We started the New Year with sparkles of spoken words at Open Mic poetry. The poets who performed were Portia Choi, Lola Jimenez, Carla Martin, Chris Nielsen, Eric Osborne, Kevin Shah and Suzanne Weller. Barbara Mattick and Viridiana Pena listened in.
The poets performing their poetry for Open Mic can be viewed on this video at:
Zoom Kern Poetry Meeting
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Two of the poets, Lola Jimenez and Kevin Shah, were interviewed by Carla Martin.
Interview By Carla Martin
Interview with Lola Jimenez
Lola Jimenez graduated from Cal State Bakersfield in Spring of 2020. She majored in English and plans to go back in the fall for a second BA in Communications. She is 22 years young and has been writing since middle school.
Q. What inspired you to write your poem? What is its back story?
A. “Diamond Eyes” was actually inspired by makeup. As a creative, I like to do more than just write, I also like to express myself through makeup. I hate using glitter, but for some reason I feel like it always completes my looks. As much as I hate glitter (because it’s messy) it always adds that extra thing I’m looking for. I also feel like I write a lot of sad poems, and I wanted to bring some light and love into my portfolio so, I decided to write “Diamond Eyes.” It slowly transformed into a poem about an old friend and how I had a love/hate relationship with them. However, I always ended up feeling complete when I was with them.
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 to read poetry! I would definitely say my current favorite authors are R.H. Sin and Rupi Kaur. However, Pablo Neruda and Philip Larkin had big impacts on me growing up. Neruda introduced me to Odes which is something I do now in my own writing. His “Ode to the Lemon” was so simple yet so beautiful. There was so much appreciation for such a small object and there are everyday objects that deserve some form of recognition. Both Rupi Kaur and R.H. Sin have messages about life I relate to. Both write to or about women and I being a woman identify with many of their pieces.
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. Advice I would give to people wanting to write is just to do it! There are no rules to poetry! Every poem looks different and there’s so many different styles and I promise if you feel like someone needs to hear what you have to say, I can guarantee that other people relate to it. I write poems in 3 ways. One is to write down whatever I have on my mind. This can be just getting things off my chest, how I feel or write about a heart break. 2nd way is to read poetry books and write responses or underline something that really spoke to me and write using my perspective or opinion. 3rd I learned in college, which was to write everything I want the poem to contain words, phrases on the side and then find a way to formulate the poem using all of the things I brainstormed. I usually listen to music when I write but I feel the music HAS to match the mood or sound of my poem. I also feel the best time to write is at night when we’re more vulnerable. There’s something magical about late night writing sessions with a good playlist that make me happy.
I made a flyer with my own personal brand colors and font.
By Lola Jimenez
I used to call glitter
The devil’s spawn
It was hard to get rid of
& it lasted forever
Years later you would
Still find it wherever you
However, I see glitter different now
Years later & i’m glad it lasts forever
Because I will never
Forget how your eyes
Glimmered, & glittered
In the light
The twinkle in your eyes
Have lasted a lifetime in
Glitter always reminds me
Interview By Carla Martin
Interview with Kevin Shah
These are the two poems Kevin shared with us:
By Kevin Shah
They stopped before the gently sloping hill
to look up at the Moon.
The young man in the heavy coat
rubbed his hands together, his breath
rising like a ghost.
“Do not watch the Moon too long, old man.
“It’s a traveling act.”
The old man, with a lighter, longer
coat spoke. “Son, the moon will be here
tomorrow. We are a passing act.”
MY FIRST PANDEMIC POEMIC¹
By Kevin Shah
I’m taking a Master class
I’m glad to spend the money because I can learn how to write
From James Patterson or David Baldacci.
One of my favorite writers, David Sedaris, inspires me with his suggestion on how to get stories.
He says you have to engage with life. Go out there and do things.
Let’s take this thing called life. He’s right. Unfortunately, the best stories come from the worst decisions of life, its tragedies.
And the s***’s real
Outside my door, I hear the cars. They’re louder these days, more menacing. And when I take my daily walk, I see dark circles in the street where children usually play. Well maybe I exaggerate. But at any rate, it’s a place I will often walk, the middle of an intersection.
And we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Everybody’s huddled indoors or pretending to be.
Back to story. Writers know that bad situations make for good stories. Unfortunately, we must participate in this thing called life, and I’m talking about the bad stuff.
And like I said before, the s***’s real.
Last I checked, earthquakes still happen. And we think that this virus has ended the world? I had a student who died in a car accident a couple of months ago. Her world ended in an instant.
Recently, a volcano became active again in Hawaii. I have a friend whose mother died from cancer during the summer. He couldn’t visit her. I know of others who have died, and I suspect it’s because they couldn’t get the medical care, or they decided against their better judgment to stay home and wait out this virus, one month, then two, then, I just told you the rest of their story. I suspect one of my heroes, Sir Kenneth Robinson, may have died of cancer. I can’t remember.
