Oh dear, has it really been a week since I posted last? At least I was busy with poetry related tasks. I was preparing for a reading. Well, if by preparing you mean talking on the radio (what fun!) and baking treats. I didn’t really give a thought about what I was going to read until two hours before the event because I wasn’t the main attraction. A friend, Eva Saulitis, was releasing her new book Many Ways to Say It (which is amazing, buy it, seriously), and another friend, Wendy Erd, was going to be talking about a fabulous new project that will put a poem in various state parks in Alaska (how cool is that?). I really was along for the ride since I’m on the Poems in Place committee and Eva was nice enough to remind me that I have a book coming out next year.
The truth is I felt lucky to be part of the whole event but somewhat outside it. I was only going to read for five minutes, so I only needed to pick out a few poems. Mostly I wanted to support my friends, so I worried about what goodies to bring and how to get more people to the event. I wanted everyone to have a nice time, but I knew that hardly anyone in the crowd would be there to see me. It was good to be in service to the event and not myself or even my work.
It was an incredibly stormy Saturday night, but the Bunnell Street Arts Center was packed to the gunnels with kind people all there to enjoy poetry and support poets. I sat off to the side and worked the light switches and listened to my friends read their work. I was awed by the sound of their words lifted over the audience and the roaring wind outside.
When it was my turn, I stood in the tiny pool of warm light and read two poems from my book, a fairly polished poem that I wrote last year, and a draft that I’d written a few days before the reading. I felt suspended by the kind attention of the crowd, almost as if I had stepped into a little wooden boat and now floated on the collective breath of the moment.
And afterwards folks said such lovely things to me. I had a chance to talk a lot about Eva’s fine work and the Poems in Place project. I kept thanking people for coming and for their kindness. It was good, beyond good, to talk about poetry with so many people. How could there possibly be over fifty people in my tiny town who cared enough to miss all the other sparkly attractions of the night and even venture out into the stormy weather? And yet, there we were, eating cookies, buying Eva’s book Many Ways to Say It, reaching out to each other over a bridge of words.
Poetry is not dead. We are still connected by our words that crouch and dance and gambol and create bonds between us. This is my life, a life in poetry – a pocket epiphany to carry into the stormy night.