photos by Martin Chang
In June and July of 2016 the poets of Bakersfield came to Open Mic. They had an opportunity to performs more of their poetry these two months.
Photos by Martin Chang
In 2016, Don Thompson was selected as the first Poet Laureate of Kern County. Thompson has written poems about Kern County for fifty years. He is prolific in his publication, of over 150 journal publications and dozen books. His love for Kern County is expressed in his poems. He has influenced the poets in Kern County and shared his poem at various readings and workshop over the years. Also reading were students from local high school, college and university. The vitality of the poetry community was reflected in the reading of the works by these talented poets. These students were Liz Greynolds, Mateo Lara, Adriana Sanchez, and Alex Victoria.
National Poetry Month, April, was inaugurated in our country by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. In Kern County, National Poetry Month started in 2010, and celebrated each year. It was started by local community poets in memory of two poets who have passed on, Helen Shanley and Lee McCarthy.
Photos by Martin Chang
At each First Friday, poets perform their original works to standing room only crowd at Dagny’s Coffee located in downtown Bakersfield. Most months a poet or songwriter is featured sharing their original works, then the event becomes an open mic to poets, spoken word artists and musicians performing their original creations.
This fall KernPoetry and Dagny’s Coffee held a Open Mic every First Friday. At the event poets and musicians are welcome to share their original work with the public. This fall a variety of talents shared their work. Every month poets and musicians are featured. The above photographs are a sample of the eclectic artists that perform.
There was excitement mixed with hesitation among the poets at Dagny’s, the hesitation in sharing one’s innermost feeling and thoughts in poetry with others, some who were friends and some who were stranger. Excitement also in that it was a contest with four poets being recognized with awards.
On Saturday November 21, 2015 poets and friends came together at Dagny’s Coffee for an open mic hosted by the Taft College Literary Magazine Club. Alex Victoria, the editor of the club’s magazine, A Sharp Piece of Awesome, was the emcee for the event. Victoria said that it was a way to promote their magazine and also to accomplish one of the club’s mission to spread and encourage culture and literacy in Kern County.
The event was judged by a panel of published, local poets who selected the first, second and third place. The criteria were originality in use of words, the poetic expression and ability to connect with the audience. There was also an award for people’s choice, based on the response of the other poets and friends of poetry.
Geoffrey Dyer, professor of English at Taft College, was the faculty sponsor of the Taft College Literary Magazine Club.
The first place winner was Liz Greynolds who read from her poem “6:00”.
A few of the lines are:
“That’s where I saw it first.
I sat and watched it – the light
Until the sun got snagged on it and dragged it behind a mountain
And I was left in the unlight of a desert where dark was tangible and colors
Existed in memory”
Greynolds was inspired by a simple moment in her life. “The poem was originally a diary entry that I jotted down really quickly while lying in my bedroom and being awestruck by the way the sunlight was coming in,” she said. “It reminded me of a dream I had where I watched the sunset in a desert. I knew my phone wouldn’t be able to do it justice in a picture, so I tried to use my words instead. It was turned into a poem months later, and it’s one of my favorites to read aloud.”
Greynolds has been “writing poetry since middle school” and began to “identify my writing as poetry until about a year ago when someone else referred to it as poetry. . . I’m inspired by the things that are all around us, like light and nature.” She likes “writing that creates a setting and places you in it using delicious language, and poetry is my favorite medium to do so.”
The People’s Choice was won by Mariah Bathe who read a poem after an encounter with an employee of a food establishment after her divorce.
“I am not and will never be the girl looking for someone to affirm her outward appearance for edification
No thank you
Because I’d rather spend a thousand years weeping in front of my ex-husband who has more respect for me in his right pinkie finger than you did those two minutes.”
Mariah has “always had an interest in poetry and had the desire to write since a young age but it wasn’t until recent that I felt the freedom to actually act on it.” For Mariah, poetry becomes “a form of release for me in times of heartache or trial. It helps keep my head and heart unburdened.”
The other two awards went to Zack Alqaisi for the second place and Shawn McQuilliams for the third place.
Photos and story by Martin Chang
On August 7th, many poets performed to a full room at the open mic at Dagneys. Above, a sampling of poets are pictured, below a little bit about each of them is explained.
Ebone King read her poetry about relationships. A mother of one, she calls her poetry “my art, my life, my feelings.” At first she didn’t know she was writing poetry. “It started out as me just writing down the things that I had been through, the things that I have seen. Then someone picked up a letter and said, “this is a poem” and I said no it’s just me writing my thoughts,” she said.
She discovered these writing didn’t take a lot to become poetry.
She said, “I threw in a word here and there and suddenly it was a story.”
King calls her writing a “coping skill.” “Sometimes there’s an inability to express yourself, but nobody listens better than pen and paper.”
Another poet who read that night, Carley Tolomei, gets a similar catharsis from her writing. “Nobody understands me like I understand myself, I’m my own therapist. I didn’t know how to portray the emotions that I was feeling to other people. I really wanted that, I was wringing my hair out. When I started doing poetry, it helped me to do that.” Tolomei’s poetry also started out as just writing in her journal.
Kai Chu read a poem by Lao-tzu, an ancient Chinese sage. He has a passion for Chinese language and culture. He read the poem in order to share with the young people “a different kind of poetry.”
Benjamin Dunham graduated in political science at Colorado Mesa University. He calls his poetry a “maelstrom in the mind that I cannot escape.”