The March 5, 2021 Open Mic (via ZOOM) was especially meaningful.  The poet, Betty Lee Cortez recited her heart-felt poem about her brother who had died, and her family and friends joined the Open Mic, listening to her words.  Also performing during the evening was Chris Nielsen, who wrote of an old barn at his new home in Idaho. 

Other poets performing were Cynthia Bermudez, Portia Choi, Carla Martin, Eric Osborne, Heather Ponek, Kevin Shah, Irene Sinopole, and Suzanne Weller. 

The photographs of all the poets reading are in the gallery.  The entire event can be enjoyed in the video of event at this link: Passcode: =2XEkh6.  (The passcode has a period at the end.)

Interview with Christopher Nielsen, First Friday Zoom Open Mic, March 5,2021 

By Carla Martin

This is the poem Chris read to us:

The Red Barn

By Christopher Nielsen

The red barn is old
but in use these days.
Weather in phases —

snow on the rooftop, 
spring grows around barn doors,
summer sun bakes the wood walls,

autumn trees relieved 
of seasons growth,
leaves gather and blowing.

Wanting to meet the owners, 
past the no trespassing sign,
giving them a picture or two

of the red barn, sky drizzles or glowing.
Days change the looks often.
Animals circling, migrating, 

feeding and sheltering,
the people care for them,
providing the red barn.


Q.  What inspired you to write The Red Barn”?  What is its back story? What do you want readers to glean from it?

A.  First day I moved into my home in Idaho. Arrived at 4:30 am in the dark. Woke up at 8:30 a.m. and I looked outside in the backyard. Past the backyard fence there is a large pasture of alfalfa with a large red barn. Now at home. 

Daily watching the barn, out my back windows or out in the backyard. Sometimes it is sunny, cloudy, or snowing. People who live nearby have the barn and have a bit of time in the fields around it. Cattle roam about and eat the alfalfa or hay. Sunsets, or weather happens, and photos are taken.  

Life viewing a barn daily is copacetic and bucolic. Scenes change, lighting and darkness move around day through night. It makes one might want to write about it. Peaceful with a camera and a pen to tell a story and with a photo too.

Q.  How does photography and poetry connect in your experience?  Do you gain inspiration for poems from photos youve taken, or the other way around?

A.  It is back and forth with inspiration – poem comes first and then the photo is looked for. Or, the photo gives thought to words written and hopefully becomes a poem. The two go together. Each tells about the other. They are the whole story. Art is true with images and also writing. A book of photo-poetry works as one. Building one now. 

Q.  What does it feel like to create a good shot” and a good poem”?  Is one form of expression easier for you than the other?  How long have you been a photographer/poet?

A.  My Dad gave me a camera around the age of ten and he showed me what to do. Photography grew out of that part of my life so young. It is amazing when you can take photos. They stay with your life and you love to share them. 

Poetry came later. In high school reading some poets gave interest into poetry. Later in teenage years I tried to write some poems. In my twenties it got a little better at times. 

Art develops in different areas in our minds. For me, a photo is there or an idea forms and it happens. Other times a word, a thought an idea comes out into writing. Write when you must. Dont forget, write it down.

A good poem or a good photo, they can be created well, the special ones are a gift. 


Q.  Who are some photographers you admire?  Are there any poetry collections/publications you can recommend that combine photography with the written word?

A.  Ansel Adams. Others as well. Lighting, places outside or inside, positioning, objects and chances at the times. Processing also. Study the best photos to learn from them. They are guiding by what they make.

I wish there was more poetry with photos. You see it occasionally. Other books have some mix of photos and written words. That helps.  

Note from Kern Poetry:   Here are a few books that combine written word and photography by Kern County residents.

Christopher Nielsen published a book, From the Sky to the Earth, A Book of PhotoPoetry, a collection of his original poems and photographs. Please email Christopher at if you are interested in his book.  

Kevin Shah has a book, Rainbows in the Dark, that combined his poems and original photographs.  One can see sample of his poems or obtain a copy of his book by e-mailing Shah at 

Gregory Iger was the photographer and writer for the book, Buena Vista II Kern County Landscapes from the four seasons.  Iger was the photographer for Buena Vista a pictorial view of Kern County.  Each photograph has an original poem by Ardis Walker, written in haiku verse form.  Walker was a poet and historian of Kern.


Interview with Betty Lee Cortez, First Friday Open Mic, March 5, 2021

By Carla Martin

Here is the poem Betty shared with us that evening:

Poem Dedicated to my Big Brother Johnny.

My Brother, My Friend

By Betty Lee Cortez

A phone call away, you were.
We often chatted on the phone
Shared many things by phone.
Our health, our families and more.
We shared much laughter
on them darn phones.
My Brother My Friend.

It’s been a while since you left.
Someday’s, it’s just so darn hard
I walk your comfy home,
Pacing floors, walking the yard.
I miss our conversations brother
Even more, our laughter Johnny.
My Brother, My Friend.

I still dig deep within my heart
Wondering why you left, so young.
I know you wouldn’t want me to,
But, here I sit, still missing you.
In time, dear brother, I will heal.
Forever though, you’re in my heart.
My Brother, My Friend.

Q.  What inspired you to write your poem?  What is its back story?

A.  The poem “My Brother, My Friend” comes tearfully from my heart. It’s a dedication to my big brother, Johnny Thomasson who was very special to me, loved by many and not|

just family. My brother passed away, few years back and it’s been hard. I miss him very much; we talked often on the phones. He was heavily on my mind one day and I had the need to express how much I loved and missed him. So, I sit with tears raining from my eyes and let my feelings flow through my pen to paper. It helped.

Q.  You had many members of your family come and view your performance Friday night.  How does your family inspire you to write?  Have there been any other poets in your family?  Are you the first?  How can family members support a poet?

A.  I have a big family, were a close-knit family. My parents were always very loving and supportive of us growing up. They were always there through thick and thin moments. Like all families, we had our differences among one another, but through time we dissolved them. My children and husband, the love and communication we share is a big inspiration to whatever I do, even my writings. There’s been a few family members to write poems, but I’ve been writing since a young age. Much of my writings are done throughout emotional times I encountered in life. It helps me to release my emotions and cope with my feelings. It lets me share what I’m feeling deep within myself.

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.  My advice to others who enjoy writing poetry or have interest in wanting to write; let it come naturally. I feel there’s no better writing, then what comes from the heart, the real you. Your ideals, your thoughts, your own perspective of anything is what you want to share. My writings of poetry come to me from many directions. It can be an event I’ve experienced, a person I’m fond of, a moment I experienced, the beauty of something. My writings are a part of me, and when I write it just comes to me in natural way. That’s important.