There must have been grand events happening somewhere on the earth this week—no doubt there were weddings where the bride wore gold coins, sudden epiphanies in biochemistry labs that brought tears to the eyes of researchers, art gallery openings where the artist felt his heart was beating on the canvas.
My own week was more modest, and yet… I read to a roomful of people who had come to hear poetry, who in fact had paid to hear poetry (true, it was only a $5 fee, but a person could buy an extremely cheap bottle of wine for that). Cultured, literate people as these were, however, rather than drink cheap wine, they came to hear the two featured poets read at Callanwolde Arts Center, an old mansion now converted to better things than sheltering rich people.
In addition to me, the other person reading poetry was Ricks Carson, who read after me and who had a lovely poem about blackberry bushes, in which a bush declares its readiness to let Jesus pick berries. I had never met Ricks before, and we chatted a bit before and after. We were the stars, after all, which people could tell because we both had on long red velvet capes and fine boots of embossed Spanish leather…
No, wait, that was something else I went to. Actually, I wore a red shirt with a red scarf draped around my neck. A scarf is part of my generic poet outfit. I think every performer should have an outfit, like Buddy Holly or the early Beatles.
The reading took place in the old library of the mansion, a building that’s rather striking visually, with both wood and stone carved into decorative patterns, and inside the large room where one first enters—the grand hall, as it were—there is a fairly impressive set of curving wooden stairs leading to the second floor. Of course now that the place is an arts center, little girls taking ballet classes will on occasion run up and down those stairs. The former library where the poetry readings happen looks out large windows to the front terrace.
When I first arrived on Wednesday, I was early, naturally, and even though it was my intention to get there before the audience, I walked into the empty room and thought, “Oh, shit, I hope people show up.” I decided to set my expectation low, to hope for fifteen people, but by the time I began to read, in my red poet outfit, the room was actually rather full, at least 30 people, perhaps. We’re not talking a rock concert here.
It was fun, just fun, to stand there and read poems to people who kindly created the illusion of being enthralled (which I define as “eyes not closed”). I do have enough poems that don’t embarrass me to read in public when I’m pretending to be a real poet (different from going to an open mic event—then any howl about lost love will do). I also feel very comfortable in front of a group of people, so that I can joke and play a bit, and I read well. With twenty years as a college professor, I have professed my way to this.
When the poetry reading was over, I was pleased—and you would be, too, I bet—that five or six people made a point of waiting to speak to me and tell me they enjoyed hearing something I read. One of my goals for this reading was simply to promote myself, to try to get people to know who I am, as more books are yet to come. In addition, I was trying to push the current novel, The Illusion of Being Here, so that I took books to sell, as well as the poster of the cover that I made a couple of months ago. I did sell two copies, so hey, I’m giving myself an award for success on that. Beer for everyone who lives in my house!
As a final small bit of coolness, the entrance fee was shared between the two poets and the arts center, so between that and book sales, I came home with an extra $43. I got paid for reading poetry. How rare is that? And I found a dragon’s tooth in the parking lot.