Sunday, August 08, 2010

Poets in Nassau

I talk a lot about poetry readings, but sometimes my readings are ... well ... just not well attended.

When Jennifer Jean arranged this reading for us at the Hillside Public Library with the Poets in Nassau series, we (Jennifer, Colleen Michaels, and I) were excited about reading together outside of our Massachusetts comfort zone. And, it was a road trip for the girls.


(L to R: Jennifer Jean, me, and Colleen Michaels)


We had six people in our audience. Six. Yet we made the best of it. We put the chairs in a circle and sat for our presentation, which helped make the room a bit more intimate. Then, we read our work in conversation.

This is our first time reading together in a round (although Colleen and I had success with it a few months ago). So Jennifer read a poem, then I read a poem in response to hers, followed by Colleen reading in response to me. Our poems cover similar topics, which made it easier to create loose connections. I wish we had filmed our reading because the audience loved what we did and really appreciated the effort.

Reading in response forced us to choose poems on the fly. I know I read a few poems from Underlife I had never read before an audience. The performance offered another level of connection than having three separate readings. Safe to say that we enjoyed the night as much, if not more, as the audience.

I know that when I commit to readings, there are no guarantees. In this case, it was a beautiful, warm August night--a Friday. And we're relatively unknown poets reading at a library on Long Island. My feeling is that the event was not well promoted. Even if it was, I don't think it would have made much of a difference. The truth is you just never know how an event will turn out. And if I had not done the reading, I would have missed speaking to the audience at our unplanned Q & A, listening to their work at the open mic, and hearing their appreciative words after the event.

Truth be told: having the opportunity to hang out with Jennifer and Colleen--kid-free--for a 24 hours was priceless.

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I would LOVE to hear your experiences about readings that did not turn out the way they were planned. Whether you're a poet/writer, or an organizer, I want to hear from you!


8 comments:

Marc said...

I spent a considerable amount of time once when I worked for the Louisiana Nature Center, writing a children's play about photosynthesis, creating the puppets, getting my mother-in-law to assist, sending out some info to members and only got one Mom and her one kid to show. But the manager said that was actually not so bad...

6 people for a poetry reading not so bad - most people hear the words "poetry reading" and cringe...

The Mom Egg said...

Great that you found a way to make the reading more of a "close encounter"-- memorable for you and the audience. That happened to me and Alana Free when we had a panel at an academic conf. We ended up sitting in a circle with attendees and sharing work and info. Several exciting collaborations ended up emerging from that meeting.

Hanging out and reading with poets you like is a treat. Nonetheless, hope your next one's SRO! Marjorie

January said...

Thanks Marjorie. Most people do cringe at the thought of a poetry reading, so I am grateful for the six that attended.

January said...

Marc, I'm sure you gave the event your best effort. Sometimes that's all you can do. :)

Kristin said...

I once had to read extra time. There should have been two poets and a jazz ensemble. The jazz ensemble was late, and the other poet never showed up. So, luckily, I had lots of poems with me, and I have theatre training--the show must go on. I also have years of teaching behind me, and can talk at length about just about any subject. The audience was great too.

Although it wasn't what I was expecting, it was a great reading at a local library--one of my favorite poet reading memories.

Hannah Stephenson said...

I'm so glad it was a great experience, regardless of number of attendees. It was probably a special experience for those who were there!

Jacqueline Jones LaMon said...

It was an engaging reading, and I'm very glad that I was present.

Try to measure the success of a reading, not by how many bodies are in the room, but by the impact you have on those bodies.

I, for one, was energized and enriched. Your travels were not for naught!

January said...

Jaci, I just tweeted your words. Thanks for your kindness--it was a really nice event.

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