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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

 

 

MOON SPIRITS featured at Open Mic

 

First Friday Open Mic – September 1, 2017
Story by Shanna O’Brien
Photos by David Serrato

YIPPEE!! It was another wonderful evening at the Kern Poetry open mic night held at Dagny’s Coffee Shop.  The room was brimming with poets and musicians anxious and excited to share their revealing creations. All were shown appreciation with enthusiastic attention and applause.

The featured Bakersfield artist was a new musical group called “Moon Spirits,” who mesmerized us with their dreamy and captivating melodies and lyrics.  Watch out for their performances around town and you’ll agree they are HOT.  Below is a little insight into the band given by guitarist José M. Lopez:

Please name everyone in your band and tell us what instrument they play.

Aramy Scrimshire – guitar, vocals
John Lanier – piano, vocals
Felix Lopez Jr –  drums, guitar, beatbox, vocals
José M. Lopez – guitar, beatbox, vocals

How did you and band come up with the name “Moon Spirits?

After much trial and error of picking interesting words out of a bag we finally combined the words “Moon” and “Spirit.” It resonated with us due to our profound love of the Moon and our Vibrant Spirits.

What is the intent of your music and what type of audience do you hope to reach?

We all have different intents with our music but one we could all agree on is to truly express ourselves and the songs we compose to the best of our ability. Every song we create is like a Wave that hopefully ripples out and brings whatever the worlds people may need for further growth as human beings.

As leader of the band, when did you start playing the guitar and what inspired you to write songs?

I wouldn’t necessarily say I am the “Leader” of this band. Leaders are chosen and as far as I can tell they have never named me their leader. I began playing with the guitar when I was very little however, it was more of an off and on relationship so I’d say with regards to total hours played, it must be under a year’s worth of guitar practice.

The Beauty of the Universe inspired me to write songs. My first song was about a girl I met during a field trip. Although I was a freshman looking at college campuses and she was a tour guide, I could tell our connection was genuine. Her small entrance into my life was mirrored by her even more rapid departure and I couldn’t help but write my High-School single named “Sweet College Girl.” It was in Spanglish to further express how our bilingual conversation was the most beautiful I’ve ever had.

Are there any musical influences that inspired your band’s direction?

No. Well none that we are consciously aware of at least.

After “Moon Spirits” finished their performance, the evening opened up to poetry and one of the most interesting poets was Mandy Anderson whose pen name is Rainy Dawn. Below is Mandy’s fascinating poem followed by her insightful interview:

 Who Asked Your Fucking Opinion
by Mandy Anderson (Rainy Dawn)

Short shorts, miniskirts, short black dresses

You know what these have in common?
Slut
Because wearing any of these means baring skin

It means someone thinks you want to be sexual
It means you must be a girl, only girls wear these

It means put some damn clothes on, you are practically naked! 

Girls who bare skin are the easiest to get. 

Chokers wrap around her neck, space buns up her hair two tones of purple
She has a black belt in taking blows to the face
She must like it rough, BDSM is her thing
When did self-expression turn into an open door

Of others belittling those trying to find a place in this world

People who are trying to find themselves
NO.. I am not a slut because I love the way the sun kisses the uncovered parts of my body
NO.. I am not a slut because I love the way these shirts amplify the curves of my body
Chokers are just decorations I add to this empty canvas I have been given
My hair becomes my art project when i suddenly need change
Oh and last thing..
Who asked your fucking opinion anyway?

 

What are you trying to communicate with your poetry/art – and in particular the poem from first Friday?

