Featured Poet

Heavy Vinyl: A Shared love of the Blues


by Martin Chang

Guitarist and vocalist Tomo and drummer Glenn Mattews have built a bond based on the sharing of Blues and Rock and Roll. Through this connection they create words and music that flows out of them with a unique flavor, Tomo likes to call it “just jamming.” Together, Mattews and Tomo are known as Heavy Vinyl.

Mattews met Tomo through happenstance when Mattews was working at a grocery store and noticed that Tomo was wearing a Beatles t-shirt.  “I asked him ‘do you play music’ and he said ‘yeah I play guitar’ I said ‘cool I play drums.’ We exchanged numbers right there on the spot at the checkout counter,” Mattews said.  Tomo was the one who asked to exchange numbers. Mattews immediately found Tomo’s focus on music and tenacity refreshing. He said, “I found it pretty bold. I liked that actually, that he wanted to get together right then and there. I’ve jammed out with other musicians here in town and they are as forward but they don’t follow up.

They tell me ‘let’s make a point to jam out this day’ and ‘this day’ comes and they never arrive, so it’s been frustrating. He’s one of the first people I met that ‘this day’ comes and they actually show up.” Originally, Tomo and Mattews formed a four-piece band. Tomo describes the band at that point as “a solid sound.” But, as Tomo said, “life gets in the way sometimes” and they eventually became a two-piece band.

Sharing and discovering music is an important part of Heavy Vinyl and Tomo and Mattews friendship.  Tomo said that Mattews helps him “widen his horizon” and considers Mattews a “music connoisseur.” Together Heavy Vinyl discovered bands like Cream and Led Zeppelin. Tomo enjoys discovering music with Mattews. He said, “We both engulfed ourselves (in music history.) It was awesome we got to experience it together.” They also shared a love of shows and films about the history of rock and roll.  They both shared the HBO show “Vinyl” and the documentary “Sound City” with each other.

Yet it was a song that Tomo showed Mattews that defined the music that they would create. The song was “Bring Me My Shotgun” by Lightning Hopkins and it changed the way Mattews looked at Rock and Roll. “I had never heard anything like what he had showed me,” he said.  “There’s artists that he (Tomo) finds, I don’t know where he gets them and it just blows my mind. So when he showed me that song, it was like ‘wow you can do this with Blues?’ Let’s infuse that in our music. We are still trying to achieve that goal. ”

It is this shared love of similar music that is the building blocks of Heavy Vinyl’s sound. Tomo feels that the music fits in a unique way because of a shared communication. He said, “it always comes back to the Blues with us. Everyone has natural music in them their sound, their tone.  Our tones are off the spectrum weird, There’s this weird hip-hop beat that Mattews does, but he tries to make it rock and roll and he makes it rock and roll.  I play a punkish way.  Then I try to turn it into Blues. We always try to turn it into Blues.”

With this connection, Heavy Vinyl is able to create new music and lyrics on the spot. During the interview two people noticed Tomo’s guitar and a man asked him to play a song.  Suddenly Heavy Vinyl was playing a show.  Tomo decided to play a song that he was working on in his head.  The song came out of him fully formed. Words like “she does the boogie in the corner of my mind” may have existed somewhere in a notebook, but Tomo was inspired. He made the words fit into the tradition of Blues and Rock that Heavy Vinyl treasure so much.  Even Mattews used his hands to add hand claps to add to the song. was lucky enough to capture the sound of this moment. Below is a clip of this moment of music creation.  The entire clip was not included for sound quality reasons. If you as a reader would like to hear the whole song despite these concerns please comment below.

Kate Durbin: The Poetry of Places, Objects, and Reality TV

By Martin Chang

Like many others in America, Kate Durbin found herself fascinated by the world of Reality television.  As a poet, Durbin began to watch with a closer eye.  From the way that the camera moves from Kardashian to Kardashian, to the carefully manicured rooms of Playboy Bunnies, to the cluttered lives of the victims of addiction on “Hoarders,” she discovered that the humanity revealed on these shows were worthy of the same artistic deep dive as high art.

