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.
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.
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.
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.