Poetry has never been something I can simply sit down and write. If ever I attempt to do this, I end up with an oversimplification of the same few themes (love, sadness, anger, death) every time. So, I’m forced to be the submissive partner in the relationship, listening to an idea whenever it decides to show up. In terms of neat scheduling, the pursuit of poem writing is majorly inconvenient.
But beyond my personal gripes lies a reluctant reverence for poets and their poems. There is difficulty in writing something in a tone from another dimension of being that also doesn’t make everyone in the world roll their eyes back into their heads.
In general, when people try to write a poem, they do not succeed. English teachers may yell at me for saying that it’s only possible to either succeed or fail at an art form, that that simple dichotomy could even exist. They may argue that instead of two boxes marked pass and fail there is a whole grey spectrum of middle ground. Personally, I would disagree; it is very clear to me when a poem is striking, while others are dull or trying too hard, or relying on overused subject matter.
At any open mic, there will be a real variety of performances. This is why I find these events so much more promising than a single artist presenting their work: no matter how many pieces there are that fall short, at least one will stick with you.
This is the thought I had when I walked into the cozy room in the second floor of Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room. There were cookies and hand-clapper noisemakers (maybe snapping has gone out of style?), and the house was packed.
At least 15 or 20 people read or sang, coming from both comedic and tragic angles. Even I, possessed by something not of this world (probably), stood to read a poem I’d written for a class.
Most of the readings were good; in the writing world at least, most people who have confidence in their work have it for good reason. Of course, there are so many more good writers out there who lack confidence entirely. I’m certain that there were some of those talents among us who didn’t read.
My favorites from the evening are the ones I can remember now, a day later. One of the first was a poem about a serendipitous encounter with amazing lettuce at a Wendy’s, another a published piece by a reluctant reader, an extended metaphor of a jar of honey, a spot-on cover of “Oh Comely” by Neutral Milk Hotel. The audience was responsive, quick to laugh and clap when the writing called for it. A few of the writers came up twice, displaying the different facets of their writing styles. The room was warm with the glow of poetry and evidence that Crazy Wisdom pays their heat bill on time. In more ways than one, I felt the place a shelter from the cold.
Xylem Magazine hosts open mics often, as well as other events like writing workshops. Check out their website xylemmag.wordpress.com for more information!