Last night I had my first poetry reading--and when I say that, I mean my first reading without a half dozen or so others featured. It was just me and Emily, at the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts, a beautiful old converted farmhouse, which was apparently also once a tavern. What a perfect place, a place of great history and comfort, a place full of gorgeous stories.
They also have a quilt exhibit, pictures of which I will share in another post--I don't want to overwhelm the senses (and what with Blog 365, I must save these wonderful inundations of art and topics for another date).
The reading itself went well. I think Emily and I contrasted and complimented each other well--her poems were lighter, little gems about the landscape, geography, observations of human moments--and as I read, I found my poems were about tougher stuff, focusing on loss and conflict.
She opened the reading, close to memorized, smiling with plenty of anecdotes--night kayaking, Somalis at the bus stop, life in Ghana, growing up in Connecticut. She finished with a sonnet from her time at the Anderson Center, which I thought was a lovely segue into my introduction, the girl who traveled through the slippery streets from this town.
The best thing about the night was my little corner of girl friends (and father too). I am forever grateful for good girl friends; I love my marriage, but I think equally important is having a collection of incredible friends. I knew, if no one else cared for my poems, that they would embrace me at the end, tell me I did well. Even if I wasn't memorized, even if my voice trembled. Even if I stood at the same cockeyed slant, my hip sore after half an hour of rooted-to-the-spot.
Even without my cheering squad, I think the poems went well, and I hesitate to say this, but I got a good feeling from the audience, as if maybe it wasn't all crap after all. I have serious issues with self-doubt, and this was exactly the experience that I needed, a soft murmur in the crowd, some laughter, and I even hear there were some tears in people's eyes, particularly as I worked through the Alzheimer's poems. What is important to me, when I write poems that are confessional, that comes from my experiences, even if it is at a slant, is that the poems don't come off as therapy but as art. And I hope that came through--that writing them came from a need, but the need wasn't entirely to process the event of my grandfather's passing--that came from posts here, from conversation with family and friends--but the need came from a writing drive.
And this morning, I received another nice rejection. At this point in my writing life, so early on, it is just as important to me to receive those notes that tell me at least one editor wanted it, but the poem just didn't quite make it. I nearly made it into Mid-American Review (and not too long ago, nearly made it into Beloit), which is nice, and I have that piece to look forward to in Dislocate in the spring. These it-almost-made-it notes tell me that I ought to keep sending them poem out, maybe tweak it a bit, but it just might find a home, just might be deserving of a home. In a life that is weighed down with self-doubt, is burdened with thin skin, it is good to have these little treasures to return to, to say Keep going, keep trying. That little voice that tells me I am on the right path.
15 hours ago