as this girl poured out her soul and mine along with it. It sparked something inside me.

I went back through all my writing and realized a lot of my work was stories of my struggles and my screams to be heard. I told myself that’s what I need to do. I needed to scream out my emotions through paper again. That’s when I sat down and poetry just started flowing out. It brought so much healing that I was not expecting.

 

  

The coming of age 

        by Mandy Anderson

 

        Today I have become a woman

                             Blood drips down my leg
My childhood becomes a distant memory

Becoming a woman is great they say
Sex ed says I can get pregnant

 

                           Steven laughs as I run to the bathroom
Why do I have to pay 75c

Blood
we die if we lose too much

Periods
A sign of an ending

I feel my childhood dying.

A death so painfully inescapable

 

                         Today, I have become a woman

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

INTERVIEW OF DIANE LOBRE

What was it like to be at the Women’s March?

I had reservation about going. (But) it was such a peaceful gathering.  There were thousands of women there.  Amazing.  Lots of men were there.  There were young and there were old.  The women just wanted to stand with each other.

What was it like to hear Anke Hodenpijl recite her poems?

I did not hear all the words, (but) there was power, (incredible) response of the crowd.  Anke kept raising the energy, (it was) definitely an inspiring moment.

When did you begin writing poetry?

I began writing poetry when I was twelve or thirteen.  I wrote as part of self-expression.  I was attracted to words.

Tell us about your poem “Eggshells

I started to think about women who were not allowed to be themselves because they were married or had strong parents.  They did not reach their full potential because they got held back and held down.

 

 

EGGSHELLS

BY DIANE LOBRE

 

Eyes down

Listening carefully

For signs

 

A raised voice

Tension exuded

Tangible

 

Quiet

Whispering steps

Toward

 

Landmines

Of past

Transgressions

 

Breath held

Automated

Movement

 

Careful

Every word

Spoken

 

Can

Be a trigger

Pointed

 

At the target

Of the heart

And mind

 

Body can

Be broken

Mended

 

Broken

Mended

Twisted

 

Pain

Raining down

Molding

 

Shaping

Thoughts and

Actions

 

Reactions become

Routine

Controlled

 

Emotion

Stuffed down

Held in check

 

By the Other

Masking

Self

 

Invisible

Unknown

Shrunken

 

All potential

Drowned

In tears

 

Useless

Numbed

Buried

 

The girl

The hopes

The dreams

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

In the local newspaper, The Bakersfield Californian, there was an opinion about the Women’s March by Tracy Correa Lopez. It was in the “COMMUNITY VOICES” of FORUM section.

Lopez wrote, “The first official Women’s March Kern County—arguably one of the largest marches in the city’s history—was an overwhelming success. . . . We hoped for 1,000 attendees, but it turned out to be so much more. . . . Today, estimates are more than 5,000 took part. . . . We threw a party and they came.  And it was peaceful.  It was unifying.”

 

Poetry on Wooden Walls

 

 

Story by Portia Choi 

Photographs by Ellen Quon

Poetry is an important part of my life.  It was by writing poems that I was able to express my feelings and experiences of being in the Korean War.  The war started when I was two and ended when I was five.

I discovered that poetry was also an important part of lives of immigrants from China during a recent field trip to Angel Island in the San Francisco bay.

It was a sunny morning on the top deck of a ferryboat going from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to Angel Island, a state park.  I felt the harshness of the wind and the noise of the cackling sea gulls.  Beyond the rippling waves of the bay, I saw the panoramic view of the cities, San Francisco and Oakland, and its hills with rolling mist.

Most of the people on the ferry were tourists going to the island for fun and recreation.  However, there was a small group from Bakersfield making a pilgrimage to the Immigration Station on the island.  It was a place where their relatives had been confined before being allowed to enter the mainland.

Like other immigrants from China, their relatives had endured the voyage on the Pacific Ocean.  There was motion sickness, meager food and crowded quarters.

Once they arrived on Angel Island, they could not go to the mainland right away.  They had to prove that they were American citizens or related to an American citizen.  They were interrogated to determine if they were truly related.  The immigrants were fearful that if they did not answer correctly, they would be deported back to China.

On the island, some of the immigrants lived in wooden barracks for weeks and even months waiting to find out whether they would enter mainland America or be deported.

