Last Thursday’s reading was pretty interesting. I had chosen my material on the basis of my own comfort level and with some feedback from a few friends. When I sat down on the floor to listen to people’s readings I realized, I hadn’t considered the location and the crowd enough. See, it’s not exactly a poetry slam. It’s not a bar or a cafe either. It’s Borders. At the MALL.
So, I fretted and looked through my backup material looking for stuff that would be less, er… shocking.
The poems I had selected to read included “Antillana Streets” (the first stanza ends with limp dicks and the refrain includes the words “mutherfuckin'”), “Gynecological Blues: A journey of SELF examination” (featuring the “Battle Hymn of my Vagina”), “Day in Her Shoes” (relatively tame one), “I was a Lesbian child” (did she say lesbian?), and a fragment of “Re-generations” (which featured relatively little outrageousness).
What is remarkable about this situation is that I don’t usually self-censor. I also don’t get nervous about reading. I love reading. But suddenly, sitting on the cold floor next to a reading virgin, I felt a hard knot of anxiety tighten in my gut. When one speaker got up there and used the word boobs and a mother took her two children away I realized, this was NOT my crowd.
Fortunately, I got sucked into the readings: Ellen Pratt’s story was absolutely wonderful and so courageous. She described sitting in a church and I kept wanting to jump in with the Amen!s as she read. I had tears streaming down my face by the time she finished. Jocelyn Geliga’s poetry was incredibly powerful and painful. And I cried too. Cathy Fleck read some beautiful poems about her brother’s death many years ago. Cathy Mazak read about the shore and I loved picturing the sandcastles she read. A young woman whom I don’t know early on in the reading did a piece about a homeless person that was great: as part of the reading was a sung lullaby piece. Good shit!
So, my turn comes and I had not decided which poem to open my set with until I got up there and thought: “Fuck it!” I am sure the staff of the mall will be laughing about the crazy woman in borders singing about her vagina at 10:00 PM for a while! LOL
I think I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to pursue publishing. I think I’m ready to let go of my pieces. Part of the reason I’ve always liked reading better than publishing (although I’ve only published in a series of poetry postcards so far) is that when I read and I perform my own pieces, I have control. I am not sending them out into the big bad world with their lunchboxes and leaving them to their own devices. But, I think I’m ready to start trying to publish. I know some of my shit is good enough to put out. It’s still a bit scary. A lot intimidating but exciting nonetheless. Remind me I said that last bit when I start piling up rejections! LOL