First Friday Open Mic at Dagny’s, May 6, 2022
We gathered at Dagny’s to share our creations on First Friday.
The poets who performed were Heather Ponek, Jill Egland, Carla Martin, Samuel Rain, January Joyce, Ayana Abdallah, Sareenah Mason, Anna Marco, and Ruth Handy. The evening was hosted by Carla Martin and Portia Choi.
Below is the interview of Ruth Handy, who drove from Pine Mountain Club, CA to join our poetry community and to share her poetry.
Ruth Handy Interview
By Carla Joy Martin
Ruth shared with us this poem full of images from the country she feels most at home in:
What is it about my beloved historic Japan?
The onion shaped finials on the bridge supports;
The moss covered small hillsides;
Carefully trimmed bushes and shrubs;
The frequent rain;
The narrow store fronts and multiple temples;
The magical city names like Kyoto and Nara;
The great Buddha in Nara whose photographs never turn out;
The “bite and a half” unusual food served on unmatched plates;
Jizo statues in every old neighborhood;
Unexpected sparse flower arrangements in store front windows;
The trains to everywhere with beautiful houses near the tracks;
The indulgence in fish;
The detachment between people.
Q. What inspired you to write your poem? What is its back story?
A. When I went to Japan I felt at home. I have now visited 5 times, and the first time I was on the plane returning home, I felt like I was going the wrong way – that I should actually be going back to Japan!
Further, I read something about Japan at a Zoom poetry meeting last year, and people responded with ideas about Japan as it is today. I felt I needed to convey my love of historic Japan, and to describe the exact experiences that seemed so meaningful when I was there, especially as hosted by my friend in Osaka, Sawa, Kiyomi San. The attached poem is a pretty good list of what touched me deeply although I have other memories also.
Q. I find it so intriguing that you were drawn to the Japanese feeling of “detachment”…..I have never been to Japan and wonder, is this because they are so polite? What about them made you sense this feeling?
A. When you are on a train in Japan, no one pays any attention to you at all. In the U.S., I’ve noticed that people look around and are somewhat curious about who other people are. People in Japan just stick with their own thoughts and preoccupations, it seems to me. There is not an interpersonal warmth in Japan, was my experience.
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 read poetry in spurts. If I am feeling some intense emotion, it helps to return to poetry.
Probably the poem that has run through my mind the most is “I Knew a Woman” by Theodor Roethke. The line, “She moved in circles and those circles moved” has stayed with me for many years – other great lines in the poem are “lovely in her bones” and “What’s freedom for? To know eternity”. Marvelous.
As far as political protest poems go, probably the most intense is a Russian poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Poems such as “Don’t Disappear”, “Humor”, “Stalin”, and “Being Late” are terrific. One of my favorite lines of his is “I am garlanded from all sides not by strings of bagels, but by the holes of bagels and I look like an anthology of zeros…”
Lastly, there is Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do not go gentle into that good night”. The line “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” is deeply motivating for me.
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.
A. Poems just come to me once in a while. Sometimes experiences have an emotional charge that stay in my memory. These emotions do not necessarily have a verbal component, so it is challenging to write these into flowing, rhythmic, interesting words. I like composing poems on yellow lined writing paper.
Q. What is happening in the Pine Mountain Club poetic community? Are you having any readings or Open Mics? When? Have you featured any poets, or are there some folks that are especially talented and enthusiastic? Please feel free to let our greater Bakersfield community know what is happening with you guys!
A. The Pine Mountain Poetry Nights on the first Thursday of the month at 6:00 pm, began again in March (after a winter hiatus). These nights are held at the Adventure Ink Bookstore (which is now merged with Rural and Rustic, a coffee and gift shop, as well as a silver jewelry artist). Bill Graney continues to have the major responsibility for coordinating these nights and reports Poetry Nights are regularly well attended with 6 – 10 people participating or listening. There are no featured poets, Bill describes it as like a Quaker meeting, “if someone feels an inner call to speak, they do.”