Art After Dark

art after darkOn September 28, poets from California State University, Bakersfield collaborated with the Bakersfield Museum of Art as part of their “Art After Dark” series to present poems inspired by the work on display by the artists Gwynn Murrill, Javier Carrillo, and Astrid Preston.  Thanks to the vision and hard work of Development Coordinator Alli Duncan and Curator Rachel Magnus, the event was a smashing success, and thanks to support by Curt Asher, Dean of the Walter Stiern Library, and Robert Frakes, Dean of the School of Arts & Humanities at CSUB, the attendees were given a chapbook featuring the poems and art that inspired them.  We hope to make this an annual event exploring the ekphrastic connection between different art forms.  I owe Astrid Preston an extra level of gratitude for painting “Kings Canyon, 1993-1995,” the inspiration for my own poem, “Since, or Sense.”



Summer Work

Summer vacation?  What summer vacation?

I’ve been working on two workshops for the upcoming Central Coast Writers Conference, one on how to frame one’s piece/poem with effective titles and opening and closing lines, and one on finding inspiration by becoming one’s own muse (which involves improvisation, performance art, and unwitting collaboration).  When I’ve given workshops in the past, they’ve ended up inspiring bursts of my own writing, so I’m excited to see how this turns out.  (It’s already inspired one short story and one long poem, so it’s off to a good start).

I’ll also be giving a workshop for Writers of Kern in November on how to craft (and be inspired by) effective metaphors.  Two books that have inspired my own use of metaphors are Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson and I Is an Other by James Geary, both excellent reads at illuminating how metaphors gird (see what I did there) our thinking.

I’m also helping organize a September Art After Dark collaboration between the Bakersfield Museum of Art and California State University, Bakersfield in which CSUB poets will be writing and performing ekphrastic poems inspired by the work of Astrid Preston, Javier Carrillo, and Gwynn Murrill.

Finally, I’ll be teaching two new texts in the fall: Stephen Burt’s The Poem Is You and Christopher Buckley and Gary Young’s One for the Money: The Sentence as a Poetic Form, two great books for any poet.  Now I just have to create some lessons and exercises . . .

Richard Buckner

Many thanks to Richard Buckner for putting on a fantastic Bakersfield Living Room show on February 17.  He is one of the greats in terms of mastering and maintaining a tone, and I can’t decide if his lyrics are poems or short stories: they work as both.  I found myself tearing up when he played “Ariel Ramirez.”  My god, that’s a beautiful song.  I also appreciate his use of interrogative questioning in his newer albums, especially Our Blood, as on the song “Collusion”: “Do you understand, crossing all of those lines and crawling back, slipping from your skin?  You couldn’t keep it in?” I am blessed to have been able to hear him perform these songs.



On the day after the inauguration, millions of Americans (myself included) took to the streets to affirm a common belief in decency, respect, and human rights. For me, this occasion was both deeply inspiring and horrifyingly depressing. Thus, my poem.


How free I feel
huddling the margin
my cardboard sign
asking for change
passing cars honking
or jabbing middle fingers
in my general direction

how free I feel
pressing send
after having composed
an indignant missive
after having calibrated
a tethered screed
apropos the occasion

how free I feel
reading coverage
of my brothers and sisters
castigated and clipped
for possessing the nerve
to demand participation
in how their boundaries are drawn

how free I feel
in hearing how we should go
back to before’s
seen not heard
back to before’s
shadow crowd
we could tell were free