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Finding shades of deeper meaning [poem: The Spotlight]

November 6, 2010

When Maya Angelou was young, she was advised to take her love of reading a step further and read aloud. “Words mean more than what is set down on paper,” Mrs. Bertha Flowers told her. “It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning.”

Mrs. Flowers expressed why I love spoken word performance. When I first moved to Montana and asked around about poetry readings and slams like those I experienced on the West Coast, everyone just shook their heads. Until I met Jay DiPaola. He also said there was nothing like that here. Then he invited me to take the stage at his weekly music open-mic. At first I thought he was joking, particularly when I listened to the talented musicians struggling to be heard over the bar’s din as the night aged and drinks flowed. It took a few weeks to get my nerve up and a few more to feel my performance belonged on that stage. And then it happened—I read, they listened. And I was convinced Jay had been right.

Jay recently hosted his 500th open-mic in the Flathead Valley. And it was his final one. He’s moving on to a new town and hopefully rich new experiences, and a pair of talented artists are carrying on the open-mic at the Craggy Range. I wrote this piece, with a little inspiration from Beth Orton, in an attempt to express what I saw and heard—and hope I continue to find—every Wednesday night. Thank you, Jay.

The Spotlight

One by one we climb
onto the stage; drawing us,
the warm glow at its center.
In the light: songs played,
words spoken, notes sung,
the rhythm drummed. But it’s not
the spotlight, the candlelight,
streetlight, the moonlight,
sunlight, but your light
at the center; the warm glow
drawing us. Onto the stage
we climb, one by one.

—Julie Laing

Thanks to Jingle for running the Thursday Poets’ Rally and to all of the fabulous poets who share their work online! I appreciate the nomination for and accept:

The Perfect Poet Award

I nominate Malcolm McLachlan for this award.

34 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2011 3:02 pm

    One by one we take over the stage. You are absolutely right.
    Love the poem


  2. Jingle permalink
    December 25, 2010 12:14 pm

    Season’s Greetings!
    You are nominated, you win one vote, if you nominate 4 other poets, you win another vote 4 yourself, in addition, voting helps you exposed to other poets and make new friends in our community. Hope to see you vote..
    Merry Christmas,
    Hope to See you at potluck week 16 tomorrow…
    We will have a break after week 16, and come back on week 18…
    Your support means a world to us..


  3. December 4, 2010 4:12 am

    What a wonderful story and descriptive poem. You gave the words to a feeling I wasn’t to sure of in understanding. Along with the awesome quote Mrs. Bertha Flowers told her. “It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning.” I knew but didn’t understand. Thank you. 🙂


    • December 6, 2010 2:28 pm

      Thanks, River. I love that Bertha Flowers quote, too. It seemed to have a great impact on Maya’s life, or so it seems to me from her biography, and perhaps on her writing. When I read that bit I, like you, realized that I knew this but had not understood it until then. I’m happy I could pass that understanding along.


  4. November 20, 2010 7:51 am

    I would love to have you in poets rally week 33.
    let me know by leaving a link under my post.
    Thanks a ton.
    You are quite productive.
    beautiful poem!


  5. November 13, 2010 3:45 pm

    Such a humble acknowledgement to those who listen to poets read and musicians sing – kudos to you for having the courage to stand on stage and read…I have read only twice, both times conscious of how lost I became in the words while experiencing the sensation of fire’s heat on my face, the words and stage-fright creating an urgency to the sound of my voice, a tone so soft, it normally lulls children and animals to sleep.
    Jay Dipaola – what a lovely name, rolls of the tongue like a warbler’s tune thrust through mist that covers the pond at dawn. No wonder he makes space for poets to sing.


  6. Morning permalink
    November 10, 2010 10:43 am

    award notice,
    Happy Wednesday!
    Link a poem to Jingle Poetry potluck if you can, I value your support!


  7. November 8, 2010 5:31 pm

    Very lovely work!


  8. November 8, 2010 7:36 am

    awesome nomination, marked you down as done,



  9. November 8, 2010 4:14 am

    I can hear the rhythm of the words in music.


  10. November 7, 2010 11:07 am

    I love the feel of the poem. It really places the reader as an observer there. I too enjoy the spoken word, blogging my poems is a very different experience for me.
    Here is my poem for this weeks rally:


  11. November 7, 2010 10:28 am

    Excellent poem. The words hit home.

    Regards … D.


  12. November 7, 2010 8:50 am

    Kudos! I love slam and open mic. Good that you asked, were brave enough to take the stage. Good that Jay was open to it. You let your light shine and others came as moths to a flame. Wonderful story. Fine poem. Nice to see you at Rally.

    Poem on …


  13. November 7, 2010 7:45 am

    fabulous words:

    But it’s not
    the spotlight, the candlelight,
    streetlight, the moonlight,
    sunlight, but your light
    at the center;

    thats what draws.


    • November 7, 2010 8:01 pm

      Thanks, Trisha! When I started working on this piece, I kept coming back to Beth Orton’s lines, but I was happy when I found what I really wanted to do was shift them into a new direction. I’m pleased you were touched by that transformation.


  14. November 7, 2010 5:37 am

    I am not experienced with poetry readings and glad you opened this door for me. But I do know that our inner light illuminates more strongly that our words. When they are in sync, how powerful that can be. Thanks for sharing this. hugs, pat


  15. Malcolm McLachlan permalink
    November 7, 2010 4:56 am

    This is fantastic! A wonderful interpretation of the Shakespearean statement “…are but players…”


  16. November 7, 2010 1:20 am

    I really enjoyed this! Such a clever reflection on the importance of art!


  17. November 7, 2010 12:34 am

    Very beautiful Julie…:-) it’s not any other light but it’s you…yes…:-)

    Mine is here: Under a quixotic pale moonlight!


  18. November 6, 2010 11:26 pm

    This is a really great poem! I am reading for the rally and this is one of my favorites!

    I love it!


  19. November 6, 2010 8:25 pm

    Very nice indeed, gives me a warm feeling reading it! Thanks for sharing this with us!


  20. November 6, 2010 5:16 pm

    great poem. i worked in the theater for many years and this reminded me of the many relationships I had on and off the stage… well done!


  21. November 6, 2010 5:14 pm

    this is great…very nice!


  22. November 6, 2010 5:05 pm

    if you could insert the logo into this post, nominate a poet after you are done visiting for week 33, that’s would be perfect.

    if you don’t accept the award, next time, even if you are nominated by a poet, you may not get it.
    agreement says it all, you accept, I give the 2nd time, otherwise, no more.

    This is not personal. I try to be nice, we have more than 80 poets each Rally, only 30 get it, so there are poets who want the award but could not get it, I prefer to give it to poets who are willing to take it.

    not that hard.. agree?
    Happy Rally.


  23. November 6, 2010 5:02 pm

    lovely words,
    true, your light in the most important light…
    not the light from nature.



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