This is not to say I don't like doing readings in person. I'm giving one tonight at UAS and I'm looking forward to it, but I feel more anxiety about reading in person. There's so much more to think about, and as a rather shy poet, the idea of all of those people looking at me for 45 minutes is a bit unnerving. I'm very grateful that they want to, of course, and so glad to see support for poetry in Juneau, and excited to see who will come, and what kind of conversations we'll have. But I'm still nervous. What if I flub a poem? (I probably will.) What if I get the hiccups? (My irrational, persistent fear before all readings.) How do I not look nervous?
I remember the first reading I gave in Juneau--this was years ago and it was at an Evening at Egan on campus so it was a pretty big crowd. I have a good poetry friend who came, and who knew how nervous I was feeling. Right before I went up, she pulled me into the women's bathroom and handed over an airplane bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream. She had one for herself too, so we did our shots and then bravely went back out to face the crowd. It was perfect. (Since then I've either been pregnant or breastfeeding, so I've had to learn to do readings without that little sweet helper.)
The fun thing about getting ready for a reading is the time I get to spend with the poems again. Thinking about performing, and about who will be there, is a whole new way to look at the work. The poetry starts to become a very real conversation in my head. I always intend it to be when I'm writing it, but the thought of reading, of speaking it aloud, makes that even clearer for me. It's interesting how some poems naturally feel more appropriate for reading aloud--the ones that are stories, or ask questions, maybe, or in some way engage the audience. And other poems feel more like armchair poems--the ones we want to read quietly when no one else is around.
It also makes me think of all the readings I've been to and the way readings change my understanding of the poems I hear. I love hearing a little background on the poems, or hearing the stories behind them. This is especially nice if it's poetry I know well and love; hearing them read and talked about by the writer gives me a whole new relationship with the poems. I hope I'll be able to do that tonight too.
So this morning I'm just reading through poems, trying not to think about hiccups, and getting excited for the conversations that will happen tonight. Hope to see you there!