Friday, May 20, 2005

Poetry Readings

The ethics of poetry readings are complex. And I call them "poetry" readings even though people read aloud in all genres--but there's something poetic about the way one has to perform their verbal acrobats on stage, in front of friends and strangers.
Some self-imposed guidelines:
Read brief.
Read loud and clear.
Go to other people's readings, not just my own.
Read as interesting and funny a piece as I have, even if it's not that funny--it's fun for me and fun for them.
Invite people out for drinks after even if I'm not drinking.

I LOVE reading. It's one of my favorite things to do. I'm sadly going to get pigeon-holed as the Darwin poem reader because I like to read that long poem best. But regardless of what I'm reading, there's something so generous about people giving up Lost or Star Wars or Dinner to come see me read. And, for all the readings of my friends I've missed, I'm sorry for all the dumb reasons.
Speaking of reading for friends and family--I love reading in front of people who are kind and know my work and who love me no matter what. However, reading in Evergreen in front of 45 strangers was exhilarating. I was nervous but SO pleased that the audience was receptive and interested and had enthusiastic, and relevant, questions to ask. After that reading, even though it was in front of students who may be more generous than other audiences, I decided that reading really is the truest venue for delivering one's work. Publishing is so private. Who knows who reads what you wrote, even if it's in a great magazine?
The only time your reader is more invested is in a workshop environment. And that's fun but not nearly as much a presentation.


Paulk said...

I love how you can get a different take on your work during a reading. People will laugh at things I hadn't thought of as funny in that way. Audiences also give you the immediate feedback that so rarely comes to writers.

Of course, then there's the waiting around to talk to people after a reading. I'm ridiculously aware of what everyone says to me afterwards. Did they really like it? Are they just being nice? I once read a story to some non-writing friends, and their first response afterwards was "interesting." It took the rest of the evening to explain to them why that was a terrible thing to say.

Your reading rocked, BTW, Nicole. You have a great, almost (dare I say?) seductive tone to your voice that leaves me hanging on every syllable. As a prose stylist myself, I was drawn into the intricate weaving of your elements in "Formation." How you got all those pieces in God.

I know it's a good reading when all I want to do is go home and write.

Nik said...

You're so sweet. Thanks for the kudos. It's so hard to really know how the reading went.
And I agree with you that people laugh in the strangest places--I presume it's mob mentality as much as the writing itself.
And as for the word "intersting." It should be banned.

Dr. Write said...

So sorry I missed your reading. I was somewhere in Northern Arizona at the time, with a numb butt, stuck in my car.
I too love reading. I'm always surprised by what people love. And I agree that brevity and wit are, well, the soul of the poetry reading. Always choose funny and always read less than you think you should. Then people will say "I loved it! I wanted more." Then when your book comes out they will buy it and be happy.
congrats on your reading!!