The immigrants lived in the barracks between 1910 and 1940.  Thereafter, the barracks were abandoned.  After more than two decades, the barracks were marked for destruction.  (Information from ISLAND, Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 by Him Mark Lai, Jenny Lim and Judy Yung.)  In 1970, park ranger Alexander Weiss noticed Chinese characters in the wooden walls, characters that were painted over.  Some of the writing were recognized as poems.

Through the effort of the Asian American community, the buildings were preserved, the writings restored and translated.

More portrayal of the immigrants and poems were described by the photographer of the group, Ellen Quon.  She gave the interview in person and by email.

“My grandfather (mother’s father,) who passed away many years ago, came to America in 1917 when he was 12 years old.  He went through the immigration process at Angel Island before he was allowed to enter the U. S.

“When he was alive, he never talked about his stay at Angel Island because it was not a good experience for him.   He passed the physical exam and the interrogation and was permitted entry.  However, his cousin was rejected and sent back to China because he did not pass the interrogation.  His cousin never stepped on U.S. soil again after that.

“When I learned about that I was curious about this historical site.  I decided to visit Angel Island Immigration Station when the Bakersfield Chinese Women’s Club sponsored the field trip.

“Before the trip, I had no idea what to expect, so I took pictures of everything I saw. I wanted to see what it was like to be detained there during the early 1900s.  I did not know there were immigrants from 84 different countries passed through there.  I did not know Chinese immigrants were being detained longer and were treated differently than the other groups.

“I took pictures of the beautiful surrounding, the outside and inside of the detention center, the immigrants’ personal belongings and the poetry on the walls.  The way they renovated this place was great, not only they show how the immigrants lived at that time; they also show their frustrations, their emotions and their spirit.

“Because my grandfather was one of the detainees, this trip was a personal journey to explore my family history.

“Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Chinese were interrogated more often and detained longer (weeks and months) than any other groups.  The longest stay recorded was 22 months.  During the interrogation process, they were never informed whether they were being accepted or rejected, so frustration and anguish grew each day.

“They also felt being mistreated by the government.  In their spare time, the Chinese detainees poured their heart and soul into writing poetry and they carved them onto the wooden walls.   These poems were beautifully written, so the writers were highly educated.  These poems were overlooked by later occupants and were covered with paints.  Eventually over 200 of them were discovered in 1963.   The immigration station was in operation from 1910-1940, I did not know why the poems were not discovered earlier until I saw this image. . . . I took this image because of the paint patterns, not realized there were Chinese characters/poems hidden underneath the paints.  I was pleasantly surprised.   These pictures affect me because I can feel the frustrations and unhappiness spilling onto the walls.”

(Ellen Quon’s husband, Mike Quon, also went on the Angel Island trip.   His grandfather (father’s father) came through Angel Island in the 1920’s.  Ellen took over 100 photographs from the trip. A selection of photos, mainly related to poetry, are posted on Kern Poetry website.)

 

Of the numerous poems found carved on the walls and translated, two of them are reprinted here. These poems communicate the feelings and situation of the immigrants.

 

Poem:

In the quiet of night, I heard, faintly, the whistling of wind.

The forms and shadows saddened me; upon

Seeing the landscape, I composed a poem.

The floating clouds, the fog, darken the sky.

The moon shines faintly as the insects chirp.

Grief and bitterness entwined are heaven sent.

The sad person sits alone, leaning by a window.

 

 

Poem:

I used to admire the land of the Flowery

Flag as a country of abundance.

I immediately raised money and started my journey.

For over a month, I have experienced enough

winds and waves.

Now on an extended sojourn in jail, I am

subject to the ordeals of prison life.

I look up and see Oakland so close by.

I wish to go back to my motherland to carry

the farmer’s hoe.

Discontent fills my belly and it is difficult for

me to sleep.

I just write these few lines to express what is

on my mind.

(Flower Flag:  a Cantonese colloquial term for the United States)

 

Verna Lewis was also interviewed.  She had arranged the field trip to Angel Island for the Bakersfield Chinese Women’s Club.  Both of her parents were born in the United States (U.S.); but they went to China as children.  When they returned to the states, they went through Angel Island.

Verna said, “My father, Sui Han Low, was born in San Francisco and returned to China when he was five and then returned to U.S. in 1938 when he was 14.  He went through Angel Island, but was not detained on the island.

“My mother was born in U.S. in 1926.  In 1933, my mother was five or six when (she) and her whole family returned to China.   My mother returned to U.S. when she was 15.  She was detained on Angel Island.”  The mother’s passport picture was that of a young girl, and she was older than her passport picture when she arrived in Angel Island.  She was held back, but probably because she spoke English, she was detained overnight.  Verna said, her mother “kept up with her English while in China.”