Most of my poetry or writing in general has one theme; acceptance – whether that be acceptance of oneself, gaining acceptance or learning to accept all the differences in the world. I write a lot about the things no one wants to talk about. My poem “Who Asked Your Fucking Opinion” has to do with a trend I’ve seen as well as have been pulled into. Memes in the social media world are making it so much easier for bullies to attack. Girls are constantly being specialized. Boys can’t dress like girls and girls can’t dress like boys everything is based on this preconceived gender role we were given without a choice. If you wear a choker you must be a slut. Girls can’t enjoy their unique bodies they have been given. They are constantly being told to feel ashamed. Ashamed of their sexuality, their body, told to hide it away. Only guys are allowed to like pleasure and be open about it. Guys can bare skin and now (not)  feel ashamed. My poem is a girl reclaiming her self-image and being proud.

What does “being creative” mean to you? 

Creativity to me means seeing the world through many different lenses at a time and from many angles, taking those different images and putting them out for the world to view. It’s take rawness and bring it to the surface of life. Anything can become a story for a writer; painters can incorporate many different colors showing you details that they can see. Creativity is believing in a world we can’t see. It’s connected to our imaginations. We work with our surroundings and bring it to life in a dream world.

Do you have any creative patterns, routines or rituals?

Meditating is extremely important for me; it allows me to quiet myself and my surroundings. Doing so allows my thoughts to be less all over, allowing them to flow and it’s reflected through my writing. I also love going to things that inspire me. Watching slam poetry on Button Poetry has become a big part of my routine, along with reading R.M. Drakes work on line.

Is there a time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

I was a freshman in high school. Growing up I was taught to hide my emotions. I had a hard time learning how to express how I felt. Writing was my door to the outside world. While I couldn’t speak verbally about how I felt sometimes, writing always got me through it. I knew I had to have my voice heard and to be a voice for the voiceless. I also wanted to bring some happiness back into a mad world.

Do you have any advice to share about how to be more creative?

Listen to your mind, body, and spirit. Only you can truly learn from yourself when it comes to creativity anything else is just tools to help guide you.

Do you have a favorite thing you’ve ever created?

My daughter will always be my favorite creation if we are being technical, but in the art world I am currently putting together a book that I am extremely proud of.

Are there other creative mediums you would like to pursue?

I would love to spend more time painting! My girlfriend and daughter paint all the time!

 

 

Although all performing poets and musicians were captivating, another who caught my ear was poet Caleb Coley, a tall handsome young man, who recited his poem “Black and Lonely.”  Please enjoy his poem below followed by his thoughtful interview:

 Black​ ​&​ ​Lonely
by Caleb Coley

 I’m bad at makin’ friends,
My eye contact is unwavering,
Like a black hole somebody told me.
I either talk too much or not at all,
I go off on like 12 different tangents when I try to tell a story.
I’m very pretty, that’s no lie,
But girls don’t like me, and shit like that is probably why.
I’m quite tall, I guess that intimidates people,
When I can reach the top shelf, they get mad that vertically, we’re not equal.
I get afraid to open up to people,
I feel like that big ass book in the back of the library that no one wants to read.
I don’t know how to approach people,
So in my free time, I kinda just workout and eat.
This is a pretty sad story but I’m keepin’ it lighthearted,
If I feel myself about to cry, I’ll just point out that that girl farted.
That’s not nice, but see I do that, I’m mean cuz I’m scared,
I got these walls because I’d hate burden to bear.
So I ride solo, like Han with no Chewy,
I’ll never get my princess Leia,
I’m just a little too spooky.
Now I’m talking about Star Wars and I lost where I started,
Before I get choked up, don’t forget, she farted.

What are you trying to communicate with your poetry/art – and in particular the poem from first Friday?

My art is not only a reflection of the reality I live in, but also the different realities that I dream of. My poem on First Friday was, simply put, one of many cries for help.

What does “being creative” mean to you? 

Being “creative” gives you the power to build worlds out of thoughts. It’s a superpower to me.

Do you have any creative patterns, routines or rituals?

My entire being more or less revolves around my creativity, so there are no patterns or rituals. I just do.

Is there a time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

I’ve been drawing since I could pick up a crayon, writing ever since I learned my first word. I guess it’s in my blood.

