First Friday Open Mic on December 3, 2021

Year 2021 was graced with poetry, culminating in the virtual Open Mic on First Friday, December 3, 2021.

The performers at that event were Carla Martin, Christopher Nielsen, Heather Ponek, Portia Choi and Shelley Evans.  Another poet, Marne Carmean, listened in.  

One of the poets, Shelley J. Evans, was interviewed.  

You can see the video from the evening at
Passcode: ^HDm8yD?

Interview with Shelley J. Evans, 

By Carla Joy Martin

This is the poignant poem Shelley read to us that evening:

My Ol’ Dog-Walkin’ Hat

It was like sayin’ g’bye to an ol’ friend,
my ol’ dog-walkin’ hat.
I had bought a replacement,
hung it in the garage next to
my ol’ dog-walkin’ hat.
But I just couldn’t do it,
not for a few months…
or was it a year later?

My ol’ dog-walkin’ hat
hung on the hook next to Ruby’s leash,
which had once been Marjorie’s,
and then it was Luna’s.
My ol’ dog-walkin’ hat
had been there for all three,
but it no longer held itself together
in the back.
My ol’ dog-walkin’ hat
wouldn’t stay on my head any longer.

I had to do it;
I threw it away
in the dumpster.
But first I took two pictures of
my ol’ dog-walkin’ hat.
Tattered and frayed,
yet I still liked the faded colors,
all the different hot air balloons on it,
and my mem’ries of Albuquerque
where Rachel went to college.
She’d bought me
my ol’ dog-walkin’ hat
in the gift shop at Sandia Peak
as a souvenir
and gave it to me for my birthday.

I have always loved hot air balloons
and thought I’d be up in one some day.
Often when I wore
my ol’ dog-walkin’ hat,
I would consider that was probably
the closest I’d ever get!
(Ya never know….)

My ol’ dog-walkin’ hat
held my memories
of many walks with three special dogs
and me wearing
my ol’ dog-walkin’ hat
that protected my head
during all those walks,
keepin’ my head in the clouds
while my feet kept me grounded (somewhat!)
((that’s questionable!!))

Why am I so sentimental about
my ol’ dog-walkin’ hat?
(It was just a hat,
more like a rag at the end.)
Who else but me writes a poem to memorialize
my ol’ dog-walkin’ hat!

Shelley J. Evans
October 10, 2021.
Revised March 4, 2022.

Q.  What inspired you to write your poem?  What is its back story?
A.  The inspiration for this piece came from my love of a hat, a hat long overdue to be tossed out; but because it was covered with colorful hot-air balloons, among other reasons, it was difficult for me to say “g’bye”. Since a young adult, I’ve loved hot-air balloons and riding in one was on my to-do list. Hasn’t happened yet, but ya never know, right?

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 have been an avid reader most of my life, especially enjoying library books. Reading poetry is almost as necessary to me as writing it. Since my Mom named me after one famous poet, Percy B. Shelley, it was obviously my destiny! I identify with Emily Dickenson’s “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” as hope is my favorite word, my motto: even if all that is left is small as a grain of sand, I’ll never give up hope. Rudyard Kipling’s “If…” inspired me as a young teen when I read it in my Mom’s book of poetry (which I  took when I moved away). Of course, Maya Angelou’s poetry, especially “Still I Rise” – I love the rhyme and reason. “The Eagle” by Alfred Lord Tennyson is awesome: “…watching the wrinkled sea… like a thunderbolt he falls.” I also enjoy reading poetry by locals, such as the collections put together by CSUB’s English Department during April’s National Poetry Month for the past several years.

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 for creating a poem: Open your notebook, iPad or laptop; let the words out of your heart and don’t stop! If we have to have rules, to me the most important one is to write the truth. Most of my pieces rhyme, and I am very conscious of my words, using RhymeZone to help me choose accurate synonyms and rhymes that do not sound forced or too corny. Often nature inspires me to write about the beach, ocean, or sky; and the words can simply flow from my mind through pen onto paper. Sometimes I work with a theme or have a particular person or event to poeticize. Over the years, I have surprisingly discovered that I like researching for my projects. The finished piece could be instant, or the process could take time – months, even years. The best place for me to write is my living room, curled up in my chair; yet I can write most anywhere, even on a walk in the park or on the beach. Usually I need quiet, but I’m getting better at ignoring what’s happening around me in order to focus on my artwork. It can be a never-ending process; even this poem that I wrote in October 2021 was revised for this interview!

You wanted me to share about my children’s book, The Life of Ahpun, which was published August 2020 (best part of my covid year!). This is a true story in verse about a polar bear cub who was orphaned, rescued, and taken to the Alaska Zoo where she had an amazing life. She had a brown bear for a roommate, a swimming and fishing hole, and annual birthday parties celebrated with her Zoo family and visitors from around the world. As a favorite attraction, she delighted people with her silly antics and her extraordinary beauty. Romance is included in this true adventure after a male polar bear arrived at the zoo, and the two polar bears became a couple. Ahpun’s sudden, unexpected passing devastated her community; and I was compelled to write a poem to share with my daughter, one of Ahpun’s zookeepers. As I was working on it one very late night, God gave me a vision: this poem was a hardback book I held in my hands ~ I HAD to do it! Approximately 2 1/2 years later, my “baby” arrived from the printer! Nearly 1 1/2 years later, all copies have been sold, gifted, or are being held for people; and a second edition is being considered. I encourage you all to Write On ~ you have a story to tell as well!