Thursday, November 17, 2005

New Template and Poetry Reading.

At tea last week, my dear friend Ann noted that reading light-colored letters on a dark background was hard on her eyes. I'm chagrined that I didn't think of this myself--there are certain publications that I don't even pick up anymore because their fancy layout/typography was clearly designed by young mind-altering-substance users who believe their eyesight will never deteriorate.

Voila, the eye-friendlier new Megastore.

Last night, I read poetry at the City Art reading series. Always a funny experience, the poetry reading. For me, it goes like this: I get asked to read. I'm happy and flattered. A few weeks before the reading, I start to assemble a list. I remember that Hector Ahumada, the Chilean poet, once said you should always read only new work. Regardless of whether this is good advice, I allow myself only to select new work. My list of new work then sets the revision agenda.

If things are good, I start revising in a deliberate way well ahead of the reading. Things are really never good. I start revising the day before the reading. Or the day of the reading. Yesterday, I spent the day revising.

It was a good day. I was home with Bruiser, who, stunningly, had nearly nothing to contribute to the revision process. No advice about line breaks, structure, diction, whether a version of a poem was self-pitying or condescending. Nothing. Nonetheless, I forged on. By the time the reading rolled around, I had a dozen poems in pretty good shape.

About the time I'm done revising, aka a couple of hours before the reading, all my writing turns to shit. It's the same writing of course, it just takes on the unmistakeable appearance--the odor, even--of shit. I gather this sheaf of sad, bad poetry together, put on my best poet clothing, and head on down to the City Library. Too bad such a beautiful building is going to host such a terrible reading of terrible, terrible poems.

The nice guy--excellent poet Joel Long--who coordinates the reading series introduces me and says very kind, glowing things about me. If only he knew what awful poems I was about to read! Then, I get up, say a self-deprecating thing or two, then commence.

In the reading, the poems don't sound half bad. "Not half bad," say to myself as I'm reading, which distracts me a little. Occasionally I stumble over a word while encouraging myself mentally. Before you know it, I've read for 25 minutes or so, my little pile of not-so-bad poems depleted. I say thanks and mean it, and then I sit down.

The next reader gets up, my friend Kim Johnson. She's a wizard of wordplay. Her poems are dense and playful, lively, sharp. I'm able to give myself over to enjoying them because I'm done and I did okay. At least okay. After it's all done, there's milling about, friends and strangers who say kind words, and it's over.

So that's how it went down at the poetry reading.

3 comments:

Sleepy E said...

I've never had to read (at a reading) and I hope I never ever have to. I think there is pressure to read funny stuff (even if it's not your best work) because that's what works with crowds. I expect I will crash and burn the first time I have to read anything in public.

middlebrow said...

1) I like the new template--though I'll always remeber lisa b's darker days.

2) Dr. Write enjoyed the reading--especially your part.

3) I am going to your next reading, and if we don't have a baby sitter, well, Dr. Write's staying home.

Counterintuitive said...

I'm a bit late on this, but glad I got the low down on your reading. I remember asking you about how it went but didn't get these kinds of details--I or we were probably busy rushing off somewhere. Maybe the naysayers--technology isolates us, etc.--are wrong: I just learned something about you, a real live colleague I see daily, which I'm sure I wouldn't have ever learned in "real" life.

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