In-person First Friday Open Mic returns to Dagny’s Coffee!

After two years as a virtual event, First Friday Open Mic (FFOM) was held in-person at Dagny’s Coffee on April 1, 2022.  The event occurred on the first day of National Poetry Month. 

The host for the Open Mic, Carla Joy Martin, said of the Open Mic, “It was exciting, encouraging and full of joy!”

Other poets who performed that evening were Diane Lobre, Heather Ponek, Jana Wong, Jill Egland, Nelson Varon and Samuel Rains.

In-person Open Mic will continue every First Friday of every month at Dagny’s Coffee, 1600 20th Street (Corner of 20th and Eye St) Bakersfield, CA 93301.  

Here is the interview of one of the poets of the evening.   

Interview with Jana Lee Wong, First Friday Open Mic at Dagny’s

By Carla Joy Martin

Jana performed this poem full of wonder that evening:

by Jana Lee Wong

You are only one year old, but you texted me a dress request with an online shopping
link attached and below it, you wrote “Rrrn no iti intent mhuurrrrr  I do.” Of course it
didn’t make any sense to me because the language of baby babble is far beyond my
comprehension, a language from heaven understood by those who live beyond our
stars . . . but this is not the first time you reached out to me in this way . . . and they can
say you pushed your face against the screen until the links came through and the letters
mimicked words of intent, but Nana knows better than that. You have looked me straight
in the eye with a soul far older than your months on this Earth, and you have expressed
what you needed through your insightful gibberish: a drink of juice, Rice a Roni, a desire
to play outside with Zen dog or a moment of quiet while reading books—

       And when you press your cheek against mine you tell me how much you love me,
how the world is complicated and harsh and cruel at times. . . but we have each other,
and that is all that matters.

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

A.  A real event inspired me to write this poem. It seems silly to think that such a small baby could communicate in such a way as a text with a link to something she wanted, but my granddaughter, Callie, has been communicating with me through text and Facetime since she was a few months old. The communication is baby gibberish, of course, but her repeated gestures make me think that she knows to touch my picture on her mother’s phone when she wants to say hello, and it was funny and astounding that she somehow provided a link to her next present request.

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.  Reading poetry is my favorite pastime. I enjoy reading a wide range of poets such as Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, Ezra Pound’s translations of Chinese classical poetry, and very contemporary artists such as Amanda Gorman, Ocean Vuong, and Naomi Shihab Nye.

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.  I suppose there are some poets who can create masterpieces at one sitting. For me, this is never the case. I have a stream of consciousness that enters my mind (which I like to think of as the poetry muse) but then I am compelled to rewrite and rewrite again to create the proper form on the digital page or on paper. It helps to belong to a writing group. My writing group has helped me throughout the years to become a better poet, and I have gained meaningful friendships with its members. After all, who can understand a poet more than another poet or fan of poetry?