Why Go to a Poetry Reading?

Cons: Readings can be awkward. They do not always attract entirely socially adept crowds. Your insecurities about being out at a venue with no loud music playing may make you uncomfortable and tempt you to drink too quickly resulting in you heckling the emcee from your loser seat by the back window, hence making EVERYONE uncomfortable. More likely, you may have to sit quietly through terrible poetry, or good poetry that’s read in a terribly melodramatic fashion, or poetry that may be good but bounces off of you, and you will be stuck there, and your mind will wander.

Pros: Your mind will wander. You will be stuck in a darkened hush of a familiar bar with no expectation of making chitchat for an hour and an absolute obligation to leave your phone in your pocket, and stillness and passivity may wash over you just on the back of the terror of having nothing to do with your hands. In their aftermath,  a small, unlikely door with rusted hinges, belonging to some basement compartment of your brain may creak open. Poetry, and phrases you have not heard out loud, may begin to escape. It is not uncommon for a poet to read a line that is so beautiful in the dim, reverent hush that you start to cry. No one will notice because manners dictate that all faces are forward and all eyes are still. It is a rare, restrained and still moment that lasts for tens of minutes.

You don’t have to remember the poems read. You will never be quizzed on the themes or influences. The audience is gifted images, a story, new rhythms, all with zero strings. A reading is a powerful refreshment. It is somewhere in between consuming media and creating it. It is experience with a simplicity of structure that makes us work to be still and receptive.

This past Tuesday, I left the Poetry Month reading at The Ship (organized by Breakwater Books) with three new ideas. Only one of which may prove useful in any practical way, but … my whole life looks different viewed from atop three new ideas. To roughly quote every poet ever: Walking home, the very moon in the sky shone on me with a stranger, more glorious light.

Emily Deming is involved in a love affair with St John’s so deep it extends to attending plays, poetry readings, and dance festivals.