We hope to feature brief bios of every creative artist – poets, musicians and visual artists – that have performed at Dagny’s First Friday Open Mics and on Zoom First Friday Open Mics.
This list will help all of us get to know each other, as well as provide a resource for folks wanting to find a specific creative person for future projects.
Please email Carla with a third person bio, up to 100 words long, describing all your creative endeavors. Start the bio with a line of your original poetry. Let us know what poem it is from.
Please include your websites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram addresses if you have them. Then Chris Nielsen will put your bio on the website.
PLEASE SEND ME YOUR BIO!
Your Poet Bios
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Ayana R. Abdallah
“Neither truth nor love is anchored in fear.”
Ayana R. Abdallah is a mentor, activist, and educator passionate about advancing African descended women’s literature and well-being. Founder of the Danu Institute for Human Development, she desires to raise $2,000 to fund her next series of literary arts and psychic ecology luncheon workshops for Black girls and women. An award-winning essayist, Abdallah’s critical essays and poetry are published in several academic journals. Read her chapbook One More River to Cross http://ayanarabdallah.com
Abdallah’s educational achievements include Ph.D. and MA University of Iowa, M.Ed. Temple University, and BA Spelman College.
Samuel Rain Benjamin
Author/Poet Samuel Rain Benjamin aka Complicated Passions, creator of the Passions Private Collection and Dark Man Blues the series, has written over 36 books including “Love and the Conversation, The Clone in Me & The Foreplay Series” he has also performed across the country from Los Angeles to New York, notable places The World Stage, The Nuyorican Poets Café and Busboys & Poets
He is also the co-founder of Innate Divinity Books a consulting and publishing company,
His latest work is from the Dark Man Blues collection “John Bold released in March 2021 later this year he is set to release The Foreplay look inside” and in 2023 Dark Man Blues returns with “An Interview with Love” limited edition 2022
“They fell from the sky looking like white-colored sea
urchins, sharp spines penetrating their first contacted surface:
people, cars, buildings, everything.” – Snow Stars
Cyn Bermudez is an author, poet, and artist living in California. She is the author of the YA verse, The Dragons Club, forthcoming August 16, 2022, from West 44 Books, the YA verse novel, Graffiti Heart. Cyn has poetry published in journals such as 805 Literary and Art Journal, Moledro Magazine, Strangelet Journal, Devolution Z, 805 Literary and Art Journal, and more. For more information about Cyn and her books, please visit her website at www.cynbermudez.com.
Annis Cassells is a writer, life coach, and teacher who divides her time between California and Oregon. Her poems and stories have been published in print and online journals. In 2019 Annis published her first poetry collection, You Can’t Have It All: Poems. She is a contributor in the social justice anthology, Enough, Say Their Names: Messages from Ground Zero to the WORLD, which features photography and artwork from the many Black Lives Matter protests held around the USA in 2020.
Passionate about helping people write their family stories, Annis teaches memoir classes for senior adults, conducts workshops, and coaches other writers. She is currently composing works for her next poetry collection and working on her own memoir.
Website: https://connectionsandconversations.com Facebook: Annis Cassells, Writer IG: @heyannisc Twitter: @AnnisHeyannis
“And there is power in words”
– from “Continuum of Each Other”
Portia Choi promotes poetry by hosting the First Friday Open Mic, and publicizing events during National Poetry Month in April. Choi published Sungsook, Korean War Poems, a chapbook of her poems about experiences of the war as a young child and those of her family, and American veterans of that war. She also promotes peace for oneself and for the community. Choi, with Bakersfield community partners, commemorates the U.N. International Day of Peace every September 21.
Christopher Robert Craddock
Christopher Robert Craddock has been writing poetry for over three score
years. He has a BA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University,
where he studied the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire under
the prolific and esteemed Greek poet, novelist, playwright and translator
Nanos Valaoritis. He is currently writing a travel journal like Basho’s Narrow
Road to the Deep North, but instead of Haiku — Limericks!
Live Long & Prosper
“memory morphing over time|becoming more than itself”
Jill Egland is a Bakersfieldian. In college, she studied music, photography, and writing before embarking on a career in international development. (Being a Pisces, she didn’t find her career flip the least bit baffling.) She lived for many years in Southeast Asia, Europe, and eventually, New York’s Lower East Side. She returned to Bakersfield with her daughter, wrote three plays which were produced locally and off-Broadway, and was performing in a community orchestra when she was recruited to play accordion in the all-women Celtic/Klezmer band out of which her current band, Banshee in the Kitchen, emerged. Today, she writes, plays music, walks dogs, and opines in public places.