All Chinese immigrants went through Angel Island.   The persons who were American citizens (persons born in the states) or who had family in the states were allowed to enter America’s mainland.

When Verna was asked what were your feelings visiting Angel Island, she thought that it would have been “traumatic” and “scary” for her mother.

An uncle of Verna, Paul Zane Wong, was on Angel Island.  He wrote about his life and his experience on the island.  The link to his writing is:

https://www.aiisf.org/immigrant-voices/stories-by-author/planting-a-sturdy-tree-with-many-strong-branches-the-story-of-paul-zane-wong/

 

Additional information about the Chinese immigrants was found in a brochure about Angel Island State Park, by the California State Park, it states “The United States Immigration Station operated on Angel Island from 1910 to 1940.  Built to process thousands of immigrants from over 80 nations flooding into the country, the Immigration Station was the physical mechanism to enforce and control immigration following the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  On Ellis Island on the east, immigrants were processed through within hours or days; on Angel Island, in weeks or months. This facility was primarily a detention center.”

First Friday Open Mic – November 3, 2017 features Jeremy Casabella

Story by Shanna O’Brien

Photos by Ezekiel Espanola

It’s such a pleasure to see so many creative folks come out to support Kern Poetry First Friday open mic night at Dagny’s.  As usual the room was full of artists and electric with energy as regulars and new-comers mentally prepared to open their hearts and share their thoughts in either poetry or song.  Each artist was shown respect and appreciation for their work.

Our featured Bakersfield artist for the night was Jeremy Casabella who read several of his short and poignant poems which captured the poet’s spirit and love for words.  Following is Jeremy’s answers to my interview questions, allowing us to better know him and his interesting work.

Please give us a short profile about your poetry background, what got you started, your influences, inspiration….

I memorized a poem by Emily Dickinson, “I Am Nobody Who are you?” for a poetry parade in the third grade. I started writing short poems the next week, though I really did not appreciate then exactly what it meant to write a poem.

I was a terrible high school student and spent much of my time doodling rhymed verses that told bizarre narratives rather than paying attention. I recall wanting to be dark or edgy like Sylvia Plath but with a bit of an obscure or maybe Suessian angle.  One poem I can remember was about explaining cigarette’s to aliens, written in the voice of the “cigarette smoking man” from the X-Files. Another, in the voice of an old lamp, lamented lost light bulbs.

I dropped out of Commercial Design studies at the San Francisco Academy of Arts College my first semester after testing out of high school. I loathed the experience. At that point I wrote poems only when inspired until, in my twenties, I started college again. I took many different courses at the community college in Glendale, CA where I met the poet Bart Edelman. He gave me some insight on my work and a little space in the Journal he edited: Eclipse.

In school I focused on English, preferring courses that emphasized poetry or were taught by poets. Later I graduated from UCLA, where I had participated in workshops with Calvin Bedient and Stephen Yenser. I then studied Writing at Sarah Lawrence College where I achieved my MFA through the good graces of teachers like Jeffrey McDaniel, D. Nurkse and Marie Howe. Even while studying Literary Criticism at Sonoma State I worked in a course of guided writing with the poet Gillian Conoley. Throughout my life poetry has been my therapy.

If I had to give a list of influences whom I have not met beyond the page, it would include those whose writings I return to most often: Larry Levis, Robert Hass, Wyslawa Szymborska, Charles Simic, James Gavin and Dorothea Grossman.

What are you trying to communicate with your poetry?

The poem needs to communicate whatever is necessary to the poem; this changes. I am obsessed with trying to write words that will evoke specific mental or physical reactions or understandings of experience by the reader. I’m excited most by the connotative and mimetic aspects of language. In that respect I suppose any poem in my computer-files or journals ultimately imparts moments of time and place and image wrapped in allegory. Mostly I just like to create.

Do you have any creative patterns, routines?

I write at a computer. I am so used to typing in MS Word that I frequently find myself translating my experiences into words on a page in my mind. If I seem distracted and inattentive it’s probably because I’m bothered by a word choice in our circumstances.

As a student my most consistent note in critiques, whether in praise or derision, was always that I wrote eclectically; that is to say I defied any overall unifying style or even impetus in my work.

