Friday, September 16, 2011

The First One Up

Last night I went with some congregation members to a poetry reading at a cafe here in Shawnee.  It happens every month.  There's a featured poet who opens and closes the night.  Then there's the open mic time.  We went early to have a meal, and the emcee, a.k.a. a super nice guy, came over with a sign-up sheet.  I'd decided to bring a few poems along in case I got up the nerve to read.  So I forced myself to sign-up, thinking, "It will be good for  me.  It will be good for me."  But I must be honest.  I was terrified about reading my stuff.

I know what you're thinking.  "Amy, you preach in front of people every Sunday.  How could you be nervous about reading your poetry, especially when you're in a smaller, more intimate setting?  Plus you're not trying to persuade anyone of anything.  You're just there, reading away."  This is what you're thinking, correct?

But as it turns out, preaching a sermon and reading my poetry are two different things.  I think it's because as self-revealing as my sermons usually are, my poetry reveals a different side of me.  Even though I think that  my sermons make me accessible, they're (hopefully) looking past me to the point and interpretation I'm making about God.  But my poetry?  That's personal on a different level.  So I was nervous, okay?  Sue me.

But I did it.  I signed up.  The emcee, a truly nice man, was encouraging.  I knew, as I was signing my name, that I was the first one on the list.  Yet I still hoped and prayed that I would not be the first one up after the featured poet.  Guess what?  Sometimes prayers are answered in the way we hope.  Sometimes they aren't.  Can you discern which way my prayer went?

I was the first one up.

The emcee, such a nice man, introduced me as the newcomer to town, from somewhere up in Iowa.  I tried to look confident as I went to the mic.  I told the guitarist -- by the way, did I mention that a jazz guitarist plays along if you want while you read?  Very cool!  I told the guitarist that perhaps it would be better for all if he played louder than I spoke.  People laughed.  I wasn't kidding.

And then with a tiny bit of introduction I read my poems.  I think they were well received.  I didn't speak up enough.  But maybe if I try it again, I'll get better at that too.  I didn't want to be the first one up, but I think being the first one to go was exactly what I needed.  It forced me out of my neat little comfort zone.  And believe you me, my comfort zone is a hard place to leave.  I've spent years decorating it and getting it just the way I want.  I could probably die there.

I could probably die there.

I don't want to.

This isn't a statement of denial.  I know I'm going to die someday, hopefully a long time from now.  But do I want to die before I actually die?  Afraid to leave the safety of my zone?  Regretting that I didn't?

I understand that a poetry reading is not a life changing event.  Still it was a good step for me to take.  I hope it's one of many.  If I'm the first one up next month, I'll try not to complain.  Much.

Oh, and the following is one of the poems I read.  I've published it on a different on-line writing project, but just in case you haven't read it before.

A Villanelle

There’s none who’ll write me a sonnet but me.
No others to whisper stanza or verse.
I can’t live my life without poetry.

Mere hint of meter makes strong ones flee.
Love wilts from the gaze of stares so terse.
There’s none who’ll write me a sonnet but me.

I long to swim in a literate sea.
Yet my joy in the word is now my curse.
I can’t live my life without poetry.

Alone is lonely, O can’t you agree?
Waters too shallow to fully immerse.
There’s none who’ll write me a sonnet but me.

To hope, to dream, to risk leaving this me.
Life staged as a play I meant to rehearse.
I can’t live my life without poetry.

Backward or forward, there’s always a fee.
No gold in silence, the quiet is worse.
There’s none who’ll write me a sonnet but me.
I can’t live my life without poetry.

1 comment:

  1. So excited for you - that took a lot of nerve and that is fantastic. good job heading out of comfort zone :)