BYOP Poetry Reading

Outside the Peter Jones Gallery, prior to the reading. In my rush to get here, I forgot some books I meant to bring along. Liz zipped home on her scooter while I hung out on the sidewalk curb, going over my poems.

Milling about inside, before things get started. I was pretty nervous the whole time. I tried talking with folks, but my brain was elsewhere the entire time.

I’ve done plenty of readings before, but it’s been such a long, long time since my last one. I remember sitting in a bar in Columbus, OH, about to do my first reading in grad school. Felt roughly the same way, all nerves and fidgety energy.

L to R it’s me, Ingrid Rojas, Sarah Coffey, Fred Sasaki, Dan Rybicky and Kim Foote. Lots of the pics were blurry, so I grabbed the best ones and mashed ’em together.

Yeah, in my photo… I look like I’ve just been stunned by something. But swear to god? Best one out of all the pics of me.

The reading was pretty varied, and much more prose than poetry it turns out. Ingrid read a non-fiction piece about trying to kill a childhood friend with poisoned candy; Sarah read a short story with a character who was in pursuit of beauty (yet obsessed with furniture and beautiful things); Fred read two comical accounts, with one about a story he was told by a man who bought his best friend a threesome… and who then promptly lost his best friend as a result; Dan read four great “found” poems from craigslist, and returned after the break to read a short story about two characters looking for love via the personals; Kim read excerpts from her novel, and closed with a few additional poems.

I read maybe 10 poems or so, a mixed batch of old stuff and new. I opened by reading someone else’s work, a habit I picked up from grad school. While it’s great to be in front of a mic and to read my own work… I think it’s important to share others’ work when you can. Also, from a performance aspect, by reading someone else’s stuff – there’s the chance that someone in the audience will dig it, and discover an author they might never have known about.

My pick was a poem entitled Walking in the Piazza San Marco, I Remember Ascension of our Lord Elementary, and Lester Shelton, Who Wore the Same Clothes Every Day. A freaking great title, and a great poem by my former poetry professor David Citino, who passed away about two years ago.

Like most readings, the time leading up to it was filled with nervousness. And the actual reading itself was a blur. I remember being onstage, blinded a little by lights, and looking out into the audience. The reading took place in a small theater area, so there was actually a stage and rows of seats. I remember my legs locking up, and briefly wondered if I might pass out; I had to actively bend my knees a little, throughout the 10 minutes I was on stage.

I had quite a blast, and it felt great to be reading my own poetry in public once more. I’m a pretty reserved guy most days of the week, but when it comes to poetry (and specifically my poetry), I turn into a huge HUGE famewhore. It’s awful, but it’s there.

I got a few nice compliements after the reading, and specifically one girl who made my ego feel pretty good. She really liked my poem Dryer, which has definitely become one of my favorites since moving here to Chicago.

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