First Friday Open Mic at Dagny’s Coffee (Summer 2019)
There were poets and musicians, new faces and seasoned performers at Dagny’s Coffee during the summer 2019 at First Friday Open Mic.
Below are interviews of poets who performed during the summer. An in-depth interview is made of Julie Jordan Scott by Carla Martin. Julie hosted the Open Mic on May 3, 2019 and on July 5, 2019. Additional interviews and their poems include Austin Yi (performed June 7, 2019) and Mateo Lara (performed August 2, 2019).
Open Mic June 2019
Photos by Kern Poetry
Open Mic July 2019
Photos by Kern Poetry
Interview with Julie Jordan Scott
By Carla Martin
Q. Julie, you hosted in May and July of 2019, and did such a fabulous job! I was wondering if you’d care to share some of what you know about poets and poetry in our community and beyond?
A. First, I love hosting Poetry Open Mics. Many people in Bakersfield know me from my work in local theater. What they don’t know is that long before theater I was hosting Open Mic Night at Barnes and Noble, almost twenty years ago. I love encouraging poets and writers. I especially love creating community among writers and poets. That was one note of kudos I received when I hosted at Dagny’s. One of the people there said I made everyone feel welcome and affirmed.
Q. What are some “happenings” you are aware of? Opportunities to submit poems, or read poems, etc.
A. I spend most of my time with poets and writing poetry on social media. I need to improve my submitting skills!
In May, for example, I did a livestream series on Periscope and Instagram on Meditation and Poetry. What I loved most about this was sharing poetry found on the Poetry Foundation website which houses every single issue of Poetry Magazine that has been published since 1912. Visitors may print the poems there which is what I did during May and I encourage others to do as well.
Here is a link to the blog post I wrote introducing that series.
Videos may be found on my Instagram page. Here is one:
I don’t know of any local events right now. I am not looking to be out and about much. I am at high risk after my illness in October, so I am better off staying at home. I know the Thursday night open mic at Dagny’s was doing some instagram lives for a while, but I don’t know if they still are.
Q. Are there any issues pertaining to our region that you are passionate about? What should we be aware of?
A. In the past I was very interested in education and immigration. I am still interested in both but not as active.
Recently I participated in a Pride Parade in the Oleander area that was so fun. My daughter and I decorated our car and we represented the Empty Space theater. The Creative Crossings have done many murals in Oleander and beyond, some permanent and some chalk. Watching them grow and share so much exuberance in the community is my new local favorite.
Q. Do you like to read poetry? If you do, what poets have influenced you? Who have messages you connect with, or styles you admire?
A. I love reading poetry. When I was a newer poet, I didn’t understand the power of reading other people’s poetry: it felt like being in the classroom which I didn’t want to do! Once I started reading poets like Mary Oliver and Billy Collins I just kept going. I love finding prose writers such as Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich and Diane Ackerman who are also poets.
When I teach writing classes to adults, I always encourage poetry reading as a way to become better prose writers. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, “Prose = words in their best order; — poetry = the best words in the best order.”
Q. What advice would you give to other folks wanting to create poems? How do you make a poem?Do you have a special place you go to, or music you listen to, etc.? Give us a glimpse into your creative process.
- Always carry a notebook with you AND/OR jot notes in your phone. I have a note folder in my phone I call “poetry jots” where I take notes on imagery, portions of eavesdropped conversations, interesting things I may say aloud or think that may become an interesting bit of poetry.
- Write everywhere. It might sound counter-cultural, but I am opposed to having “one special place to write.” To me that is an invitation to being blocked. The more comfortable writers can get in more places – and become less self-conscious the more freely their words will flow.
- Create a writing goal. My current everyday writing goal sounds enormous – which it is – and also tiny – which it is. Today is 198 of 377 consecutive days of haiku poetry I write every day in the morning and post on my Facebook page. In fact, I often assign my writing students to use haiku for lots of writing. Allen Ginsburg, one of the great beat poets devised something called “The American Sentence Poem” which is a seventeen-syllable poem without the three-line Japanese haiku structure of five syllables-seven syllables – five syllables.
Right now, until the beginning of August, I have added an additional challenge of writing a haiku at sunrise.
How this process works has definitely helped me during the pandemic because it requires me to leave my house and be in (urban) nature here in Bakersfield. I take a photo, I write a haiku to go with the photo, I post on Facebook and I go on with my day.
Some of them have bombed and others have been embraced. This helps the creative to learn some work will be a success and some work will flop. It’s all good, either way! What is important is every day I am intentionally putting my words out there into the world. It wipes away self-consciousness and sometimes it even inspires people.
