I get terribly nervous about speaking in public and usually have a physical reaction to it, like fainting or breaking out in hives. The doctors told me, during my first year of marriage where I fainted so often, that instead of flight or fight my body has cleverly chosen to faint. Thank goodness poetry readings aren’t on-fire buildings or I’d be a goner.
The poetry reading is 4 hours from now, and counting.
Its times like this that I wish (a little) that I could be Franz Wright and just get so sillydrunk that I could sing and dance on stage without a care in the world. I don’t drink though, so that’s not an option. What is it about saying my poems outloud that paralyzes me so? I loved the collection of Anne Sexton’s essays, No Evil Star, primarily because she addresses poetry readings and her hatred of them. I’ve read though that she was a very popular reader–she says this is because she’s apt to cry when she reads one of her poems, if it strikes her a certain way. I’m an easy crier, I can understand that. She also said poetry readings made her too nervous to write for weeks before and afterwards. I haven’t experienced that, but maybe its because I don’t think about the reading until it is upon me.
Are poetry readings really necessary? I wonder sometimes. They are so gut-wrenching to perform (though I love hearing them). I’m not worried about selling my chapbooks, there’s only 30 left (minus the 12 Carmichael’s took for this reading) and I don’t see a new chapbook coming out anytime in the immediate future, so there’s not really a financial / self-promoting motivation for them. I guess poetry readings have to be done, so that other poets can go to them…Robert would always say in classes that poetry is meant to be read aloud, that its an oral art. (He loves to read and is a wonderful performer. Louise, however, hates them as much as anyone). I think it started out that way, but is a bit of a mix now. I rarely read poetry outloud, unless I’m particularly struck by it. I just let its music hum along in my head. I’m more likely to type or handwrite a copy of a poem I love rather than say it outloud…Something about writing it with my own hands is like writing it myself (or so I wish!). I do say poems outloud when I’m editing though, especially in the final editing, so as to smooth out all the lumps.
Well, the workday is over and so is this post. Bryan is ordering us a pizza and will go on a long walk with me afterwords, to help calm my crazy nerves.