The reading took place at the Barnes & Noble in Marlton, New Jersey. I'd been invited by the host of the monthly "Poetry in the Round" series to read for a half an hour, following which there was an open reading, which means (for those unfamiliar with poetry readings, which is most people I know) that people can sign up to read their own poems in front of the assembled group. The number and length of poems is usually specified by the host, and is based on an idea of how many readers there are and how much time they have available. Anyhow, when I visited the store yesterday morning, in addition to the Big Sign at the front of the store, there was a small sign in the area where they set up for the readings. Can you see it on that far wall, past the auspiciously placed Jane Austen table? No?
How about now?
The empty space you see in the above photo actually was filled in with 21 folding chairs set up by the store - four rows of 5, plus one chair pulled to the side up front by the loudspeaker where Barney, our fearless leader, presides. When I got arrived with the kids at 7:10, who
Barney kindly introduced me, and I started the reading. S was kind enough to take some pictures for me. Of course, she preferred to take them when I wasn't looking, which means that I'm looking at my page in this one, but hey, them's the breaks sometimes. I opened with the five-line poem that won third place in the Writer's Digest Poetry Contest, "Inside the New Mall", then read a few more of my regular adult poems before reading five of the poems from my biography of Jane Austen in verse using period forms, since I knew for a fact that the women from JASNA were hoping to hear some of them. I started with the first poem in the collection - a poem in blank verse based on a letter that amounts to Jane's birth announcement, which I've shared before. The Jane poems went down well across the board (I could tell by the happy-making yet indescribable murmur/hum that greeted the endings on two of them that they had made an impact, which was sososo fulfilling). I was happy that the Jane project went over well, only I have a wee confession to make. In error during last night's introduction, I said I had 172 of the Jane poems done, which meant that when I wrote a new poem today and added it to my Tables of Contents (one to print in Word, one that has lots more info in Excel), I found myself thinking there must be a mistake, since it was, in fact, only 162 poems done (now 163). But I digress.
I read several more poems, including "After" and "The Wild November Sea", a sort of T.S. Eliot homage which I wrote when on my penultimate writing retreat with Angela De Groot in Brigantine during that huge Nor'easter last November. I was pleased to hear a few laughs at the funny lines, and a few more of those indescribable murmuring hums, and an occasional "wow", which was truly a thrill for me. The open followed my reading, and we were treated to some great selections from Bruce, Dan, B.J. and Barney. Barney asked me to do a two-poem "encore" at the end, one of which was "Stagnant" (the new name for a previously nameless poem I posted here a few years back based on a writing exercise - it seemed like a better name than "Alps broccoli apology", which was what I first called it).
It was so wonderful to see so many people come out on a rainy Monday night just to hear me blather. And the best part of the night, besides seeing all those folks, was seeing how proud my kids looked - especially since they had both said they thought it might be embarrassing. I got huge hugs from both of them, and S murmured that she thought I was the best poet there, something that both girls repeated when we were in the car. Say it with me: Awwww! Better still? They started to talk about some of my poems, and which ones they especially liked - turns out that they were paying attention the whole time, although from where I was standing, it wasn't obvious that was the case!