“Oh God, thank you for this view from this beach, my special spot where I stroll in the surf and sit. A lot.”
Named after Shelley, poetry is my destiny. I’ve been writing since childhood, I graduated high school where I was involved in the literary magazine, some college courses, and first published in 1985 with “Peace.” Published in Writing Drought, Writing Fields, Writing Flora and Fauna, Writing Sound, Reach for the Sky and Pathway to the Heart. In 2020 the Life of Aphun was published, a book in verse, a vision I had while writing it!
Shamir Kali Griffin
Shamir won 2014 Central Valley Favorite Author Award and 2021 Praised by December, first place in Poetry in an international contest. His books are Identity in Shades (2013), Tomorrow Morning (2015), Funeral Cry Lusa (2018), and The Living Wound (2021).
“You will never be the evil queen, always the sweet young maiden, hair as dark as mosquitos, skin as white as the most well-healed scars.” — from Aging Survival
Tamara Hattis is a writer and collage artist in Redlands, California. Her art and poetry have previously been published in The Sand Canyon Review, Ghost Town Literary Magazine, The Deaf Poets Society, Incandescent Mind by Sadie Girl Press, Cholla Needles Magazine, Wordgathering, and Pile Press. She published her first full-length poetry collection/memoir in 2019 titled Colors of My Pain, which documents her adult life with chronic pain.
“I shape these words from the other side of a sleeping water . . .”
English is her second language, mostly learned through the words and white space of poetry. The simplicity of childhood poems morphed into political reality as a teenager bent on feminism and journalism. Anke is a contributor to Enough, Say Their Names, In the Midst, Persimmon Tree, Reaching for the Sky, Pathway to the Heart, Writing Fields, Writing Sound, Writing Work, Writing Flora, Writing Fauna, Southern California Writers Showcase, and Frost Meadow Review. She was a 2010 Hall of Fame Teacher, and currently facilitates poetry workshops with The Art and Spirituality Center in Bakersfield and serves as the Vice President of the Writers of Kern.
Catherine Abbey Hodges
“You’re a strand of dark thread
stitching a word to a river. Then another.”
–from “How to Begin”
Catherine Abbey Hodges is the author of three poetry collections, most recently In a Rind of Light (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2020). Her first book, Instead of Sadness, won the Barry Spacks Prize from Gunpowder Press. Recent work appears in, or is forthcoming from, Narrative, CALYX, Plume, SALT, and Gyroscope Review. Professor Emeritus at Porterville College, Catherine writes, edits, and teaches privately in Springville, CA. She is a staff reader for SWWIM, advisory editor for Anacapa Review, and co-founder of Canyon Wren Writing.
“I understand why faeries bite.
When you happen to be a creature of light,
men want to catch you…”
– from “Why Faeries Bite”
View her book on our Poets’ Publications page.
Diane Lobre, is a life-long lover of reading and writing. She used her writing skills in every position held in her working career. including: newsletters, brochures, poems and curricula for children’s programs. Diane has been published in poetry anthologies produced by The Walter Stiern Library at California State University, Bakersfield and Taft College. She lived in Hawaii for 27 years, where she studied Hawaiian hula and chant. One of her poems was translated into Hawaiian and performed as a hula. A lifetime achievement includes graduating as a hula dancer and learning about Hawaiian culture.
Anna Marco was born into theatrical heritage and her production experience in drama began at an early age. She began writing poetry at 13 years old and it became evident that she was a gifted writer. She majored in English, film, fine arts and became employed in automotive publishing during the golden age of hot rod journalism.
Anna’s professional credits include theatre, film and print projects for clients such as: Petersen Publishing Company, Chevrolet Trucks, Harley Davidson and 20th Century-Fox Studios among others. She is an internationally published author and photographer and has contributed to 7 books and written over 900 magazine articles. She also writes for law enforcement.
She won First Place at the Los Angeles Valley College Poetry Contest for “The Lemon Tree.”
Carla Joy Martin
“Crooning love songs to the sun”
– from “Christmas Concert in the Park”
Carla is a poet, piano instructor and artist. She co-hosts First Friday Open Mics with Portia Choi and interviews the participants for KernPoetry.com. She is Critique Group Chair for Writers of Kern. Carla received her MA in English Literature from Stanford. She has published poems in Rabid Oak, Reaching for the Sky, Writing Fields, Writing Sound, Writing Flora, Writing Fauna. Carla published her first poetry chapbook, Kaleidoscope of Love, in 2020, which is available on Amazon.
