Tonight's monthly reading at the Runcible Spoon was good in a reassuring sort of way. Lately, when I pick up the local paper, I've felt like I wasn't in the right town -- there was a shooting in a park not far from me, and a couple of other gun-related incidents right smack downtown; plus that awful plane crash -- shootings and plane crashes just are not the Bloomington I know. But tonight was a very Bloomington night, and for that I am grateful.
Most of the readers/performers tonight are people I've known, one one level or another, for ages and ages. Dennis Sipe I don't know well at all, just from seeing him around at poetry stuff, but he's been around for quite a while. Shana Ritter is someone I met very soon after she first moved into town -- was it 1985 or 1986? -- she joined my writing group right after she arrived, and I've always loved her poetry. Tonight she read an old poem that we must have critiqued three or four times in that group, sometime in the eighties, and it was neat to hear it again. David Christman, who played several songs on the ukulele (yes, I said ukulele), lived in the same dorm I did when we were undergrads -- of course it was the hippie/artsy dorm, the Collins Living-Learning Center, and though he and I were never close friends we had lots of friends in common. Roger Mitchell was the other reader; I took a class from him as an undergrad & then some years later I sat in on his section of "Teaching Creative Writing" which was mostly full of first-year MFA students. You know, I don't think I appreciated any of my teachers nearly enough when I was an undergrad -- I guess people who are 19, 20 years old never really appreciate what they are learning, do they? You know everything when you're 19 and teachers just get in the way, those pesky assignments just take you away from writing the Great Art you are of course hell-bent upon committing.
Ugh. Thank goodness we all grow out of being 19, huh? And those of you who teach 19-year-olds, take heart -- some of us really do get around to appreciating our teachers eventually. I look back at my undergrad classes now, particularly with Roger Mitchell and Maura Stanton, and jeez, I was lucky to get to work with teachers like them. Those workshops were so much more important to me than I understood at the time, just for the sense of being around people who took poetry seriously -- and on occasion even took my poetry seriously.
Anyway, Roger read from two of his books (The Word for Everything and Delicate Bait), as well as work from his forthcoming book Half Mask and some other new work. He read the title poem from Delicate Bait, which I have to say is one of my very favorites of his. It's linked there. Go read it. Like many of his poems it's discursive, takes the long way round, uses a lot of commas and not-quite-parenthetical phrases, and then when you're not quite expecting it you get walloped upside the head. (I also have to admit that I love the poem partly because, although I don't know precisely where it is set, it could easily take place in my very favorite restaurant in the world on Maui, so it brings back a lovely memory of Mama's Fish House. Which has nothing to do with the poem, except that it evokes that particular atmosphere. And now I'm hungry for some macadamia-encrusted ahi, dammit.)
I signed up for the open mic and read two poems; was going to cut it to one because I felt like things were getting a little long, but what with all this napowrimo-ing I feel like I've got more new poems than I know what to do with, and I really wanted to read them both just for the sake of hearing them out loud in a room full of people, because that helps me revise. And we were allowed three minutes, and they were both short poems, so I read them both. The first one went over okay, I think; I could hear the places where it worked and some places where it lost energy a bit, but overall I think people heard it and got something from it. The second one was a funny poem, and people laughed where I wanted them to laugh, so you can't ask for more than that, huh? I think I will read that one again on Sunday at the BWWC benefit thingie.
(As a side note: I am really enjoying reading lately. I have to watch out lest I become one of those annoying spotlight hogs. It's funny though; I'm a fairly shy person, but give me a stage and a handful of poems, and I turn into a veritable Miss Piggy of a ham. It does feel good to enjoy it, though, and to feel comfortable instead of all stage-frighty and nervous like I used to be.)
Hung out and chatted with folks for a while afterwards, and you know what, it's getting a little weird with the "oh yeah, I read your blog" stuff. Hee. It's one thing when people I've never met read my blog, but when actual people I actually know are reading this thing -- it's a bit weird somehow. Makes me feel a bit self-conscious. Fellow bloggers, does that kind of thing ever feel weird to you? How do you handle it? Hey, I'm a poet; I'm not used to people actually reading what I write unless I hand it to them and say here. *grin* It's not a bad weird, it's just ... weird.
Anyway, then I gave my friend Tonia a ride home and came home myself, and have been sitting here listening to the cars out on the speedway -- apparently tonight is opening night. The speedway is a couple miles south of me, but I can always hear the cars. It's a small-town summer kind of sound, makes me think of getting ice cream at DQ and the way your skin feels at night when you've been out in the sun all day, so even though it's an obnoxious gas-guzzling noise, I kind of like it.
And now if you'll excuse me, I have a poem to write. Three more poems and I'll have made it for the whole month. Damned if I'm gonna slack off now.