A transformative new publication, The WASTELAND  

The Wasteland is an exciting new publication by and for our community.  It is a “collaborative project made up of local artists and writers from Bakersfield and the surrounding Kern County communities.”  Its “goal is to create a collaborative space showcasing all of the talent that the community has to offer.”  


The publication features poetry, art, photography and fiction.  You can contribute your own art or writing by emailing thewastelandsubmissions@gmail.com.

Rusty Hatfield, the curator and the arranger of The Wasteland, provided the inside story of the creation of the publication.  He is also a poet, an artist and a writer. 

Here is the story of the birthing of The Wasteland; and a poem as presented by Rusty.        

The Art is a Spark
By Rusty Hatfield

Art is a spark, and we are the flame.
It found dry tinder in us.
It reached into us,

It pulled us apart and together again.
As often as it needed,
to ignite the fire of us.

The cosmos is impartial,
good is a thing left to mankind to create
and when reason, and compassion
fall on deaf ears

Art is a spark

We are not the candle flame
Burning gently on your mantle piece.
We are the tormented flame.

The disturbed, and prodded Inferno.
Belching forth constellations.
So that each of those sparks
might find dry tinder in them

The glow of this fire lifts callous shadows
So that men and women might better see
men and women.

So when the engines of change press in upon
the tyranny of now we remember,
and understand.

That in the heart of that engine,
there is a spark.
and we are the flame.

And a flame




The Birth of The Wasteland: A New ‘Zine for Kern County Creatives

In the last sputtering gasp of the year 2021(and what a year it was), a group of friends sat around a table sipping coffee and beer. It wasn’t a particularly peculiar day, except that around that table a ‘zine called The Wasteland was born. 

A “‘zine” (ZEEN) is a small press publication, shorthand for the word “magazine”, though distinct in character from traditional magazines. ‘Zines are often handcrafted, and usually focus on a particular place, such as a city, or a particular niche of content. ‘Zines are an artifact of a place and time and in an increasingly digital world with all of its impermanence, that is the quality that makes them precious. In this case the ‘zine featured poetry, art, and fiction, nurtured right here in Kern County. 

The titular “wasteland”, it turned out, was the community itself, or rather, how the community was perceived by those on the outside. Kern County has often been seen as a culturally barren space with nothing to offer to the rest of the world. Sure, it had its music back in the day, but now it was all cracked earth and the sound blowing tumbleweeds to those who didn’t know any better. Even those who promoted arts and culture in Kern often viewed it as a blank spot to be filled. To make Bakersfield into LA, to colonize the wasteland. Thus, The Wasteland became the title of the group’s endeavor. In order to own and reclaim a negative image. To become a signal in the wasteland. 

As a publication, The Wasteland’s mission would not be to make the place something that it is not, instead the book would focus on nurturing what was here. Giving poets, storytellers, and artists a platform upon which they could be seen and recognized. A way in which they could change the perception. 

The first publication released in December of 2021, and the response was tremendously positive despite the small print run. It turns out that the naysayers had been wrong. Kern County wasn’t a blank space in the creative landscape. It was home to a vibrant community of artists, writers, and musicians who were creating work with distinctive style. New styles were developed here that were unlike those in surrounding regions, but Kern can be a tough place to be for creators. While the landscape is fertile, it’s also sun baked and hard and every creator here is a scrappy survivor. A flower pushing through the tough earth with the force of their will and creative drive. 

Subsequent issues saw a tremendous increase in content submitted by local creators, and the artistic flood shows no sign of ebbing. For the second issue of the bimonthly book, the number of copies that were produced doubled in size and was eagerly snatched up by art-hungry readers. The area, it seems, has an awful lot to say and great things to show us. The community is eager for it. 

  The book is 32 pages filled with a curated selection of the best the county has to offer. Beautiful words, engaging stories, and images from people who live or grew up here. Interested readers can pick up their copies for free from select local businesses. The book is produced by Rusty Hatfield and Mallory Kilmer, and they state that are committed to keeping the ‘zine free of charge. To them it is not a commercial endeavor, their costs may be measured in dollars, but their gains are measured in community. Art has a way of changing the world for the better and their goal is to foster and inspire the arts. 

The ‘zine has so far been entirely supported by small individual donations. The group is presently working toward non-profit status, allowing them access to grants with which they hope to continue their arts activism in Kern County.

If KernPoetry.com readers are interested in supporting The Wasteland, either by donating to their mission or submitting their own work for consideration, they are encouraged to reach out to the contact information provided. The book is released every other month, and both written and visual work is considered. Whether you are supporting the ‘zine with money or with your own creative endeavors, you are helping to water the cracked earth and make Kern County a more vibrant and beautiful place.

Those wishing to contact The Wasteland may do so by emailing thewastelandsubmissions@gmail.com, or via Instagram @wasteland_zine.

A website is in the works and will be debuted soon. If you’d like to submit written work to be considered for upcoming issues of “The Wasteland”, send a plain text or word document and be sure to include your name as you would like it to appear.

If you’d like to donate to The Wasteland you may do so via Venmo: @wasteland_zine
(You may skip the optional confirmation step)