“Love the smell of books
the scent of rain
blessings of redolence.”
– from “Comfort”
Christopher Nielsen is a writer, photographer and web designer. Back roads provide inspiration out in nature for photography and writing. His works have appeared in Barren Magazine, Kern Poetry, Mojave Heart Review, Poetry Super Highway, Rabid Oak, Rue Scribe, Song of the San Joaquin, The Blue Mountain Review, The Opiate Magazine, West Texas Literary Review. Working a book of original photos and poems.
Christopher does website design, graphics and social media for Kern Poetry.
“…the drum beats slower now, I hear it still.
The constant is change and forever its will.”
Heather Ponek is a poet and musician, pulling in cathartic sad, humor and nature as in the above poem from a friend that passed. Imagination and beauty of thought in words describes a poet. She is humbled to be in that sentence. She was hooked, reciting a poem at summer camp, “I meant to do my work today—,” by Richard Le Gallienne. She is transported to a dream with good poetry and is so grateful for Poetry Nights at Dagny’s, thanking Portia and Carla.
Rachel Stratemeier is a poet, writer, and student. She recently graduated from CSU Bakersfield with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. She is a resident of Bakersfield and has lived all of her 22 years there, accumulating memories of some of Kern county’s most notable locations. She has had work published in Writing Fields as well as Writing Covid, and plans to have work published in Mercury Retrograde Magazine in the coming months. Her email address is:
we’re all denim, leather boots, and shovels
-rough tools for dealing with life’s manure
But once in a while,
love makes us lay it all down
or a ride.”
Kevin is a literary humorist and poet who has been featured on Valley Writers Read (Valley Public Radio). A dynamic teacher and entertainer, he has produced literary workshops and shows since 2012. He also has supported Bakersfield’s poetry community through his Open Mic at Barnes & Noble and Russo’s. He and his writing clients recently published Unsung Heroes, Villains, Victims, and Guides. Kevin is a high school teacher and winner of the Champion of Literacy Award for Kern County. He has trained with Bard College’s Institute for Writing and Thinking and Hollywood’s Robert McKee.
Irene Sinopole is a beginning poet and essayist. She mainly enjoys listening to other writers telling their lives through their writings. She is working on learning to write in Spanish.
Hi, my name is Fabian Tolan. I was born in 1996 and grew up in foster care until being adopted at age 7. Unfortunately, my adoptive parents faced many health issues and died two years apart when I was 12 and then 14. I absolutely still love my life and get by in life by running, playing guitar and going to school. Music is my main passion where I share all of it for free on SoundCloud.com. My inspiration actually comes from the trauma I experienced as a youth. My music is for people who are barely holding on but hear a song by me and feel like someone they can relate to.
My music can be found on SoundCloud:
Don Thompson was born in Bakersfield, CA, and has spent most of his life in Kern County. He has been publishing poetry since the early sixties, including over a dozen books and chapbooks. Back Roads won the 2008 Sunken Garden Prize. He was the subject of an LA Times profile, “Planted in the San Joaquin.” More recently, A San Joaquin Almanac won the Eric Hoffer Award for chapbooks in 2021. He and his wife, Chris, live on her family’s farm near Buttonwillow in a house that has been home to four generations. In 2016 he was selected as the first Poet Laureate of Kern County.
Jana Lee Wong
“Small feet so cold as winter’s night, skin soft and smooth, translucent light; a halo shines ‘er your crown tonight.”
Jana Lee Wong began writing poetry at the age of 4 years old. She has since published “Monks on Time’s Hill” (California Quarterly of Poetry), “Soul Mate” (Levan Humanities Review), “Letting Go,” (Sharp Piece of Awesome), “Dragon River” (Carus Publishing), and several poems through community publications. She currently teaches composition and literature at Bakersfield College and is a member of Writers of Kern.
“Our hearts a patchwork of scars / and skull-shaped aquariums swimming in stars.”
– from “Waxing Gibbous: Coyolxauhqui”
Matthew Woodman was the 2019-2020 Kern County Poet Laureate and is the author of This Is Not Your Moon.
More of his work can be found at: matthewwoodman.com
and he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org