First Friday ZOOM Open Mic, June 4, 2021

The First Friday Open Mic welcomes creative expression through poetry, music and spoken word.

This month, Fabian Tolan shared his original songs and was interviewed.  Another performer interviewed was poet Heather Barnett Ponek.  

Also, performing during the evening were Carla Martin, Chris Nielsen, Cynthia Bermudez, Eric Osborne, Mandy Wallace, Portia Choi and Suzanne Weller. 

The link to the video recording from the open mic is
Access Passcode: 9=^Jxr6S

Interview with Fabian Tolan, First Friday Zoom Open Mic, June 4, 2021

By Carla Joy Martin

Fabian sang two original songs for us! Here are his thoughts about his music:

Q.  What inspired you to write your songs?  What are their back stories?

A.  So what has inspired me to write music originally started from my passion of listening to music which was my escape from growing up in foster care. I was born into the system, adopted at the age of seven, and back into the system at the age of 14 when my parents who adopted me passed away. When I started playing guitar at 12, I knew that it was something I wanted to be passionate about. I lived it every day. I dreamt it and then slowly started to write. 

The fuel from my lyrics come from not only my personal experiences in life, but through the eyes of others around me and the people that I meet. I feel like I am very sensitive of everything that goes on around me. “A Letter to My Father” was inspired by my best friend who has had a 25-year relationship with him through pen and paper due to his father’s life sentence. 

A Letter to My Father

The teardrops on your letter tell the story of your absence 
If I ever met you and looked to you in the eyes 
I could understand some reasons you were never in my life 
I saw vision in the fire and made friends with the trees 
They made you out to be a liar but you’re always here with me 
And now that it’s over and this is my closure 
I’ll keep my head held high 

I’ll keep my doubts real low
I’ll spread my wings and fly and fly 
Let’s go 

The second part of the song is inspired by getting sober and overcoming adversity. 

Q.  Do you like to read poetry or other people’s song lyrics?  If you do, what artists have influenced you?  Who have messages you connect with, or styles you admire?

A.  The musician who has had the biggest influence on my life is undeniably Christopher Drew. I was drawn in by his poppy sounding fun songs but captivated by the underground realism and political advocacy. The one thing I liked about him was that he was just as lost as I was and used music to find his way. I also thought it was cool that he was stoic and changed his lyrics to meaningful topics, ultimately quitting music and living a very minimalist lifestyle.

Q.  What advice would you give to other folks wanting to create songs?  How do you make a song?  Do you have a special place you go to, or music you listen to, etc.?  Give us a glimpse into your creative process.

A.  The more things you go through in life make it easier to create the deeper heartfelt lyrics that people are drawn to. When I started writing music, my main focus was to not right corny songs. I told myself I wanted my lyrics to have meaning for people to be inspired by, and to have a deeper message rather than just a meaningless Poppy sounding songs — although it’s nice to hear those at times. 

When I write music, it’s usually after I smoke a joint or two.  It makes the musical process more creative and fun but writing sober and dealing with real life problems also creates the same creative process.  This is what inspired me to write “Cemetery Weather” — the second song I sang:

Cemetery Weather

It’s when she looked and she told me that she still loves me 
but I still feel dead at times 
holding on to what’s weak but not broken 
I still feel your bliss at night 
I remember that day 
it was cold outside the sun was barely shining 
the mist in the air, the sky — pale shade of gray 
in the cemetery weather cemetery weather 
I asked and she came 
the answer is remain 
something I don’t want to talk about 
somethings no one should ever see 
if it’s time for a change 
I watched my mother slave over things that never mattered

The first part of that song was inspired by getting sober. I was living in a sober living when I wrote it. There was a NA meeting going on 15 feet from the bedroom I was writing this song in while withdrawing.  The second half of the song was inspired by the eyes of my peers, seeing that most of them have been raised by single mothers, single fathers, sometimes both, but working really hard jobs to provide things for the children, my peers, whom I’ve seen take for granted.

 “I watched my mother slave over things that never mattered” — although my mother did spoil me while she was alive, she always told me that her priorities and obligations were to only provide me with food, shelter and clothing. I thought she was being mean when she said these things, but now, looking back, I realize she was just being honest and truthful and real — finally understanding that materialistic items aren’t the way to true happiness.

Interview with Heather Barnett Ponek, First Friday Zoom Open Mic, June 4, 2021

By Carla Joy Martin

Heather Barnett Ponek – “Ode Poet”

It is such an honor to be “asked” about my poetry.  Imagination, beauty of thought in words; describes a poet.  I am humbled to be in that sentence.

Q.  What inspired you to write poetry?


What inspires me to write poetry came early in my childhood.  I read the poem: “I meant to do my work today”, by Richard Le Gallienne 1866-1947.  I remember first thinking about the word meant (I was young) and how it was spelled, then this simple poem took me on a story -listening to the brown bird sing and the last line…
all the leaves were calling me, And the wind went singing over the land, tossing the grasses to and fro, and a rainbow held out its shining hand – so what could I do but laugh and go?

When I read this poem, I was immediately transformed to a place that made me feel good.  It was like reading a really good book but very short – which I liked!

When I was young, I didn’t think I could write a book, but a poem YES.  It also was so appealing because I did not worry about punctuation and I love to RHYME because it is fun and takes a short time.

Nature was a big inspiration; another favorite was Haiku’s 5-7-5 syllables.  This one I wrote after a loss.

Catnip swaying free
Wind will ease as time and grief
Breeze blows with your breath

I also am inspired by WORDS.  There are so many, and I like to find words that rhyme.


All I want is my toes in the sand. I want my body free from this land.
A soft breeze and a distant fog horn blows.  This place, this is where I want to go.
Never hungry because the mangos are here.  Nothing else is to fear.
I am warm, no matter the air.  I am alone, then surrounded by friends that care.

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?


Influential poets include Emily Dickinson and W.B. Yeats; those that need no first name to recognize, but also those that you recognize lines in a poem like: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you…”  Know who it is by?  I did not until I was reading favorite collections.  The title is SOLITUDE, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.  

I have to include, Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the thinks you can think. Think! Think and wonder.  Wonder and think.  How much water can fifty-five elephants drink?”

Also, Shel Silverstein, where fruit are things and animals sing. (This is my own description).  I would like to thank my daughter, for without raising a child, part of the wonder would not be there.

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.


For me it helped to share – first Fridays at Dagney’s was wonderful with Portia and Carla, I have to thank.  I think it is very important to have a SAFE environment.  I love to sing (this is where the ode part comes in); and I have acted.  For most, this is terrifying so I will put it out there, get another poet (I am volunteering) to read out loud your thoughts/poems. 

I am also extremely blessed to have two wonderful sisters that like to hear my poems. 

Also, strong advice is to dig deep and then go to China – so the most personal which is the hardest and vulnerable.

I like nature, humor, happy and fun, but sad and pulling is cathartic in poetry.

I go to poetry to find a calm like journaling but shorter.


It pains me to listen so, can I help you with my words?  
I have said some, you said lots, and no one was heard.

I scream SHUT UP with my eyes, not even the mouse hears.
Where is the wisdom that is supposed to come through all the years?

To end happy is the trick, or is it to start?
I think this is the way to get the horse before the cart.

I also found some poetry or creative writing classes really helped me explore different styles of writing. You would get a topic and experiment again.  Everyone shared and was very supportive.

My creative process starts in the shower like any good poet.  I also find it helpful to carry a journal to write down thoughts. 

The best advice I could give is not to worry about what anyone thinks.