12 Ways

If your best poetry reading comes when you are nervous, then I may have had my greatest reading ever because I can not remember ever being so shook.

I can’t say why exactly. I got to the reading in plenty of time, I knew when I was going to read in the lineup and I felt as confident as I could with new work. But it wasn;t brand new off the page work, it was stuff I was going through on second and third rewrites which may be the toughest work to read. You know you got some more places to reach in the poem (or maybe you’ve reached in too much) and you’re feeling close to another breakthrough in the poem. Hell, you may even get to the finish line with it!

But, not yet. You still need for one more thing to happen. Me, I try to find some of those breaks in my voice, try to listen when the poem says ‘soft’ or when it just wants to runaway into a freight train.

Of course, this would be much easier if the audience could actually tell me if the turns are happening the same way I see them happening on the page but all I can do is go by some kind of radar sense that lets me know when it does (and more often than I would like to admit- doesn’t) fall into place.

-Buildings Leaning On Each Other
-Section Four
-Villanelle written around the lyrics of Afrikka Bambaattaa and the Soul Sonic Force
-Anywhere Avenue Haiku
-Ode To A Stitched Mouth

All form, all the time!

Buildings is the latest incarnation of the myth poem I read at VONA. This is shaping up to be quite the lyric poem thanks to Barb’s suggestion of using a popular 60s song as a backdrop.

Section Four is a collage poem about Orchard Beach.

Villanelle written around the lyrics of Afrikka Bambaattaa and the Soul Sonic Force. Lyrics used: Looking for the Perfect Beat

Anywhere Avenue Haiku. I tend to shy away from haiku since nature doesn’t make its way into most of work. Yes, I am that kind of purist who wants to see nature in every haiku. With that said, I flipped the script and used some urban nature; in this case, the inner city babbling brook: the open fire hydrant.

Ode To A Stitched Mouth details a semi-autobiographical run-in with a whiteboy who makes fun of my English. I really wasn’t sure how this would come out and if folks would get it. Would they take this as the poetic retelling of a specific incident or mistake it as a blanket accusation where I am the voice of marginalized? I didn’t get to poll anyone afterwards but I can tell ya it came out in my natural voice and it got some great response from the room. Poem stills need more work, though. ;-)

Now, not only was my voice trembling during the first four poems, bantered way too much and could feel my leg shaking really hard but I was still nervous after the last poem! I was so out of it that I walked right past my seat, and then (for fear that I would make a jackass of mahself) I kept going all the way to the back of the room where I asked for some water and then took two minutes to finally calm down.

Luckily, no one else seemed to notice and I got some good feedback from folks so it’s all good in da hood.

My fellow IWL writers were all on and had me twisting in all kinds of directions with their work. Big props to Debbie Yee, who also came with all new poems and kept her reading 99% intro free ;-) ; Carlo Sciammas, whose language and storytelling is best described in Spanish: sencillo (unadorned, sincere, without pretense, direct, child-like but never childish); the moving soon to SoCal Maile Arvin, whose writing is always a welcome invite; the rockabilly all star known as Nicole Bohn; writing partner, world traveler & future lawyer Lata Nott and all my IWL mates.

A big shout out as well to Octavio Solis (who read with us and is included in the anthology) and all the rest of the workshop facilitators.

Photos Courtesy of Jay Jao
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