Now, independently, I continue to work in as many modes as possible. I write tanka regularly. I’ve created what I call “observation poems” which are very tanka-like ideally, but have no set length and the added requisite of including five observations, one from each sense. I’ve also started a series of “abecedarigraph” poems, which are 26 word texts where each word must begin with a successive alphabetic letter. I love struggling with the xyz. I’m writing a chapbook of free verse poems posed as descriptions of different parts and pages in a graphic novel. I often cannibalize different components from these and other endeavors to create unique works. Those latter creations tend to be my favorites. Sometimes I just get lucky and write a relatively complete poem in one attempt. I still of course revise the crap out of it.

I borrow ideology from OuLiPo, and L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poets, sensibilities from the imagists and the Black Mountain School. I think about form and tradition all the time leaning toward imagism. To be overly figurative for a moment, I assume the mysterious task of tracing the footprints of duende that walk through the pages of all of the styles I admire with poem colored paint on their toes. It’s an exhausting hobby.

Please mention any publications you’ve created.

While I publish in journals regularly, I have yet to put out any collections or chapbooks, but do work daily on about a dozen different large groupings of poems with various controlling features like those mentioned earlier.

My words have appeared so far this year in Vinyl, The American Journal of Poetry, GNU, Right Hand Pointing, The Invisible Bear, and Rabid Oak. Though I still have two sets of work under consideration, I have placed myself on a submissions sabbatical since May.

Please share one of your poems you would like to feature.

I’m happy to share a copy of one of the more difficult poems I’m currently writing. It is tearing me apart right now:

Anecdote for Autonomy

By Jeremy Casabella

 

In giant wing-like bulbous

flaps that deflate back

into cut mats from

gnarl

 

on youtube,

the tableful of lungs outside their jar

expand into their reflections in our

eyes.

 

Three sets of

hammered out filets

pump repeatedly; as they go “Flit-

flump”

 

—become gnarled thin pads

plugged by plastic hoses

to some medichanical apparatus.

Un-

 

bound to the grunting

press of rubbed dull bone

from which they must’ve lingered to

burst

 

forth again like a vaulted question

“Could the torso previous respire

of its last setting

so?”

 

(any cool spring afternoon when

thin petrichor  made transient

promises to disperse

or

 

another rectangular

sterile room, tiny as the video

on my smart phone’s stupid plastic

screen).

 

Or “Did her breath become

what endures here through terrible

unusually over-prolonged bubble-gummy

sheens?

 

(Yet some oxygen nonetheless

remains inside her presence the shape

of being unable to let go). And

again?

 

If there is anything else you’d like to say or contribute, please do so.

I would like to thank all involved for their contributions to the furtherance of poetry in Bakersfield and Kern.

Well, Jeremy Casabella, we would like to thank you for your contribution to the Kern Poetry website.  Please continue to come back to our First Friday Open Mic night and share your interesting poetic mind with us.

 

***

 

At the end of our featured artist segment, the open mic portion of the night began and at this time we had the honor of listening to Professor Kai Chu read some of his beautiful poetry.  Professor Chu will be the featured artist at our upcoming First Friday on December 1, 2017.  Following is a couple questions I asked Professor Chu.

Please give us a short bio of your poetic journey.

My Chinese mother inspired me to write poetry, practice calligraphy as well as appreciate music.  She was an artist herself. She gave me the poetic name or sobriquet “Wood-gatherer of Purple Mountain” in reference to my hometown and evoking humility and simplicity. My love for words has stayed with me, crossing oceans, continents, cultures, and genres.

Do you have something special to share with us at the Dec. 1, 2017 First Friday night?

I will recite a poem of mine, entitled, “Silence.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about your upcoming performance?

‘Xiu Shi’ Eileen Moy will perform original and traditional pieces on Chinese musical instruments: 琵琶 (Pipa) and 古琴 (Guqin). The latter is a rare ancient instrument with a long tradition that has permeated Chinese culture, especially the poetic song, for thousands of years. The guqin was chosen as one of three intangible world heritage traditions by UNESCO to represent China.

Thank you Professor Chu.  We are so excited to hear your new poem, “Silence” and also hear the beautiful music that will be presented by Eileen Moy!  This will be a memorable evening for sure!

 

***

Several more poets and musicians shared their talents and we enjoyed everyone.  Cheyenne Goossen caught my eye while she sang an original song accompanying herself on guitar. She has graciously given us insight into her creative life by answering the following question and sharing the lyrics to her song, “One Shot Honey.”

