This year, I celebrated International Woman’s Day (Sat., March 8, 2014) by stepping outside my comfort zone and returning to the stage to bear my soul to the world. I discovered my first open mic night in Nashville, TN—Poetry in the Brew, held every second Saturday at the Portland Brew East coffee shop in East Nashville. …
The last time I remember reading original work on stage—other than some one-offs hosted by Wright State University’s Nexus literary journal—was in 1998. The Dayton Voice (now known as the Dayton City Paper)—the alternative newsweekly in Dayton, OH, held a poetry slam at the local Barnes & Noble. I encouraged my high school friends to get involved.
Then an avid reader of Beatnik works—anything I could get my hands on by Allen Ginsberg or Jack Kerouac, I had written two poems in tribute to their stream-of-consciousness, no-holds-barred style: “Mind Dribble” and “Crooked Crag Bridge.” Armed with my high school friend Jessica Little on percussion (she played bongos), together, we presented the poems. I was 17 years old at the time. …
Last weekend was a reminder of inner strength—of learning not to let fear overwhelm you and keep you from taking risks. So, with hands sweaty and heart racing, I approached the stage at Poetry in the Brew and faced my biggest audience since the days performing with piano-pop band Irene & Reed. I professed my Nashville newcomerism to the crowd.
What followed was my reading of three original poems, none of which had ever been practiced aloud, debuting in front of a roomful of strangers: “Of a Mockingbird” (the newest poem); “The Choir of Flight” (written for my friend Rob Benson) and “Welcome to My Wonderland.” I steadied my pace. My voice was clear and feminine—strong. Applause, nod and sit down.
I realized that day that 15 years ago as a teenager, my poems dealt with subjects of love and lust, adventure and confusion, and loneliness. As an adult, my poems still resound with a vulnerability—a loneliness wrought from human loss and disenchantment. The metaphors still engage images of nature—mockingbirds, crows, and hummingbirds—like earthly angels with dirty wings evoking fantasy and freedom.
In listening to the others’ poems at the Brew, I learned four things:
– “Art is poison.”
– “You do not choose art, art chooses you.”
– “Poetry is critically needed medicine.”
– And poetry will help you find yourself.
Thanks to the Poetry in the Brew writers for allowing me to share in their vulnerability. Thanks especially to Voll (an 18-year Nashville poetry-cowboy veteran) for welcoming me to Nashville and to host Walker Bass for writing a haiku for every presenter that night. And thank you to March feature Patricia Albrecht, who melted the hearts of the audience by revealing herself fully—childhood traumas and all. Her honesty felt so refreshing and well-spoken.
Time to write another poem….
Links for Nashville Writers/Poets:
Follow Nashville Poetry Writers on WordPress. The group usually meets the first Wednesday (or sometimes Tuesday) of each month at Panera Bread near the Target in Brentwood, TN (Old Hickory Boulevard, near I-65). More details on Meetup.com.
Follow East Side Story, Nashville’s only all-local bookstore located in the heart of East Nashville. Read the Blog, Calendar, Contests/Submissions, Twitter and Facebook. The bookstore also hosts the bi-monthly East Side Storytellin’ (live podcast/radio show).
Read more of my original poems here.
NOW—3-8-14 at Poetry in the Brew, Nashville, TN:
THEN—1998 at the Dayton Voice Poetry Slam, Dayton, OH: