Wednesday, November 4, 2009

to read or not to read

Article I wrote for the DanPoets Zine I was publishing around 2000. Seems to still be relevant given the large number of new poets I see every year.

It starts like this: while on this journey that we call life, you, unlike half the developed world, have your eyes and mind open, observing and experiencing most of what goes on around you. Also, just like the other half of the developed world, you are wont to put pen to page to capture what you see and experience. This is fine, you like writing, and reading over it reminds you of stuff you’ve done and the things you’ve seen. Sometimes it gives you something to think about and helps you with the whole growing thing. And, hey, writing can be the best cathartic activity short of punching people in the head, and other stuff I’m not aloud to say too much about because this is a PG Zine (except for the occasional swearing in the poems, but that’s art, damn it!).

Now comes the turning point. You realise you’ve got some killer stuff here. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could share it with others, but for this you need (insert dramatic music here) an audience.


No big deal, you’ve got friends (my sympathies if I’m wrong), so you show it to them, email them little stories and poems, throw bits of paper at them each time you see them, and generally bug them for opinions on your literary genius. Sooner or later enough of them tell you all this great stuff about your work and you think, “Hey, just maybe I should find a bigger audience. Why don’t I try one of those open stage deals I’ve heard about, I think more people need to hear what I’ve got to say.”

Deciding is the easy part, but a lot of people struggle with the doing. Not because they shouldn’t be there, open stage means just that; they’re for anybody who wants to do their thing. What usually happens is that all of a sudden you realise you are about to stand up in front of a group of people you may not know, and bare yourself in front of them (not literally, of course, although I have seen this done). Reading poetry or other writings to an audience can leave you a bit nervy, I know I still get jumpy a lot of the time, and you wouldn’t be the first to start to talk yourself out of it.

Don’t. Once you’ve decided it’s what you want to do, then do it. It’s not like you can actually die from embarrassment, it’s just a figure of speech, and you’ll probably find that the people in the audience dig it just because you did it. A friend of mine once asked an old hand at the stage thing, “But what if I shake?” The answer of course was, “Then shake. But don’t stop reading.”

That is the real point; don’t stop reading. Or writing. Or sharing your stuff around. Of course, once you hit the stage, you probably won’t stop, it’s rather addictive, and there are plenty of venues around. Holding this little publication in your hand means you’ve already been to at least one of them (or someone wanted you to read this killer article about reading for the first time. Oh, and the wonderful poetry inside.) Have a look inside the back cover for more, or ask the wonderful folks that run the venues you already go to where some of the other gigs are, and what they’re like. There is a wide variety of them around, and we might have a chat about that in the next issue.

See you at the mike!

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