On December 4th I had a poetry feature in Dayton at the old Yellow Cab building. This building used to be a cab business for 40+ years—it’s located right on the fringe of downtown with double garage doors that stay up in the warmer months and shut in the colder. There are hints of checkered things, a decent sized stage and free tampons in the womens room. A pretty rad venue.
My set was wedged between the open mic and poetry slam. The Dayton writers are so friendly and welcoming—I was specifically requested back for this feature, which made me feel pretty darn good. To be welcome and wanted is a precious feeling when it comes to doing something so very close to my heart/is my heart. This particular night was a prom themed night, so most people arrived dressed up—swishy hems, high slits, suit jackets, even a cummerbund. When getting ready at home, I realized I had nothing remotely close to prom attire but I pulled on a long skirt and combat boots and called it done. My date surprised me in a button up and tie.
I was fascinated by how many individuals read their poems straight off their phones. Is this me showing my age, being old fashioned? Visually it feels awkward to me, to watch someone read off a device in the palm—I feel like I’m listening to someone relay a text instead of a poem. Maybe I am used to the aesthetic of paper, or hands that are completely empty. Maybe it’s because I see so many people distracted by their phones on a daily basis, looking down instead of at the person across from them/things around them. Maybe this is something not to really care or worry about, but I found it distracting. I couldn’t get over it. Everyone walked onto stage and looked at their phones, then spoke into mic. Is this now the norm? Norm or not, I won’t be reading my work off my cell phone anytime soon. The writing/typing, the printing out of pages, added lines scribbled in the margins…all of that is part of the process, the ritual of what brings breath to a piece of work. For me, at least.
Also the majority of the readers were young. Perhaps I’m finally getting to an age where I FEEL the generation gap. Maybe it’s because I’ve been getting on stages for 16 years now—I remember being that young, I remember my approach to it and I know that approach is quite different than my current one. Age, experience, both—I can feel it, hear it, see it at readings. There is nothing good or bad about this—it simply is. If anything, it’s fascinating. It makes me a little giddy to make note of it. I know I’m getting older(my body for sure knows it first thing in the mornings), but it isn’t until these moments do I really see the path behind me, already ventured down. With poetry and poetry readings this intrigues me because while I can see the difference and know the difference, the subject matter these young folks are speaking on are the same. Universal things. Unrequited love. Busted hearts. Ignorance. There are more mentions of technology methods(so strange to hear facebook brought up in a poem, but I guess that is the world these days) in regards to courtships and endings.
Most of my poems were older ones, and this felt really good to do. I’ve been writing a lot over the past few months, but feeling quite protective with this new material. Much of it isn’t ready to leave the nest just yet. They need to do nothing but simply exist in a space outside of my own head and heart, age in the air a bit. Some are only partially erected buildings, a staircase to nowhere, walls up but no roof. There’s pleasure in this part of it, when something is becoming but not complete.
I cannot ignore that there is home to found in my older work. So much of it has never seen the light of day, outside of a word document tucked away in one of my many files filled with the same. My archives are thick with unidentifieds and not-quite-there-yets and yes-but-forgottens. In an interview once, I remarked on how I had a habit of treating my work like a very bad lover. I loved them but left them, feigning a loss in interest. Moreso than losing interest I think that habit stemmed from being very self-critical, which was rooted in nothing but fear. I’ve been going through the archives, even the slightly ridiculous and/or painful parts, and paying attention. It feels like an opportunity to re-introduce myself, to listen, to understand myself better. For as much as I might have thought the work was garbage or worthless, I must’ve thought something more since I kept nearly all of it.