Please give us a short bio about your poetic/songwriting journey.

I have been inspired by all types of music for as long as I can remember but my first impactful music memory is of a 5 year old me gazing into Cat Stevens’ album record cover while being serenaded by ‘Moonshadow’. At 14, I taught myself guitar and began writing and singing my own music and eventually formed a band with my older sister and another friend, whom I still love playing with today.  After graduating CSUB with a bachelor’s of science in biology, my husband and I were elated with the birth of our first son, followed by two more precious boys who are now 9, 7, and 4.  Music has taken more of a backseat while raising my family but writing, playing, singing and listening to music has remained a daily constant in my life.

It had been a year since I had performed in front of others the night I sang my most recent original song, ‘One Shot Honey’, at Dagny’s.  I was very nervous and the only reason I chose to preform was because my son’s oral language partner was experiencing extreme stage fright and I promised I would take her and my son so they could come watch for inspiration. Although I was secretly embarrassed that I only made it halfway through my song, at her next oral language performance she overcame her fears and gave it her all.  That’s what ‘One Shot Honey’ is about.  Never losing sight of your deepest passions and giving them your all, all the while staying free from the entanglement of boredom, doubt, and ego.

 

“One Shot Honey”

By Cheyenne Goossen

 

I ride on horses

While you ride on cycles

In our dreams

Every damn day

 

You like the movies

But I choose the music

And it’s tearing us apart

Now we’ve got 5 count them 5

Broken hearts

 

I described a donkey

But you saw an elephant

Dividing our love by a continent

 

Chorus

Oooooh Oooooh

Oh oh oh

Repeat

 

You took the high road

While I took the low road

God it felt like I stabbed myself behind my own back

 

And then you brought me flowers

After I made you cry all them hours

And I thought to myself this is our last shot

 

This is our last shot honey

We’ve got to give it all that we got

Cause in the end all we have is each other

 

Repeat chorus

 

***

 

Thank you all for visiting the Kern Poetry website and please come back again and get to know more of our wonderful poets and musicians who participate in the Kern Poetry First Friday event at Dagny’s.  Everyone is different yet we’re all the same, wanting to express what’s in our hearts.

 

KEEP WRITING!

 

 

 

 

 

October Open Mic Night 2017 features Catherine Abbey Hodges

First Friday Open Mic – October 6, 2017,  features Catherine Abbey Hodges

Story by Shanna O’Brien

Photos by Ezekiel Espanola

Kern Poetry First Friday open mic at Dagny’s was flowing with enthusiasm and creativity as always.  There was standing room only as poets and musicians anxiously awaited their turn to present a piece of their art, hoping to touch the hearts of everyone who listened.  And it was obvious that hearts were definitely touched as the packed room exploded with applause at the end of each presentation.

 

Our featured Bakersfield artist was Catherine Abbey Hodges who read several beautiful poems from her books, Instead of Sadness and Raft of Days.   As she captivated the crowd with pictures and emotions in her poetry, her husband, Rob Hodges, accompanied her with warm gentle tones played on his cello.  What a treat that was!  Rob also played an interlude piece that was improvised on the spot.  Together they were breathtaking.

Catherine’s generous answers to my questions below allow us to look into her world.

  • Please tell us a little about yourself, your poetry background, what got you started, your influences and inspiration.

I was that shy kid who was always off reading a book or writing something in a secret notebook. We had a lot of books, music, and visual art in our home when I was a child. Later I spent almost a decade in Indonesia with my husband and our children, and I filled journals with the experience of learning a new language and culture and way of being in the world, an experience that changed me in ways I’m still coming to understand and made language and people all the more mysterious and wonderful to me. I was a writer from the get-go, and my degrees are in English, but I didn’t formally turn to poetry until I was almost 40.

At this point in my life, I find I’m influenced and inspired by almost everything. There’s more to write about than there is time in this one life. My poems respond to images from the natural world, memories that surface from last week or somewhere in the 1960s, a phrase a student uses in an essay I’m grading. My new book has a poem inspired by a headline that ran something like “Scientists Discover Water Has Memory.”  Really, who doesn’t want to write a poem about that?

My go-to poets, to name a few, are Peter Everwine, Jane Hirshfield, Li-Young Lee, Marie Howe, Stanley Kunitz. I’m inspired by Ross Gay and Tony Hoagland. Annie Dillard is an early and continuing influence. Rebecca Solnit’s incisive and wise prose keeps me alert.