I’m so mixed up and bent out of shape with worry that I can’t even remember what I was going to ask my doctor when I see him later today. What worries me more, the questionable safety of a rushed vaccine or my aching thyroid? I have reached the point where I can’t remember all the bad news. It just keeps coming. On my thyroid is a 4 cm mass. Don’t worry too much. It was biopsied last year and shown to be non-cancerous.
And of course, depression and suicide are up.
It’s all a big mess. And for this reason, I write. And I don’t know what happens to what I’ve written once these words are spoken here. My hope Is that they will spread like a virus and find a home, infecting the host listener and living within her bloodstream with truth and perhaps a chuckle or two.
It’s the one good virus.
¹I invented this word to mean a short speech masquerading as a poem. Inspired by the word polemic.
Q. What inspired you to write your poems? What are their back stories?
A. PASSING ACT started with a visual of the moon outside my door. I was inspired by a line that came to my mind: “passing act”. There are many poems written about the Moon, but one in particular has lived with me for almost fifteen years. One night, as my CSUB English professor and I drove into Bakersfield, following some poetry research we were doing out of town, she pointed at the crescent moon and quoted two lines from Samuel Coleridge’s “Dejection: An Ode”:
Late, late yestreen I saw the new Moon,
With the old Moon in her arms;
And I fear, I fear, my Master dear!
We shall have a deadly storm.
(Ballad of Sir Patrick Spence)
I don’t know if I was inspired by that. But I cannot look up at the sky without thinking about poetry.
MY FIRST PANDEMIC POEMIC was an outpouring of thoughts and feelings that I wrote for the First Friday virtual open mic. I just wanted to voice what I think many people are dealing with as they struggle to cope with life in a society that has been locked down indefinitely and to great detriment. I think it was writing as therapy for me.
Q. Do you like to read poetry?
A. I am forever in love with poetry. I prefer to hear people read poems. I want to feel the rhythm and the sounds. I always tell myself I should not write poems. But once I hear a poem I love, I have a deep need to write. Writing poetry is a creative way of saying “amen” to the poems I hear. Kind of like when you hear a drum beat. You feel like striking a drum and joining in. So, each time I write, I am honoring poetry in gratitude and music.
Q. If you do, what poets have influenced you? Who have messages you connect with, or styles you admire?
A. I also like to read poems in a book. Kern County’s Don Thompson, Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, Shakespeare, Billy Collins, and Ted Kooser are some of my favorites. I also sense the poetry of Sandra Cisneros’s writing. I think that all of these poets have influenced me. More directly, I have been inspired by Don Thompson’s poetry. He lets life speak through wildlife and landscapes.
Q. What advice would you give to other folks wanting to create poems?
A. I would get comfortable with the various forms of poetry and try to discipline yourself with these forms for a season. This will give you creative confines that will not hinder but release your creativity by squeezing it out of you and forcing you to learn new words and new ways to say old things. Read widely and often. Imitate many poets so you can find your unique style.
Q. How do you make a poem?
A. Very quickly. I used to ask Facebook friends for a topic. Then I would compose a poem in under ten minutes. I like to write many poems so that maybe I might find one that is worth revising. By the way, the best poets revise many times. Once you are used to writing sonnets or haiku or other forms, you will have a brevity that you can release when you write free-verse.
Q. Do you have a special place you go to, or music you listen to, etc.?
A. I do not purposely listen to music or read poems to write my own. I just stop whatever I am doing as I think poetically and visually throughout the day. I also am inspired by my photography, which is a huge focus for me when I travel to Frazier Park to do astrophotography. Poems need to have sound, sense, and imagery. So, anything that engages those helps you think and feel poetically. I just believe that poetry, especially the poetry of those I mentioned earlier (add Khalil Gibran and, of course, the Bible), teaches us how to experience the world. I am almost always ready to write a poem. Poetry is well-suited to the wisdom and music found in words. And, of course, I am inspired most often by or in nature.
Q. Give us a glimpse into your creative process.
A. As I mentioned, I write things all the time. I will let the poems sit or post on social media. Very often I will see a poem on my pages that I have forgotten about for many years. I will immediately revise it in light of what I “see” in the poem and what I or others may be going through. I recently created my first poetry book “Rainbows in the Dark,” which will ship to me in mid-January. This was just a photobook with pages devoted to some of my better, shorter poems. It incorporates my photography. That process was about arranging poems and images into a book form. The last poem is PASSING ACT, appropriately placed. So, if I in a fresh-read state of mind and I have images and ideas coming at me, I get caught up in the energy and make subtle revisions. But I always need to let poems sit for days or weeks or even years. I don’t force them into their final state. Or I do, but I give them a new life, new title, new format as needed.