Do you have any advice to share about how to be more creative?

My advice would be to not think about it while simultaneously thinking about it all the time subconsciously. You’ll know what that feels like once you start to master it. Everything you need to be creative/a creator is already within you.

Do you have a favorite thing you’ve ever created?

I’m forever in a constant battle to outdo myself, in every aspect of life. So I guess my favorite thing I’ve ever created is the person I am in the current day, because I always make sure that I’m a little bit better than I was yesterday

Are there other creative mediums you would like to pursue?

I want to do everything I can. I wanna act, write, sing, rap, learn instruments, paint, etc. My main goal in life though, the one I’m working towards as we speak, is that I want to write and star in my own film franchise. I wanna create a world for future generations to escape into.

 

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!

 

Open Mic August 4, 2017

First Friday Open Mic – August 4, 2017

 Story by Shanna O’Brien

Photos by: Christina Noel

 

It was so much fun covering the hostess position for Portia at the August 4, 2017 Kern Poetry open mic night held at Dagny’s Coffee Shop.  The room was full to capacity with enthusiastic smiling folks ready to share their hearts and souls.  As each poet or musician expressed their art, the audience quietly listened and responded with appreciative applause. Everyone encouraged the “newbies” to continue writing and continue coming back to share.  Several people said they could feel the love and support in the room and that’s what it’s all about.  It takes courage to stand in front of people we don’t know and expose thoughts and feelings in poetry and song. At the end of the night we gave one last round of applause for everyone in the room, thanking each other for showing up and participating.

One of the poets who attended was Emily Andrews, who graciously agreed to an interview and below are her answers to my questions:

How did you come to express yourself through poetry? 

“I was looking for a way to express my heart’s language.  I wanted to speak the truth and just get everything out on paper.  Once I wrote my first poem I was hooked.   It was so thrilling —  the feeling you get when you finish your very own masterpiece.”

Do you have any influences?

“My first influence was my Mom. She sparked my interest in English and writing at a very young age.  She taught English.  She is a very captivating and educated woman.  I am also influenced by Reyna Biddy.  She speaks from the heart and is all about spoken word.  I also admire the R. H. Sin’s “Whiskey, Words, and a Shovel” series.  It gets me writing every time I put the book down.”

What inspires you to write?  “What mainly inspires me is an emotion bubbling up inside and when I spill the ink on paper it represents how I’m feeling in that moment in time.  And when I write, I try to come up with a message of truth and go from there.”

Can you describe the time when you first realized that writing was something you absolutely had to do?

“I felt very empty inside and writing filled my soul and I realized, when other people could relate to my words, it was something that I had to do.”

Do you have a favorite poem you’ve written?

“My favorite is a simple poem called “Life’s a Beach” – it was a simple time in my life that sparked that emotion but it was the first poem I was ever proud of.”

 

Below is one of the two poems Emily shared with us on Friday, Aug. 4.

“Revolving”

by Emily Andrews

Boom! I’m Back

Thrown against the ground tossed under the depths of ocean blue emotion I feel for you

I might drown

I’m like a boomerang you see

I always come back around

I come up for air before I hit the ground

Why do I feel things so deeply you ask? My answer is simple, love doesn’t hurt me, the love I have for you doesn’t hurt me, what you choose to do with that love hurts me. I’m a boomerang but I’m not coming back around this time

Lies I tell myself as I prepare to deny your late night messages of lust

Throwing me away but expecting me to come back

As if you didn’t confine me enough

I’m a boomerang and I keep coming back

I always come back

It is the way I am wired

To love without getting tired

To give without anything in return required

One thing must change

I’m a boomerang

You just need to want me when I come back around.

 

 

Also attending was actor/writer/landscape architect/artist, Edward Charles Waters, who shared his spoken word describing what his father meant to him. Edward’s emotional presentation came from deep in his heart and his tears moved everyone in the room.  Edward agreed to answer a few questions for our readers.