  • What are you trying to communicate with your poetry?

I guess if there’s something I want to communicate, it’s an experience, or an invitation to an experience, rather than a message. Reading and writing poems is the best way I know of holding myself still for long enough to really listen, to taste what it’s like to be alive in an unspeakably harrowing and still-beautiful world, to wrestle with my responsibilities in light of the obvious, to plumb all this and wonder at it and grieve and rejoice—those things, in other words, that save us from the spiritual devastation of surface-living. I hope that my poems may help some readers do the same.

  • Do you have any creative patterns, routines?

I teach full-time at Porterville College, and my life is brimful of rewarding work in that setting. This does mean, though, that I have to be very deliberate about making time for poems. My current pattern seems to be something like this: write obsessively in a notebook in order to process my life (this looks NOTHING like a poem except in rare instances), and in the course of those scribbles make notes in the margins on images, phrases, and memories that might be poem-fodder; do this for a few weeks; watch for the agitation/irritation/restlessness that means poem ideas are at critical mass; and then find time—2 hours to 2 weeks, depending on what I can manage—to devote solely to generating new poems and to walking. All along, no matter how busy I am, I’m reading the poems of others and feeding myself that way.

  • Please tell us about the publications you’ve created.

Instead of Sadness, my first full-length collection, was selected by Dan Gerber for the inaugural Barry Spacks Poetry Prize and was published by Gunpowder Press in 2015. That book contains 16 years’ worth of poems, some of which had been published in a chapbook in 2006 and many of which had appeared in journals and magazines. I was delighted that Gunpowder Press wanted to publish my second collection, Raft of Days, which came out earlier this year. It’s been an honor to see poems of mine featured on The Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily.

  • Please share one of your poems with us.

Since I mentioned Peter Everwine in my influences, here’s a poem dedicated to him. It’s the last poem in Raft of Days and something of an ars poetica

 

ONE VIOLET IN FEBRUARY

—for Peter Everwine

by Catherine Abbey Hodges

Home from Fresno, I wrote this poem,

then took out everything but the violet.

Later, a little rain fell back in.

There’s no story here,

 

only the song of tires on the wet street

and me making my way toward

the unsayable, dowsing

my way with syllables,

 

silence, the goodness of friends.

I’m not there yet, not even sure

I’ll know when I get there.

I couldn’t be happier.

 

Catherine Abbey Hodges

From Raft of Days, Gunpowder Press, 2017

 

Thank you so much Catherine for your generosity, your dedication to your art and for your beautiful poetry.  You are an inspiration to us all!

 

***

 

Before the open mic portion of the night began, we recognized and welcomed the presence of Poet Laureate Don Thompson who came to support Catherine Abbey Hodges!  What a thrill!   Don mentioned that he has a new book of poetry coming out on December 1, 2017, “From Here On: Four Sunday Drives” and his profile is coming out on October 28th in the Bakersfield Californian insert.   Please check out his website:  www.don-e-thompson.com

 

As the night progressed, I was touched by all the poets and especially by the poetic lyrics of two songwriters, Jimmy Borja and David T8tz.

 

Jimmy Borja is a songwriter born and raised in the Philippines but now a citizen of the U.S.  He has written numerous hits and hundreds of songs for artists of Sony-BMG, Universal, Warner and EMI.  His songs have also been recorded by a winner and finalists of Star Search, Britain’s Got Talent, Canadian Idol, The Voice-Philippines and ABC’s Duets.  He also conducts songwriting workshops and most recently he was a speaker at the West Coast Songwriters Annual Music Conference in San Francisco.  Jimmy preferred not to include lyrics to the song he performed but you can hear some of his music at:  www.jimmyborjamusic.com.

Jimmy, we wish you continued success with your songwriting!

 

David T8tz is a newcomer to Bakersfield and has been writing and performing his songs since the age of twelve.  He said the songwriter’s road has been long and quite bumpy but luckily he has survived and has completed an album, “Pack Thy Secrets Deep” which

can be found on iTunes, CD Baby, Spotify, Amazon, Bandcamp and Soundcloud. (The band camp portal is his favorite. That link is- https://davidt8tzandhislovelyfriends.bandcamp.com )

His older work can also be found on iTunes and Spotify under- Winston and the Telescreen

Please check out his website:   www.PackThySecretsDeep.com

David has a show coming up at The Bakersfield Gay and Lesbian Center with Moon Spirits on Saturday, November 11, 2017 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  Let’s go support him!

