A full slate of readers took the stage at the 3rd installment of “People Reading Things That Aren’t Poems As If They Are Poems” last Thursday night at The Ship Pub.
These popular, open-mic style events invite people to get on stage and read anything that isn’t a poem, with the breathy drama of a person reading poetry to a crowd.
Among other not-poems, readers at Thursday’s event shared Amazon reviews, the lurid subject lines of a selection of junk emails, the instructions on a tampon box, a note from a landlord about frozen pipes, and a letter from a very sincere theatre prof.
Award-winning local poet, Katie Vautour, hosts the events, which have all been packed with audiences who are eager to laugh. While there are often only a few names on the sign-up sheet at the beginning of the night, once people see others getting silly on stage, and have a chance to steep in the giddy atmosphere, they’re eager to get up and do a reading.
“One of the reasons it works is that people don’t feel self-conscious or intimidated, and because they’re having fun with it. Lots of times what they read ends up being really brilliant or touching or hilarious,” Vautour said.
Vautour experiments with found poetry in her own work and appreciates how the medium can make you aware of beauty and absurdity in text that seems banal at first glance.
“When people are looking for something to bring to this, they’re looking at ordinary things in a new way and they find meaning in places you wouldn’t expect.” Vautour said.
While the readings poke fun at the pretentious theatrical tenor of a particular kind of poetry reading, the magic of the event is that reading aloud the language that surrounds us everyday, in a style that forces you to pay close attention to each word, ends up drawing out the beauty and comedy of the text. So readers end up justifying poets’ dramatics, almost in spite of themselves.
Ultimately Vautour hopes the event will make people who don’t normally go to traditional poetry readings embrace the idea of attending. She recognizes that the atmosphere at poetry readings can sometimes feel intimidating; these events are a way wetting peoples toes in the warm waters of hearing poems read aloud in public, and whetting their appetites for the real gold of true poetry.
The events are free, but Vautour collects donations at the door for Teachers on Wheels, a local community-based literacy organization. The charity provides one-on-one tutoring for adults who wish to improve their reading and writing skills. In the past couple of months, People Reading Things That Aren’t Poems As If They Were Poems has raised hundreds of dollars in donations for the organization.
Vautour says there will be more People Reading Things That Aren’t Poems As If They Were Poems in the coming months and this summer she’s hoping to take the series on the road. She’s eager to see what people will bring to mic in other parts of the island.