What moved you to present spoken words about your Father?

The piece I presented titled “Dad” is one of two dominant works of mine.  Both are about my father and me during the period of time when I was between the ages of three and eight.  I wanted to support my friend Shanna O’Brien who was hosting the Open Mic at Dagny’s on August 4.  I wanted to perform this most personal piece for her and for a live audience.  As an actor / performer, it is important that I take advantage of opportunities to flay the skin off my vulnerabilities.

What are you trying to communicate with your art?

Who I am and what I came from I suppose.  I like “slice of life” works.  Ones that take me somewhere vividly and introduce me to people and thoughts I otherwise would not have known – works that inform me and teach me.  I am informed and taught in the writing of the work and am informed and taught in the reading or observation of what others produce.  This kind of work brings us closer together.

What does being creative mean to you?

It means everything.  I am so fortunate to be gifted with Creativity.  To be able to express what I see and feel artistically!  Art, which is the expression of Creativity, is the language of God.  By utilizing my gift, I align myself with God and all the Power and Knowledge of the Universe!

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

I always get still.  I listen.  After a while, I see.  After another while, I understand.  The answer comes.  The answer comes as to what to say, how to play the part, how to solve the design problem.  I have learned that in all forms of Art, I cannot force the process.  I merely have to get out of my own way.

What’s the favorite thing you’ve ever created?

My life and I create and recreate it daily!

 

Below is Edward Charles Waters spoken word titled “Dad.”

“DAD”

by Edwards Charles Waters

In the early fifties, I was just a little guy and Dad was a single parent who had custody of me on weekends.  He was a striking figure of a man with matinee idol good looks.  But instead of opting for a social life with adult friends on weekends, he chose to spend that time with me.

He was a guide and a teacher and the world of Chicago was our classroom.  His style was somewhere between Socrates’ and Mickey Spillane’s.

He introduced me to so many people, places and things that I had a head start on other kids my age and never lost ground.

He took me to every nook and cranny in the City of Chicago.  To Lincoln Park and the Zoo.  To see Bushman, the gorilla.  To the Lion House at feeding time.  He sat me on his shoulders so I had a good view.

We walked and talked on dark streets late at night.  A “Mutt and Jeff” pair.  He took me to past crime scene locations, to all-night diners and to corner taverns.  He took me to all the museums and to the planetarium.  To Lake Michigan and the “Rocks”.  To Notre Dame and to mass.

He introduced me to Shakespeare, Homer, Cicero and Caesar.  To navy bean soup, cotton candy and street vendor hot dogs.  To “Dick the Bruiser”, the “Cisco Kid” and his sidekick “Pancho”, and to Jack Brickhouse.

He let me sit on his lap and drive his car and ride the roller-coaster at Riverview Park.

He taught me how to swim and how to dive, how to tread water and how to float on my back.

He taught me to “try it”, to fear nothing and no one, to be proud to be a Waters, and to walk right up and “stick your hand out.”

He taught me to help a blind person cross a street, that where there is right there is might, and that everyone deserves their “shot.”

He bragged some, but usually about others…like Uncle Charles, or me.

He loved his country.  He loved the Navy…they had good “chow.”

He loved to lie in the sun.  He loved the water…any water.

He liked a beer every now and then, and to “stop in” on friends.

He loved me and I loved Him.

Bye Dad. I’ll see you soon.

Eddie

 

In closing I would like to say, “What a wonderful evening!”  Everyone is different yet we’re all the same, wanting to express what’s in our hearts.  So let’s

KEEP WRITING!

