August Poetry Reading
I gave a poetry reading last night. It was an enjoyable evening. As I have previously posted, I don’t give many readings; only two or three in a year. This reading happened because a scheduled speaker had to cancel at the last minute and the people who scheduled the event asked if I would step in and cover the evening. Since the cancellation was last minute, there was no publicity for my appearance and the audience was small. Not a problem; we got to talk more closely and share more comments and give and take.
I started out reading some Villanelles, beginning with the one by A. E. Stallings in her volume ‘Olives’. Her Villanelle is called ‘Burned’. The audience really loved it. It is a powerful poem. It was gratifying to start with a poem that the audience immediately took to; it set a good tone for the rest of the evening.
I chose the Villanelle as the opening form because a local poet, Sandy Eastoak, has written an elegant and contemplative Villanelle, and this was a way of introducing it. Sandy’s Villanelle is nature centered and in mood strongly contrasted with the one by Stallings, showing how flexible the form is. I concluded the Villanelle section of the reading with one by Anthony Hecht called ‘Prospects’, which is more philosophical than the others I read.
I followed this opening with readings from four other local poets, as well as a reading from my Haiku collection, ‘White Roses’ and from my ‘Lanterne Light’. Interestingly, people seemed to like the Lanterne form poems the best; which was unexpected, but good to know.
When I do poetry readings most of the poems I will read are by other authors. As I mentioned in a previous post, I got this idea from an essay by Dana Gioia, and when I read it I found it immediately appealing. The tendency in poetry readings, the dominant procedure, is for poets to read only from their own work. But if you are a poet and engage in readings, I would like to suggest that you try reading from other poets as well. I think you will find this approach very satisfying. It opens a number of doors. First, it allows the reader to comment about why they have chosen this particular poem. Second, it allows the reader to introduce a contemporary who you might feel could use some wider recognition. Third, the audience gets a broader experience of poetry, which I think is a good thing. This is particularly true if you include poems that stylistically diverge from one’s own personal preferences. Reading other people’s poetry, along with your own, has many virtues and no drawbacks that I have noticed. Think about it; give it a try and see if it works for you. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.