Below are lyrics to the title track of David’s album, “Pack Thy Secrets Deep,” performed for us at Dagny’s:

 

“Pack Thy Secrets Deep”

by David T8tz

He sells all his daylight, he rents out his mind
In a three walled asylum that owns all his time
He had such plans once, dreams of freedom
A pen and a notebook and stories to feed them
He’s made a nightlife inside of a bottle
He prowls his phone apps in search of a song
Companions come easy but they never feed him
He’s starving to death in the midst of them all
Are we going to, Are we going to
Are we going to die this way?

Are we going to, are we going to
Are we going to die…Mama this way?
Cause I’d rather die than see you in such pain
We’re trapped in the flames
Pack Thy Secrets Deep where no one can see them
Pack Thy Secrets Deep and hold them close
She’s back on his doorstep, she’s tear stained and windswept
She’s only come home cause there’s nowhere left to go
Her black eyes match the shade of her track marks
The ones hidden between her fingers and toes
She says “I swear that I’ll stay clean, our daughters they need me
I just need a place I can stay for a while.”
One week later she’s crouched in the corner
She’s screaming, crying, bleeding, and the needle’s on the floor
Are you going to, are you going to
Are you going to die this way?
Are you going to, are you going to
Are you going to die…Mama this way?
Cause I’d rather die than see you in such pain
We’re trapped in the flames
But I’ll pack my secrets deep where no one can see them
I’ll pack my secrets deep and hold them close
Pack Thy Secrets Deep where no one can see them
Pack Thy Secrets Deep and hold them close
So I’ll drink, I’ll get fucked, I’ll press everyone’s luck
Oh on nothing but hatred I’ll feed
There’s an ocean of rage and it’s stuck in my veins
And I can’t seem to fight my way free
I’ve held it together for the sake of our daughters
But my strength is now failing me
So won’t you please hand me a drink?
Won’t you please hand me a drink?
Won’t you please hand me my drink?

David, we thank you for sharing such an honest and deep lyric with us and we look forward to hearing more of your songs and poetry.  Welcome to Bakersfield!

 

A highlight of the evening was when poet Thomas Brill was invited to the stage by our lovely hostess, Portia Chang. Thomas moved the hearts of everyone (and moved me to tears) with his important and truth filled poem, “Valley Fever.”  He graciously accepted my request to share some of his poetic journey with us as well as the inspiration behind his meaningful poem.

  • Please share your poetic journey, when you started writing and who may have inspired you.

I have been writing poetry since high school.  I’m not sure what originally inspired my interest in writing, but I have always needed an outlet for creative expression.  I love language and I have a short attention span, so I suppose poetry was a natural.  In college I had a very dada-istic or absurdist style, but as the years went by my work went through many metamorphoses.   I typically prefer more literal and simple poetry.  Probably William Carlos Williams and Pablo Neruda are two of my biggest influences.

At any rate, I wrote “valley fever” soon after I moved to Bakersfield.  I had moved here about thirteen years ago from northern California, where I was involved in a poetry group in Sonoma, California that had a monthly reading called the “Center of the Universe,” and

sometimes it felt like it was.  My writing developed enormously in that community, and when I first moved to Bakersfield, I was writing quite a bit.

  •   Tell us why you wrote “Valley Fever” and what you are trying to communicate.

“Valley Fever” was inspired by a real life case that I worked on as a lawyer.  A widow approached me about her farmworker husband’s death of valley fever.  He had been misdiagnosed, and eventually succumbed to the disease and died.  I changed his name, of course, and the actual details are of my own invention.  I have worked as a lawyer on behalf of many migrant workers and so this is a subject that has always been near to my heart.  As the public debate about immigrants rages on, I do my best to help a few of those in need in situations that have nothing to do with their status in this country.  In that work, I have come to know the immigrant community in a much more intimate way, so I simply try to see the human side of it without regard to their legal status.

I think the message of the poem is pretty obvious.  Immigrants come here looking for a better life and often end up finding themselves cut off from their families, struggling to get by in a strange land, and in desperate circumstances.  There are so many perils related to being undocumented in the United States, including threats from “coyotes,” the unscrupulous traffickers who help people cross and often have ties to drug families, when they cannot pay the exorbitant fees to come here illegally, being abused in their workplace, and even being afraid to report crimes since they think they may be deported.  I am obviously sympathetic to their plight, and the poem is simply intended to show a different side of the picture than we often see in the media, one that I have dealt with on a personal basis.