Nancy Edwards’ Mother Remembered

 Nancy Edwards’ Beloved Mother

story by Portia Choi 

       

Nancy Edwards

Nancy Edwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Beloved Mother

By Nancy Edwards

 

In the webbed flesh of your

Inside elbow

In these layers of tender skin

I am born once more

When you hold me,

Beloved Mother

 

When you hold me

I want to return

To the perfume of

Your vanity table

And douse myself

In Mother’s love powder

Cake flour fine

Only mother has it

 

I am in the webbed flesh of your

Inside elbow Mother,

You are my cradle,

My beloved mother,

I live in the fragrance

Of your loose powder

And flower perfume

 

You are always

The place inside

You hold me forever

In the stream of my birth

When I am in your arms

You are my beloved Mother.

 

 

Querida Madre (Beloved Mother)

Translated by Rosa Garza

 

En la tela de tu codo

En esas capas de tierna piel

He nacido otra vez

Cuando me acaricias otra vez

Querida Madre

 

Cuando me acaricias

Quiero volver

Al perfume de

Tu tocador

Y ponerme polvo

Polvo de amor materno

Harina fina

Que solo la madre tiene

 

Estoy en la tela de tu codo

Tu eres mi cuna

Mi querida madre

Vivo en el polvo

Y perfume de flor

 

Siempre eres

El Lugar adentro

Donde me abrazas para siempre

En la corriente de mi nacer

Cuando estoy en tus brazos

Tue eres mi querida madre

 

Source:  Beloved Mothers Queridas Madres, BAKERSFIELD COLLEGE, 1992

EVERYTHING BARREN WILL BE BLESSED by Don Thompson

EVERYTHING BARREN WILL BE BLESSED by Don Thompson, Kern County Poet Laureate

Story by Portia Choi

Poets and friends gathered to celebrate National Poetry Month at Dagny’s Coffee on April 1, 2017.  They celebrated by discussing poems in a book by Don Thompson, the first Poet Laureate of Kern County.  The book is Everything Barren Will be Blessed.

Annis Cassells, Tim Chang, Portia Choi and Mona Sidhu each selected a poem from the book.  Then the poems were read aloud to the whole group, once by each individual, for a total of four times per poem.

With each re-reading, there was new understanding, feeling or image perceived from the poem.  There seemed to be continuing communication between the poet and the reader with each reading.

One of the poems discussed was “Tumbleweed.”  There was greater understanding of the poem as each person read the poem.  There was appreciation of the unique way that Thompson perceived his surroundings.  The last two lines of the poem is, “as if pulling the wind behind them/ caught on thousands of tiny hooks.”  One usually thinks that it’s the wind that blows a tumbleweed around.  Yet the poem states that it’s the wind being pulled by the tumbleweed.   And that the wind does not blow through, but is “caught” among the “tiny hooks.”

Another poem, also shown below, was “Abandoned Labor Camp.”

Thompson once said that he gets his inspiration from the “sound of silence, the night sounds, the silence behind the birds.”  He would pull off the road, and he stopped to listen.  “The animals are listening too,” he said.

“Poetry is about language. . . the language of interacting with the world,” said Thompson.

 

 

TUMBLEWEED

By Don Thompson

 

A lost tribe of tumbleweeds

crosses the road

a half mile or so ahead of me,

bounding along

while little ones hustle to keep up.

 

They’re uprooted, of course,

subject to the wind’s whims,

and could end anywhere—

maybe against a fence

to be gathered and burned by farm hands.

 

I know that . . .

But they seem so cheerful,

confidant and in control,

as if pulling the wind behind them

caught on thousands of tiny hooks.

 

 

ABANDONED LABOR CAMP

By Don Thompson

 

The rusted out and weathered sign

has nothing left to say—

like wooden grave markers

that used to have someone’s name on them.

 

You can tell that the two rows

of well-built bungalows

were tough for campesinos to get into.

There must have been a long waiting list.

 

But now, no glass intact,

and almost every door rkicked down,

ripped from the hinges that died hard,

the roofs slump, some already collaped.

 

And the few shade trees

that haven’t given up the ghost,

unpruned, unappreciated,

have gone crazy with loneliness.

 

 

 

 

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