“I think we still have a stigma around popular culture used as art,” she said. “I’m interested in taking things that are considered low art and turning them into art works that are taken more seriously. I find the shows very fascinating because they speak to our moment in time in a very specific way.”

Durbin also takes a closer look at Reality television since she believes that the media aware nature of the lives of Reality show stars resembles the media driven lives of us all. “I see it as the medium that we live and exist in now,” she said. “We all live very mediated lives. We all have our Facebook pages, our Instagram pages. We represent ourselves both virtually and IRL (in real life) all the time.”

Durbin found the way that people would talk about Reality show stars such as Kim Kardashian “disturbing.” This also inspired her to take an artistic look at the shows. “Even very smart people that might call themselves feminism felt comfortable trashing Kim Kardashian, calling her stupid, those sorts of these things,” she said.  Durbin vehemently disagrees with this characterization. “She couldn’t get where she is being stupid,” Durbin said.

Durbin wants to explore how the shows themselves are designed to create these strong feelings in otherwise smart and rationale people. She found that there were real reasons why people had such strong reactions. “The framework of the shows, the camera angles, the way the scenes are set up, work to objectify women and portray them as stupid,” Durbin concluded.

“Close watching” is the way that Durbin describes her process of writing her poetic works. “I watch a little bit of the show. Then I pause the show and write down everything that I had seen,” Durbin explained. This process takes Durbin years. She analyzed one episode of “The Hills” for a year.

Through this close watching, Durbin was inspired by the way that the people on the reality shows related to places and objects that make up the world of these shows.  She found the world of the Playboy mansion and the way it was portrayed on “The Girls Next Door” particularly fascinating.  For most of the shows run, “The Girls Next Door” portrayed the life of Hugh Hefner and his, at the time, three girlfriends: Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson.   This fascination caused her to create poetic works where Durbin attempted to let “the mansion speaks for itself.”

As a part of the Bakersfield Fan Forum series at the Todd Madigan Gallery at Cal State Bakersfield, Durbin performed a poem about Bridget Marquardt’s room. She performed the poem with a scientific accuracy. Yet her description of the room was not dry, in her voice you could hear both Durbin’s fascinations with Bridget’s life combined with a bit of contempt that she has for a life specifically designed to exploit women.  Below are the first few lines of the poem.

This large bedroom is hot pink and organized. The Queen bed’s bright pink comforter is offset with sprays of black and white bunnies with bowties, pillows. There is also a large Hello Kitty pillow. The pink mouse and the pink computer monitor accent the pink desk.

Durbin’s fascination with the objects and places of Reality television eventually led her to the show “Hoarders.” Something Durbin felt was an inevitability. After writing pieces about the rich, as covered in shows like “The Girls Next Door,” she began to wonder how the rest of the people related to places and objects. Durbin explained her line of thinking, “I started to think about ‘well this is the one percent’s relationship to things and stuff, what about the rest of the Country?’” That led her to the thought, “Oh my God, I don’t want to do it, but I have to write about “Hoarders.”

The emotions that Durbin experienced while watching “Hoarders” were very strong. “It was very painful to watch. It was very hard to get through,” she said.  “I always cry when I watch it.” Durbin has this strong reaction because the theme of addiction hits closes to home. “It triggers some things with my family,” she said.  ” There’s a lot of addiction in my family and stuff.”

Other mixed feelings came up in Durbin while she wrote about and watched “Hoarders,” “I have a lot of ethical problems with the show.” “I feel like the people on the show are not in the right mental state to consent to being on a show like that, but it is also fascinating in that it reveals what is going on behind closed doors all over the country.”

Durbin hopes to tap into the healing nature of poetry when writing about “Hoarders,” “I do believe that the process of writing and bringing attention to something difficult does have healing qualities to it. I think that art can do thing that are positive with material that is difficult.”

