Saturday, September 16, 2006

Reading plans

So I am starting to think about what to read for my poetry group's annual reading, which falls on September 30 this year. Two things I am considering:

1. At our meeting the other night we chose the order in which we would read. We decided that we wanted to end on an "up" note, and someone asked "okay, who's got an uplifting poem that they can end on, and they can go last?" Lots of silence. Several of the members didn't feel like they had anything non-depressing to read. Eek! So I volunteered to go last. Now I have to be sure I end on something relatively uplifting -- oh, the pressure. I've actually never been the last reader in this group, as far as I can recall. Hopefully it won't be one of those readings where we lose half our audience at the intermission.

2. I'm considering doing a cover -- that is, reading a poem by someone else. I haven't chosen a specific one, but I'm toying with the idea in general. Partly, I'm not real crazy about my own work right now. Partly, I want to take the opportunity to promote work I love by someone else, and maybe inspire someone in the audience to go read more by whoever I end up reading, and discover some poetry they will love. I haven't decided for sure yet, though. What do you all think about people reading poems by others instead of only original work? Does it work best to open with the cover (and since of course you're selecting something really good, do you feel like the original work sometimes pales by comparison? because that seems a little risky) -- or do you think it's best to slip the cover in the middle of your set? I only have about 8 minutes to fill, so if I do a cover, it will be only one, for sure.

I have to decide what to wear, too. That's probably more traumatic than deciding what to read. *grin*


David Vincenti said...

I've seen an increase in the number of poets presenting loved work by other artists in their readings, especially if it's a regular event - if you've got some regulars who know you and your stuff, I think it's a gift to the them in the audience to introduce them to something they might not already know. If it's a crowd likely to be brand new to your work, I think it's less meaningful.

As far as placement, I'd lead with it, and preferably make it something related to the night somehow (part of your own work's preshistory, related to the venue or geography or date, etc.). I've seen it done most that way, and it's effective. I don't think that on a card with several poets that you can avoid comparisons among them and you, but you know someone has to be the person who delivers the most memorable words of the night, and that person will vary by audience member.

Trust your choices.

Radish King said...

If I can, yes, I love to lead with a poem by someone else. It's always the same poem, too.

Brian Campbell said...

I think it's great to read the work of others. It's a recommendation Dana Gioia makes in "Can Poetry Matter" that I heartily condone (whatever I think of that guy's poetry). It gives your performance a larger purpose than self-promotion; it keeps the ego at bay. Best to lead with a poem by someone else: if the set is short, you may not get around to it at all. Choose something short and punchy, and as david says above, it it's related to matters at hand, so much the better. If your poetry pales, well, so be it. Break a leg, or as the French say, Merde!

A. D. said...

i love "covers"—especially unfamiliar ones.

Lyle Daggett said...

I think reading a poem by someone else is a great idea. I agree with the others who suggest reading it first. It can be a kind of taking-off place for your own poems.

It might be too late for this now, since it sounds like you've met and laid out some basic plans for the reading -- but, if it were me, I might suggest that all of the readers begin with a poem by someone else. At least toss out the idea, see how people feel about it.

Anne said...

Thanks, all! Sounds pretty unanimous that it's a good idea.

Lyle, I'm about 6 weeks too late to suggest that -- we've already had our last meeting before the reading, and some of these folks tend to plan their sets pretty far in advance. (Let's put it this way... we start planning these readings about 9 months ahead of time. We hash out a title for the reading usually 3-4 months ahead of time, and if there's going to be any kind of a theme or a common thread, that's when we settle on it. But for most of the group members, our annual reading is the only time they *ever* read in public, so the excessive planning is probably a comfort for some.)

Maybe next year. I'll think about suggesting it when we first meet after the reading.