Poets share their works

Poets share their works

Lee Herrick about to read a poem from one of his poetry books, Gardening Secrets Of the Dead, at the Norman Levan Center for Humanities, April 25.

Ruben A. Perez, Reporter

By Ruben A. Perez


“I want to talk about what’s happening in Fresno’s literary scene and what isn’t happening in Bakersfield enough.”  This was the opening remark by Fresno poet Nick Belardes at the Norman Levan Center for Humanities.  Nick Belardes and five other Fresno poets came and shared their works and discussed the literary community in Fresno.

“What’s interesting about this group of guest poets isn’t that they are accomplished Fresnans who have been published in many journals and books and who between them have edited more than a few literary journals.

They aren’t just writers who happen to live in the same locale, they are friends,” said Belardes on the poets in the Fresno literary community. “We have fun, we celebrate each others works, we break bread, we visit, we explore each others cities together.  We build community.”

Belardes continued by commenting on the Bakersfield literary scene.  “The reality, Bakersfield’s literary community is small and fragmented.  There are pockets here and there.  As a collective, it truly has yet to be seen.”

He asked, “If you don’t write your narrative, somebody will for you.  Do you want to be defined by ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ forever?

“The arts in Bakersfield may need to grow in their willingness to believe in words just as much as paint, but instead of looking at what’s wrong, lets look at what Fresno is doing right,” he added.

“There’s a literary scene you can fight for.  It’s in Fresno. It’s in Modesto.  It’s in Bakersfield.  It’s the central valley where all the scenes blend into one region. This event this evening, a Bakersfield Fresno reading, and it isn’t an easy fight or I wouldn’t be talking about it.

“This area need literary culture banding together. What comes out of your mouth are words and not paintings so we, would be proud of our valley’s poets,” he added.

Michael Luis Medrano read selections from his book “Born In The Cavity Of Sunsets.”  His poems kept reflect his life and community in Fresno.

He even used his poetry to call out the Bulldogs, a violent gang based in Fresno.  “My cousin, he was murdered in a drive by shooting in West Fresno. “It turns out it was a case of mistaken identity.  They mistook my cousin for somebody else.  This is my response to the Bulldog, calling out the Bulldog.”

Andre Yang, a Hmong poet, not only uses poetry to express his feelings about his culture, he also uses it to express the world around him.

Poet S. Brian Medina expressed the same feelings, “I think it’s our job, as writers, to document what’s going on in our lives.”

“We are the reporters that keep tabs on history to give history a different tilt and keep it honest and truthful.

If you’re not an honest writer you shouldn’t be doing it,” he said before he recited a poem about the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

All of the poets continued on with themes of community, and identity as Fresno writers and as writers from the valley.

Belardes encourages the Bakersfield writers to come together and even helps by running the Random Writers Workshops in town. Veronica Madrigal and Nicole Biggs, who were at the Norman Levan Center for Humanities, are members and went to support the writing community.

“We like to be a part of the poet community,” said Madrigal. “We were actually both published in the book ‘(In)Visible Memoirs,’” said Briggs. “There’s a very strong community in Fresno and I think that people in Bakersfield want that community.”

The Random Writers Workshop can be found on Facebook.