Vibrant poet, Dixie Salazar shares words with CSUB campus


Poet Dixie Salazar reads to the crowd inside the Dezember Reading Room in the Walter Stiern Library at CSU Bakersfield on March 27. Photo by Chris Lopez

Sam Underwood, Reporter

By Sam Underwood

With her violet hair, shiny green outfit and large rings on nearly every finger, you can’t help but notice Dixie Salazar among the simple wood and book décor of the Dezember Reading room at the Walter Stiern Library.

Her sense of style is hardly what makes her profound although she is a poet, artist, activist and humanitarian. Salazar visited CSU Bakersfield on March 27 to share her poetry as a part of the California Writers Series (CWS), organized by Marit MacArthur and the School of Arts and Humanities.

The CWS is dedicated to bringing writers to Bakersfield, in an effort expose students and the community to different genres, cultures and styles of writing.  It is sponsored by the school of Arts and Humanities Walter Stiern Library, Walter Presents, Poets & Writers, and Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society. Recently, the CWS received a grant from the Virgina and Alfred Harrell foundation to further assist bringing writers to Bakersfield for similar events.

Salazar, who studied under Freson poet Philip Levine, has released five books of poetry, a novel and a young adult novel.

Salazar started the reading with some poetry from her latest book, “Voices of the Wind,” written for her late husband, Jon Veinberg, who was also a poet.

Her readings go from there to another collection that reflects her work with the homeless. Salazar is a board member for the Dakota Eco Garden in Fresno, a safe living space for homeless individuals that opened in 2013 that has helped more than 80 people become self-sufficient with their own homes.

One such success story, was of a homeless mother, who was not named by Salazar, that had lost her children and was struggled with drug addiction. After coming to live at the eco garden, she went into rehab for her addiction, went back to school at Fresno City College acquiring her degree in counselling, and she regained custody of her kids. The mother is now working as a drug and alcohol counselor.

“People often say that homeless want to be homeless, maybe a small few, but in my experience, they really don’t want that life,” said Salazar.

In between poems, Salazar told stories of how the poems came to fruition or her sources of inspiration, adding tips and advice to aspiring authors to help with their writing.

Salazar shared a quote from her old teacher, Levine, “Phil would always tell us, ‘why write about yourself when you can write about something interesting.’ ” she said.

English grad student Jennifer Weir said that, “Getting to hear the commentary and back story to her poetry makes this very interesting.”

After reading her poetry inspired by her experiences with the less fortunate, she continued to read poetry inspired by her work in the prison system. Salazar has taught parenting classes at Fresno County Jail, taught writing and art to incarcerated women at Central California Women’s Facility Chowchilla and Valley State Prison, and as well taught poetry writing to men at Corcoran State Prison. The necklace she wore was a gift from a woman at the Chowchilla prison.

Salazar ended the evening with poetry inspired by her heritage, one such being a poem that code switched from English to Spanish frequently truly showing her diversity and skill in writing.

Austin Yi, an English major, said after the reading, “I am really grateful for this program.  I feel fortunate we have this access to the creative process,” he said.

Future events from the CWS include an upcoming event “Reading Sounds” a release of an anthology with the same name, assembled by English professor Matthew Woodman.