Poetry in the Moment

Yesterday’s poetry reading, The Reading #4, hosted by Michael Thomas Cooper and held at the Muffin Top Bakery in Redlands, California, was well-attended. In fact, there were not enough chairs for the guests, so several people stood up for the entire reading, as customers wandered in and out and the employees tried to keep up with the orders. I was invited to be one of the featured poets, and it was a privilege to participate with Maritza Ocampo and Maurisa Thompson, plus an interesting line up of open mic readers, many reading for the first time in public. w:MichaelCindy

Cindy Rinne, well-known Inland Empire poet and visual artist, also signed and sold me a copy of her chapbook, spider with wings, and I anticipate a nice evening reading it. SpiderWings

I love doing poetry readings, hearing others read their work, and being part of a community that also enjoys the same things. Nonetheless, the experience of hearing a poem is much different from reading it. The visual aspects of the poem are lost, the line breaks, the stanza lengths, and any punctuation that might create visual pauses or stops. When we encounter “poetry in the moment,” or poetry being read by someone out loud, we instead pick up on the imagery, the sounds of the words, and the intonation and pacing of the reader. I read a new poem, one that is intended to be fast-paced until the poem’s resolution in the last few lines, and though I knew how it should sound, how I wanted it to sound, I didn’t end up reading it that way. Instead, due to feeling out of breath a few times, I did not convey the pacing I had in mind. CarlaPR2

Poetry-in-the-moment is a unique experience of poetry. We are sitting with others who may or may not be poets, who may not like poetry, or have any experience with listening to poetry, or with those who are well-acquainted with hearing live readings. The mood of the general audience tends to affect the reception of the poem. Enthusiasm begets more enthusiasm, and likewise, boredom. Thankfully, yesterday’s group, a blend of seasoned poets and novices, first-time readers and onlookers, seemed eager to grasp what each reader shared, and appreciative of each reader, no matter how wide the range of topics. (Photo by Larry Eby)

I would love to hear what you think of poetry readings, both attending them and giving them.

18 thoughts on “Poetry in the Moment

  1. I know what you mean about two things you present here: 1) Being amongst people who share your passion, and 2) Not quite performing as you might have expected yourself to.

    Every year, when I participate in the Adult Spelling Bee, I am so in my element to be with other people (from all over the country, actually,) who love words, linguistics, and everything having to do with proper spelling. We meet before and after the actual spelling bee, and exchange all manner of wonderment about our language and its idiosyncrasies. It’s always such a pleasure.

    The other part, about performing, I feel you there too. I’m always revisiting my time on the stage after I’ve finally dropped out of the contest, having failed for one reason or another (my brain gets in the way of my thinking most of the time,) and it can be days, months, and even years that I have so many thoughts under the stairwell, as it were. “I should have done this,” “Why didn’t I do that?”

    I’ll bet your reading was wonderful and received very well, and you are simply being your harshest critic, but remember: practice, practice, practice!

    Congratulations on having such a popular venue in which to practice your craft. I hope to be able to make it to one of them soon. Keep up the great work and I say this with my warmest regards. ❤

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  2. I have never attended a live reading but I will. The world of live poetry is as exciting to me as an opera singer. Voice and words and rhythm and rhyme, drama, melodrama – sublime!

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      1. Yes, I watched Luanne’s videos and enjoyed them. A few other bloggers I follow also read their work which I find really enriches the listening experience but it is a lot like a performance and it’s easy, I imagine, that the writer reading her own work might feel that performance pressure.

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  3. Carla, what a lovely experience. Congrats on the reading! I wish I was living in California so I could have come! I know what you mean about not being able to produce the sound you want in reading a poem aloud. For me, it’s always a case of nerves that does the poem in. I remember when a few of us read our work at UCR. It was a unique experience, the school letting a bunch of PhD students showcase their creative work. We felt like “weirdos” in some ways. But I read way too fast. And afterward I asked a friend about it and she admitted that I just read way too fast ;). Even when I think I’m reading very slowly, I am reading much faster than I can sense. Poetry readings, beyond being positive experiences (hopefully) for the audience, are very good for the poets because it gives us different ways to interrogate our own work.

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  4. Congratulations on your reading Carla. I don’t write poetry and I’ve only had one experience of reading a piece of my fiction aloud – which I found nerve-wracking, but afterwards was left with a great feeling – fiction too is different read aloud, I think.

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    1. Thank you Andrea. Not long ago, my husband and I were in Los Angeles for a conference, and we got tickets to a poetry reading nearby. However, one of the readers actually read a fiction piece, a portion of a novel, though the other two readers did a straightforward poetry reading. At book signings, I love hearing the writer read a chapter or portion from the book. So enjoyable to hear a few comments about the work and then to hear it read aloud.

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