Julie’s poetry blog: https://juliejordanscott.typepad.com/jjspoetry/
See Julie Jordan Scott’s words and photos on Facebook. Here are a few selections.
The first one that started it all:
Making my subject local historical places gets audiences interested:
Art begets Art
A poem by Julie Jordan Scott
Solitude, when it is a choice,
is better than
when it is a rant:
Interrupted like the loud
purr of my
neighbor’s lawn mower or
the too loud
drunken laughter of my daughter
that relegated me to my
very very very
visible porch dungeon
chocolate cake and I
are the sinews and the cartilage
ancient black out poem winks
“Interwoven” of deserted island pink
in a sea of gesso
smudgy innocence, breasts
undercover when I am stuck alone
in the clock tower…. apologies for less than
I don’t even
So here’s the deal:
uniformity, lock step agreement is boring
(and that bulbous choice is an
utterance I don’t use lightly) feel the
frowning energy, mutterings airborne
and the appeal of the flibbertigibbet
nestles into the roots of my crown
smiling, Mona Lisa like.
Like Mona Lisa. akin to
Mona Lisa basking in her
mystery. people continue attempting
to fit into boxes marked “understood”
rather than rolling into the welcoming
womb of mystery, the antidote to
know-it-all’s snarkdom wouldn’t we as
humanity be better off if we accepted
it is in the not knowing and the moving
forward even with the fog swirling about
the antidote is in the airborne space between the
foot and the soil, the roll of the wheel, the
movement of the pencil on repeat
Interview with Austin Yi
by Carla Martin
Here is the poem Austin shared with us at Dagny’s on June 7, 2019:
after Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
of consecrated smut
off shelves of humorless self-styled holy
men among other Hollywood martyrs
back from the marketplace, spruced up
in ashes gathered from
belonging to a girl no more an ornament
than a coal lump but
just as bright;
wheezing through rerun lapses erected
to rank of mantra,
a prayer, a state
of grace attained through the naming of
things that don’t belong
bungling branches hacked for that
the whole thing just faded away
the mount and the ramp
the other side exactly as you
no trick the little strength
of our universe
friend on a beach
with a fistful of sand
has nothing to do
what a woman!
delighting in trees
simply because their leaves
even by the very wind
of sapless wing
below roasting soles
Q. What inspired you to write this poem? What’s its back story?
A. I watched “The Passion of Joan of Arc” for the first time in March and couldn’t help but see it as an allegory of the #MeToo Movement.
Q. What poets do you admire? Who has influenced your own writing?
A. Right now my Holy Trinity of Poets consists of Frank O’Hara, William Carlos Williams, and Audre Lorde. In O’Hara’s work I admire this sense of “programlessness” as his friend and contemporary John Ashbery puts it, or rather how he can create poetic structures based on the rhythm of a beautiful sentence rather than developing sentences to fit into an already-made form, like a sonnet. He reads like jazz.
I admire Williams for staying home when every other artist and writer sought ex-pat status. He also has more humanity than T.S. Eliot.
Reading Audre Lorde’s poetry empowers me. I haven’t come across a writer who speaks to the disenfranchised the way she does.
Q. What advice would you give aspiring poets? Describe your creative process.
A. I write poetry the way I doodle, in the margins of something “more important.” This means it’s impossible for me to intentionally sit down and write a poem. Instead, depending on the feeling I’m trying to capture, I’ll scavenge through notebooks, journals, receipts, napkins, anything, for phrases I don’t remember the origins to, compile them into a list on a word document or notecards, and begin arranging and rearranging, try to discover a rhythm and hopefully meaning beyond the nonsense of arbitrarily clustered phrases. It’s the weeding-out of sentences, words, and phrases that I find to be the closest thing to writing poetry. And the content of my notes can literally be anything, although I do prefer the eavesdropped conversation more than any other source.
Interview with Mateo Lara
by Portia Choi
Here is Mateo Lara’s poem shared at the Open Mic on August 2, 2019:
By Mateo Lara
time to rest here the space above your head above
the lie here I pull us down together.
this which bastardizes light which bastardizes ownership
the joke of land the split skin the withered throat hide the truth
the cursed land here the sleep eternal us, quiet weakened things
broken-glassed room mouth ghost bed the confinement
the trap is freedom the trap is open ness necessary
the shadow falls the secret in our walls voices escape, we finally escape
now we ask for freedom when we though we should have taken it from the
Mateo emailed that “What inspired me to write the poem is the fight for immigrants on the border. Just having family dealing with the obstacles and struggles of finding safety in the violence and chaos that the U.S. has posed to immigrants, especially immigrants of color. It was a kind of evocation to rest, and ask for your freedom, demand it, despite the pain.”