When reading this blog, you may have noticed I’m a budding poetry writer (well, I consider myself budding), and that just a couple of weeks ago, I took the leap of presenting some of my poetry as Allison in front of an intimate live audience. That night was a real confidence builder not only for presenting my female side but also my writing abilities.
I do, however, consider my current poetry writing abilities as being at a less-than-perfect point. So far, with one or two exceptions, most of my poetry subjects have been about LGBT themes and trying to meet eye-to-eye with someone who’s not necessarily part of our community, meaning subject outside those realms can be hard for me to interpret into prose. As well, I’m one who wants to write, rewrite, and re-rewrite poetry (and some other blog posts) over time, doing so until it feels to me to be as perfect as possible.
The need to fit a format and the desire to get it right collided for me this week, when I made an attempt to write poetry for a live performance that occurred last night (Saturday) at another coffee house here in Madison, Cargo Coffee on East Washington Avenue. Yes, it was an open mic poetry reading, where just as with the one I went to at Mother Fools earlier this month, you added your name to the performer list if you had some of your own poetry to read. The invitation on social media, however, had a bit of a stipulation that I interpreted as firm and unwavering: Present any of your poems that had themes of “wonder,” “surprise,” or “summer.”
Since it was an open mic and since I’m still living on the euphoria of my earlier open mic performance, I thought it’d be cool to take part in another show right away. And that’s when I started running into some roadblocks, and not just the writer’s block kind. For one, I had a very busy week of work, including putting in some extra credit work distributing flyers for an upcoming service our company is providing (it was outside of paid work time, although I received an Amazon gift card as a reward). Then, there was an urge in me to write an epic, spectacular blog post that had nothing to do with poetry, but it’s become so very epic and spectacular that I haven’t finished it yet. And, there were two non-work extracurricular activities: On Friday, I had planned to join up with some fellow LGBT people at a Madison Mallards baseball game, which Mother Nature washed out completely (the past 5 days in southern Wisconsin were very, very wet); and during the day on Saturday, I volunteered at a charity golf outing.
So, yeah, not a lot of time to devote to writing a poem about wonder, surprises, or summertime… or of getting dolled up to perform as Allison. Which is not to say I didn’t take a stab at writing new prose about those subjects. The problem is, the first attempts felt substandard to me. It felt like a series of false starts, with me putting aside one subject to try another. Other ideas running through my head didn’t get the chance to reach my fingers and keyboard, to my ever loving self-embarrassment.
Even without suitable new material and the time to get all dolled up, I promised myself I would go to Cargo Coffee for the show. So, on Saturday night, I dragged Male Mode Me down to Cargo Coffee for the open mic reading. It was a light-to-moderate audience/participant volume (a summer Saturday night in Madison, go figure), and the slam started a little late to accommodate the late arrivals. Feeling somewhat embarrassed that I didn’t have any poetry to read and not appearing in female mode, I sat myself in back and enjoyed the readings and the atmosphere.
And that’s when I noticed that I wasn’t the only poet who didn’t have any prose about wonders, surprises, or summertime. A lot of the poets who did perform didn’t have those subjects either, although there were indeed some works about vacations and flowers growing. Realizing this made me feel a little better about what my own poetry abilities, that I’m far from the only writer who can’t throw a perfect game every start. It also made me realize the old well-worn advice about writing in general:
“Write what you know.”
I started listening not so much to how the poets were delivering their work but hearing what they had to say. These were topics that they knew. It’s another reason I still wanted to go to the reading, even without new poetry or with a male persona: To gain inspiration.
So, while the presenters were performing, I stayed seated in the back of the cafe, whipped out my phone, went to the Memo app, and began to jot down a few random thoughts about… well, what I know. As well as what I remember about vacations and weekend summertime getaways, a popular subject of the evening as I recall. (And to think my poetry attempts during the week had nothing to do about vacation.) Before this, I’d usually just go off the top of my head while typing prose or blog entries. But I’m definitely going to use my Memo app to record thoughts and fragments a little more often.
Even without performing, the evening definitely did help continue my poetry kick and improve my overall self-confidence. There are a few more open mic and live performance exhibitions yet to come this summer and likely into the autumn, including a general spoken word event scheduled for next weekend at Mother Fools, and another monthly(?) open mic poetry session at Cargo Coffee sometime next month that I’ll aim to keep an eye on and bone up on its recommended topic. Even if I can’t adhere to any set topic, I’ll hold to and actually expand on that above mentioned advice about writing:
“Don’t worry; just write what you know now…
for what you don’t know now will come to you later.”