Poet laureate returns home to Bakersfield


Poet Lindsay Wilson reciting a poem on October 14 in the Dezember room in the Walter W. Stiern Library part of the California Writers Series.

Sam Underwood, Editor In Chief

“Not only should you be inspired, but think about ‘how can I be up there someday’,” advised English professor Matt Woodman as he introduced Lindsay Wilson, former poet laureate of Reno, Nevada.

Students and guests at CSU Bakersfield were then treated to the smooth, mellow voice of Wilson, reading his poetry in the Dezember Reading Room of the Walter Stiern Library. The atmosphere created by the elegance of wooden paneled walls, books, and overstuffed chairs added depth to the tone of Wilson’s somber elegies.

Wilson’s trip to Bakersfield for this night started with a phone call.

“I called Matt [Woodman] and asked him if there were any good coffee shops… somewhere I could read poetry and sell some books. I wasn’t expecting all this,” Wilson said as he gestured around the magnitude of the Dezember Reading Room.

Wilson’s reading was part of the California Writers Series sponsored by the Walter Stiern Library, Sigma Tau Delta, and Teachers of Tomorrow, along with a donation from the Virginia and Alfred Harrell Foundation.

Wilson is not only the former poet laureate of Reno, but has also received the Silver Pen from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame and has published a full-length collection of poetry, “No Elegies,” as well as his most recent chapbook, “Because the Dirt is Poor Here.”Wilson was born and raised in Bakersfield, making him a superb addition to the California Writers Series.

“I used to run around the halls here at a summer school program,” Wilson reminisces, “This building wasn’t here. The library was somewhere else.”

Wilson went to West High and Bakersfield College. He attended grad school in Iowa and is now an English Professor at Truckee Meadow College in Reno, where he is an editor of The Meadow, a literature and arts journal.

Wilson tells a story about finding guilt in his use of a wasp trap as he watches the wasp crawl around and slowly die that became a poem he reads, “Wasp in a Trap,”that reflects on a break up.

“This is a great metaphor for something, but I didn’t know what. Then I got dumped,” said Wilson.

“Since I’m not really into poetry, this has been a great insight into what poetry is,” said Aretzy Vargas, a criminal justice major at CSUB.

Most of Wilson’s poetry reading is from his full-length book “No Elegies,” a collection of poems that center around the death of his mother. Much of his poetry has heavy and dark themes as he focuses on his favorite form of poetry, elegies. However, many of his poems end with a laugh from the audience as he slips in a light-hearted phrase.

“It’s nice if there is a release valve. I can never try to be funny, sometimes it happens,” said Wilson, explaining the twist of humor that often ends some of his darker elegies.

“It is inspiring, especially taking grief, sorrow, and loss, and make it a creative force,” said Mike Musick, an English major at CSUB.

At the end of the reading, Wilson had some advice for aspiring writers.

“Develop a love of writing. If you develop a love for the process of writing, and can sit for hours and just write, then you can be successful.”