Below are the first few lines of the poem “Hoarders: Tara.”

Orlando, Florida

My name is Tara and I’m 55 years old Precious Moments angel statue
I would not classify myself as a hoarder, more of a rescuer of Target receipts
When I first moved in it was just mostly boxes because I was moving in then I tried to unpack but everything just got put wherever Martha Stewart magazines

Though Durbin has been writing and creating art pieces about Reality television and popular culture for years and also has many misgiving about much of the shows she covers artistically, she can still enjoy Reality television at the basic entertainment level like anyone else. She said, “I really enjoy watching it. My boyfriend saw me watching the Kardashians one day and said ‘ow are you writing.’ Then I said ‘no I’m just watching.’” Despite her careful examination into what makes the shows tick, Durbin still considers Reality television “fun.”



The Bakersfield Fan Forum is facilitated by Joseph Mosconi and The Poetic Research Bureau.  The Fan Forum is meant to “investigate the various ways enthusiasms and fandoms are articulated in contemporary poetry and visual art.” Learn about the next Fan Forum event here.


Durbin has published many of her works online and in print.

Durbin has published two books of poetry, The Ravenous Audience and E! Entertainment . “E! Entertainment” contains the poetic work about the Kardashians, “The Hills”, and “Girls Next Door”  discussed in the article. Also in “E! Entertainment” are poetic works about The Real Housewives, Anna Nichole Smith  and Amanda Knox. The poems about “Hoarders” are a work in progress and are not yet published in print. “Hoarders: Tara” is available in full here.

Durbin opened her presentation at CSUB with pictures from a project she worked on with Rollin Leonard called Postcards from Disneyland. It is why in the pictures she is wearing a Snow White shirt. In this project she explored her fandom of Disneyland by actually going to the park with a projector and projecting images onto landmarks at the park. Then Leonard took  photos of those landmarks.

Durbin has been a part of several Internet art projects. Below are some examples of her work.

Gaga Stigmata

from the about page:

“Established in March 2010 as the first mover in Gaga studies,Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga is a technological journal that critically-creatively participates in the cultural project of shock pop phenomenon Lady Gaga.”

Women As Objects

A tumblr blog where Durbin achieved young women’s tumblrs. The blog explores how young women define themselves and their sexuality.

Cloud Nine

With “Cloud Nine” Durbin is asking female-identifying artist “What have you done for Money?”

Lenora McClellan reads “An Issue of Faith.”

Lenora McClellan has been given the gift of writing from an early age. She describes herself as “an author poet, playwright, and a women of God.” She reads from her book “By God’s Grace” published in 2013.  She said about the poetry in “By God’s Grace,” “I hope one day to share this book with others, because it signifies how God has developed and changed me to glorify Him and to inspire other to do the same.” Lenora has written 10 books and four plays.

Below are excerpts from the poem.


Imagine me, money spent, separated all alone, left to deal with this

issue on my own,   . . . . . .


This issue that has isolated me,

Thrown down, cast out from society

To live my life in this misery, will

I ever be free, will I ever be free


And the many who had just called on

His name who from that very instant

Were never the same Jesus/ Jesus/Jesus. . . . . .


And He called out to me, for He knew He had healed my infirmity

On his Way to Jarius’ daughter, who was almost dead, He turned,

And stopped, to help me instead

For in the middle of the crowd, Jesus stopped and said,


“Who touched me?” and I,

Being seen by all, I came to Jesus

And I did fall, down at His feet.. . . .

Clearly see I was the woman

With the twelve-year infirmity,

Who in my desperation a touch I

Stole, believing that Jesus could

Make me whole, and Jesus

Then said to me, “Your faith

Has made you whole.

My daughter, go in peace.”

And from that very hour, He caused

The blood to cease, and restored

My mind, my body, and soul

And declared me whole, whole, whole

Thank you, Jesus

Thank you, Jesus

Thank you, Jesus.  For making me whole