  • Please share your poem, “Valley Fever.”

Valley Fever

by Thomas Brill

Miguel Echavarria died illegally,

a fungus carried quietly on dust spores

filled his lungs, alone in a hospital bed,

736 miles from a hand to hold

 

He had gone to Madera where his primo

got him a job in the tomatoes,

the mayordomo was from Ixtapa too,

unlicensed uninsured undocumented

and unregulated, Miguel kept

driving the tomato truck even after

they deported his primo, leaving him

alone with the dusty dreams of a

campesino and truckloads of

semi-ripe tomatoes ready for the warehouse

where they would be gassed red and bug free,

Miguel and the other “aliens” loading

crates freshly picked onto the dusted flat bed,

dry dirt thick like smoke in the heat of

$25 a ton,

only the dust spores are free of charge.

 

Breath deep, young man, be strong,

your family’s burden placed on your

sturdy shoulders, you still have your

youth, your health, your work,

shares an apartment with four other men,

his girlfriend in Mexico didn’t have the heart

to invite him to her wedding with her

newfound sweetheart, though she did name her son

Miguel.

 

Miguel caught the fever and they sent him

to the clinic where the nameless go,

where the doctors ask few questions

and hand out generic solutions,

sent him home with a bottle of hopes

that he could return to work

and he did, working the rest of the week

a little overtime to send off a postal order,

$200.

 

Sinews strain and the eyes go blank,

the head is heavy, the dust hangs everywhere,

it seems, even in his dreams. dust borne

fingers running through his hair, his blood,

misdiagnosed, indifferent to antibiotics

that were not designed for valley fever,

a fungus slowly eating away

at his future, his family’s too.

until one day he couldn’t get up, the wet rags

no longer cooled his feverish mind, he was

alone in a cold bed on a hot Autumn afternoon,

the money orders suddenly stopped,

he rolled back and forth and his eyes

rolled up in his head and he died.

 

Just there, just like that,

the indentation still in his pillow

when the ambulance took him away,

John Doe 13, coccidiodes immitis,

the death certificate said, but no one read it

anyway.

Thank you so much Thomas Brill for coming to Dagny’s and sharing your poem, “Valley Fever.”  Such poetry raises consciousness and awareness which is a gift to all of us.  Much respect to you.

***

Well — that’s a recap of another enlightening, inspiring and creative evening.  Please come back to our website again and get to know more of our wonderful poets and musicians who participate in the Kern Poetry First Friday event at Dagny’s.  Everyone is different yet we’re all the same, wanting to express what’s in our hearts.

 

KEEP WRITING

 

 

Open Mic July 7, 2017 at Dagny’s

First Friday Open Mic

Story by Alex Victoria

Photos by Ezekiel Espanola

Like too many other Bakersfield summer days, the heat had not abated going into the afternoon, but perhaps thankfully our tiny room within Dagny’s Coffee Shop offered a chilled refuge for attendees of the July 2017 First Friday event.

However, a different kind of heat pervaded the open mic night as soon as the performances began.

On top of the usual poetry performances, there were a number of standout musical performances, beginning with the impressive strums of Kyle’s powerful performance about daily life and contemplation of the plight of others.

Notable as well was the memorized (and mesmerizing) spoken word performance by Sunny, a new arrival to our local community by way of Michigan. He painted a scene in the life of a damaged but determined woman with his first piece, and delivered an enthusiastic and at times biting social and political commentary with his second piece.

Notable among the more traditional poetry performances were the grim (by his own admission) but poignant pieces of Terry, the impromptu, crowd involving craft of Julie Jordan Scott, and a performance by the always wonderful Liz Greynolds. You can find the piece she delivered presented in full below.

 

I’ll Tuck n Roll

by Liz Greynolds

 

I’ll tuck n roll

me to my death baby

ooo I like it raw no skin

skraight scraped bones

in the holes where my teeth go

from gnawing on ropes and chains

and headphone strings and that sorta thing

 

I’m going to drive a car

I’ll make my mark and wake

not to find a place or a bottomless pit

but a sweet sweet vomitorium with a scent

nothing short of intoxicating

 

but if you’re ever feeling

something maybe more milder

I’ll take you where I loiter be my experiment

incomplete my garden overflows with lillies in the

sometimes