Poetry at Women’s March, Kern County

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.



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.”



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


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,


not hesitatingly like a distant fog-covered sunrise,

but rather like an eruption,

unwilling to be punched down,



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


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?




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





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

we die if we lose too much

A sign of an ending

I feel my childhood dying.

A death so painfully inescapable


                         Today, I have become a woman





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.






Eyes down

Listening carefully

For signs


A raised voice

Tension exuded




Whispering steps




Of past



Breath held





Every word




Be a trigger



At the target

Of the heart

And mind


Body can

Be broken








Raining down




Thoughts and



Reactions become





Stuffed down

Held in check


By the Other








All potential


In tears






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.”


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