Part of the reason why I wanted to do this challenge was to force myself out of my comfort zone and go to new places and experience new perspectives on writing. This was the first time I had attended this particular reading series, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself surrounded by many of the people who have and continue to inspire me as a writer.
As I sat there unexpectedly amongst friends, I was reminded of a lesson a martial arts instructor of mine once told me. He said if you go through life as if you know nothing, you will always learn something. It became clear to me that this reading was one of those occassions where just sitting and listening to their work, their stories, their experiences, was exactly what I needed.
Thank you for the reminder about humility.
I had the privilege of hosting this reading for James, who was abroad. It was an intimate reading, a nice chance to both catch up with existing connections and make new ones. The older I get the more I realize that the social element of writing is so important when deveopling and growing as a writer. To see what others are doing and to discuss our work with them makes such an impact on our ability to hone our own skills.
For the first reading I went to in February, my first in a couple weeks, I was truly honored and humbled to hear the words and poems of Lamont Steptoe. Lamont has been an inspiration to me from the time I was a college student. Hearing his work then had a huge impact on me. It wasn’t until I heard his work that I truly understood privilege and oppression, the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in society. He changed my whole view on what art could be.
I could’ve sat there and listened to him for hours. As I was sitting there, I was thinking about the artist (or poet) and their role in society. Its a complex one. We tend to think that the artist reflects society, that they share what they see and feel, and people in turn use them to deal with the various things that occur. True. However, there’s a reason why Socrates wanted to throw the artists out of his Republic. Sitting there, listening to both Lamont and Sean, I saw that artists can be something more. If we are limiting ourselves to being mirrors, we are limiting our potential.
Last night I went to my third reading in less than a week. It was sponsored by The Dead Bards of Philadelphia, at Venice Island Arts Center in Manayunk, and featured Savannah Cooper-Ramsey and Angelo Colavita, two fabulous poets.
At one point, Angelo mentioned that the group of poems he was working on dealt with love and death, and it got me thinking about art and poetry overall. We have come so far with technology and what our society calls progress. But despite how far we’ve come, art still taps into those things that fundamentally make us human, those things that we wrestle with every day. You can dress it up any way you want, but it always comes back to the human experience. Perhaps that is what keeps art relevant – if we can’t still connect to it as humans on some level, it loses it meaning or relevance.
This is probably going to be my last reading for January. I would have liked to get to one or two more, but with the holidays and the New Year, most of the readings were later in the month, and they just seemed compressed together. That’s okay though – four readings is a good start, and I feel that I am definitely on track to achieve my goal of 50 readings this year.
Last night I got to hear two great performances at the Big Blue Marble. It was the second time in a week I had heard/seen Amber perform, and once again it was great. And Scott, who came from NY to read, shared some awesome work with us.
I also had bit of a surprise. I was asked to read as a ‘featured’ reader, and for once I was prepared. It was kinda cool to be picked out to read like that, and I thank Josh Dale for the opportunity. Cool venue, cool event!
Between the cold and me being tired from a couple busy days, getting to this reading was a real challenge. At about 2:30 I was sitting in my office, fantasizing about not going anywhere that night, sitting at home sipping warm coffee.
But I went, and I’m glad I did.
First of all, some of my favorite poets from the area were reading: Bob Zell, James Feichthaler, Sean Lynch, and Amber Renee. Adam Ertel was also reading, someone whose work I was not very familiar with before the reading, but I’m certainly happy that I am now familiar with it.
The reading was awesome, but I knew it would be.
At one point, as I was reading my new poem “A Fire Burns’ at the open mic, I looked out at the room. Many of the people in the crowd I knew. I realized these people knew more about me than most of my family do. I realized that I was surrounded not just by poets, but by friends. It’s one of the best feelings in the world to know that at that one moment in time you are exactly where you belong.
2017 was an exciting year for me in terms of writing and poetry, and I’m looking to make 2018 even better. One of the things that I am looking to do is to get to as many readings as I can.
I’m pretty happy with how many I attended last year. I was able to get to about 2-4 readings a month, but I was inconsistent. So, this year I am challenging myself. I plan to attend no less than 50 readings in 2018. considering that there are 52 weeks in a year. This means that I will have to average almost a reading a week, and it means that most months I will need to go to at least 4 or more readings.
Considering that I have a career, and that I have other commitments beside poetry, this is going to be difficult for me. However, I feel that, while challenging, this goal is reasonable, and I can totally do it.
In order to motivate myself (and you) to go out and do the things I (and you) love to do, I am going to keep track of how many readings I’ve been to right here and on social media. I encourage you to set your own goal. Let me know what you are planning, and keep me posted on how you are faring with it.
So far I’ve been to one reading, on January 3rd at Fergie’s so clearly I have some work to do.
Still..One down, 49 more to go!