I was the featured poet last night at Mama D's in Wales. I've been looking forward to this evening for a long time, as it was a chance to showcase my two latest poetry books to a new audience.
When I scheduled it, I took the month of January for myself because I figured that if turnout was low because of the weather, I'd be the one to take the hit. I'd rather the other poets I schedule get a decent crowd than myself.
Well, as expected, the event was lightly attended. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated very much those that did come out, but to be truthful, as I started, it stung a little to see so few people.
But by the time I left, I had a different take on the evening. Like so many of these events, the best part of the evening came in the connections I made. For example, a middle school teacher I'd worked with on a student writing camp last year. Her name is Nancy and she came because she'd seen my posts on Instagram and had always wanted to come to a reading. She brought her kids and we had a wonderful chat about writing and its importance in the early years of students. I was touched that she thought enough to come out on a rainy night to hear me.
Another surprise was a woman, Grace, who's come to a couple of my readings now. She is looking to get into writing more poetry herself, so we had a great chat about the intricacies of getting a poem published and how that can pave the way for a book. A great connection with a person I hardly knew a few months ago.
Then, later, my friend and fellow author, Bob Goswitz came up after the reading and we caught up on his writing endeavors. Bob is a Vietnam vet who published a fictionalized account of his experience in the war. In talking to him about the ups and downs of writing, we both concluded that although we are both fledgling authors, we wouldn't trade any part of our lives. While we both are working on our next book, we agreed that if nothing ever came of them, we'd still exceeded our expectations by getting that first book published. He's a great guy and it was so great to see him.
On top of these folks - friends from my literary circles - the poetry reading experience is always one I treasure. With these small groups of people the setting becomes even more intimate, like people gathered in a living room. To me it is art of the spoken kind, meant to be enjoyed, and then it vaporizes. I love being a part of that process.
Furthermore, there were the familiar faces, Sara and Ed, Colleen and her husband, who come through thick and thin and support whomever is behind the microphone. They are the ones who keep me going when these doubts creep in.
As I said, I walked in with a set of hopeful aspirations. But, after the interactions transpired., I walked out with an entirely different outlook. Poetry has never been about selling the books. I need to get past that. It is about the art and creativity and immediacy of it all. It is performance and interaction and beauty and friendship and connection.
So, in that respect, it was a memorable night and I'm glad I had the opportunity to be part of it.