Can I share an opinion without insulting a long-cherished friend whose scowl is a pain exceeded only by her indifference? I’m going to try. To lessen the possibility, I’m relying on the assumption that she doesn’t read Honey & Quinine. Let’s call her Sue.
On May 19 Springfield Poets and Writers Group presented its second poetry open mic in as many months at Norb Andy’s Tabarin very ably emceed by Thea Chesley and very well attended for the second month in a row.
Emcee Thea Chesley at the helm of the good ship Poetry Open Mic
I had come to the first event unprepared mentally for reading in large room where the public at large sits. My fault; I had assumed we’d be versifying in the small meeting room in the back. On May 19 I was ready for the bigger room and bigger audience this time, and it was great to see many from the first back at the second. What I was not prepared for was finding the table closest to the microphone further back than during the first one. The effect on photographing the readers is obvious in the picture above. I took it from the table closest to the front with people sitting at it. The table closest to the front had a veggie pizza” and a combo-with-meat pizza which had been purchased at Gallina’s Pizza a few blocks away and offered for sale at a very reasonable $2 a slice. Another factor working against optimal photography was the backlit arrangement with lots o’ light streaming into the place from streetside windows and commendably illuminating readers’ backsides which (appropriately enough, considering where the microphone was) could not be seen though nicely lit, and which is just as well because the talented writers’ poems and essay and chapter from a novel (which I consider “variations on the rhetorically-poetryinclusionicenice paradigm”) would have suffered from elocution had they been emoted from the backside orifice instead of the generally more understandable one on the frontside.
As those in the know know, the procedure calls for a person arriving with intention to share compositions from the microphone to check in with Thea whereupon she puts the participant’s name into a hat. Names are drawn randomly from the hat, and that determines (detremines if you’re French) who rises to the occasion next. I made a cursory nod in Thea’s direction, and considered my name “in the hat.”
As used as I am to being called upon to read when I have my finger in my nose, I was determined that Fate would not catch me nose angling Wednesday night. I was primed! To recover from my fumble with a Vachel Lindsay poem the innaugural nacht, I was ready to let it rip successfully. Unlike last month, I had actually spoken it aloud a few times that day. I could have recited it with one hand tied behind my back. I had also practiced reading aloud from paper a poem folks would hear for the first time and reciting two others they would hear for the first time as well. I was SET!
As eight or nine poets and writers read, and my name continued to be not called to the front and center, I began telling myself not to show concern or fear over the innocent coincidence I had not yet been called. It was all a matter of randomness. It was really no more logical to believe I should have been called sooner than it was to believe I would not be the last one called. After watching a few more, I couldn’t restrain myself, even though it is strictly de clase for a male hummin’ bean, cool and confident, as I usually am, to show the curse, the woosiness, the shame of uncertainty. I asked the emcee, five feet from me if she had put my name into the hat, and she nodded in the affirmative.
I had decided to recite the lyric to a song I wrote for a visual arts reception where I played and sang. Jennifer, from Prairie Art Alliance’s Gallery II was there, and I wanted to make a good impression. About 8, when the event would have concluded according to schedule, I STILL hadn’t read, and I was semi-aghast as Jennifer rose from her seat, obviously about to depart. I approached her and explained I had a special visual arts poem to share; could she stay a little longer?
Unfortunately NO. Not a big deal. I’d share it with those remaining. Then a few more departed, including Bill, a fine former teacher turned preacher in retirement who had shared some exceptional poetry. These were people I wanted to CONNECT with after the reading: people I wanted to talk with about poetry! Good bye Bill. Not a big deal.
When Thea began to introduce the name of the penultimate reader, I was totally satisfied because I knew I’d be there in another few minutes if not in the next 45 seconds. The penultimate reader read commendably, and I was mentally combing my hair, ready to rise to stand and deliver when the ultimate reader wsa introduced . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and the name had no resemblance to my own!
Lola, sitting at my table protested. Words were exchanged. As luck would have it there had been a misunderstanding when I had asked if my name was “in the hat” and an equal misunderstanding in the affirmative nod. Not a big deal.
The reader read and I was introduced. W H E E E E E E W! I almost levitated to the microphone. First thing I did was explain why I hadn’t been taking pictures frequently as I had at the first reading. It wasn’t a complaint; just a friendly update. Then I observed the audience was the perfect distance for a picture from the microphone . . . .
microphone's eye-view of the crowd at Norb's, May 19
and I took it.
Then I put my camera back on my table and walked half the distance back toward the microphone before about-facing and reading/reciting the poems I wanted to share sans m’ophone. Before poetizing, I offered comfort to anyone in the audience who might be wanting to purchase my books of poetry — Minstrel’s Ramble: to Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois and Bear’ sKin, or my book Springfield Aviation from Arcadia Publishing — but were hesitating, because they were afraid of encountering one of the lame poems I was about to share that evening. I assured them that none of tonight’s poems would be found in my books, and shared my hope that knowing that made their DECISION TO BUY my books a little easier.
Then I recited ”If Pigments Had Wings,” read “It was a Younger Town,” recited “Aftermath,” and Vachel Lindsay’s “The Broncho that Would Not Be Broken.” It gushed out of me like water from a toppled fire hydrant inflicting on the exceptionally receptive and inspiring audience hardly any of the discomfort and alarm generally associated with a waylaid hydrant. It was one of my best readings in weeks.
After the conclusion of the event, I talked with some fine people, including Mark Zuiderveld who had read poems from his new chap book NAIVETE: EARLY POEMS . . .
Misters Mark and Mr. Zuiderveld post poetry o'n m'ophone night at No'b An'y's.
. . . and gave me a pre-publication copy. My assurance to the audience that they would NOT encounter any of what I shared behind the microphone published in the books I was hyping worked. Mr. Zuiderveld bought one of each my poetry books. I also traded one of my books to Ann Hartsfield for a copy of her fine book of poetry entitled Needles of Light. It looks — at first glance — like a good read.
Co proprietor Jeremy invited everyone up to the second floor to see the new gallery exhibition being hung, and I had a fab visit, took a few pictures. I returned to the gallery reception the following night and took 60 more pictures . . . . That’s another Honey & Quinine.
Congratulations to Springfield Poets and Writers and emcee Thea Chesley for a terrific evening, and thanks to Norb Andy’s for hosting it. I’ll share here at Hooey & Quinine — make that Honey & Quinine — when the date for the next poetry open mic is set. We couldn’t ask for a better place!
Live long . . . . . . and proper.
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