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Performance jitters [poem: Stepping Up]

April 10, 2011

I have performance poetry on the brain today, partly because it’s Sunday and again time for the Kalispell “Get Poetry” Open Mic, but also because the event just got a fabulous write-up in our local newspaper. So although I’m a little late getting into the latest Thursday Poets Rally, I wanted to share this piece. It was inspired by the local open-mic, which has given a lot of poets their first opportunity to share their work with an audience. Hands may shake, voices may falter, eyes may stay glued to the page, but each writer has the guts to get up anyway and share their poems with the crowd and, via podcast, the world.

It makes me think of my first open-mic experience at the Gypsy Den in Orange County, where I was surrounded by a daunting group of poets, whose experiences in writing and life made me feel my words were too simple and too limited to be shared. Until, after a few seconds of silence, those poets began to clap.

Stepping Up

That flutter in my stomach
was not butterflies
but light-hungry moths
drawn to densely shaded globes
in Gypsy Den windows:
mic in one corner,
crowd of intent ghosts
lifting frothy mugs to their lips,
waiting for me
to open mine,
release my first shaky line,
and decide whether to dub it poetry
or mere words.

Passing their test
brought fleeting respite,
lulled beating wings into hibernation
until the next reading.

And now
as I cup my own steaming brew,
watch exposed insects
threaten to knock
open-mic virgins off stage,
I feel my muddle of Gypsy moths
sense growing light,
begin to wake from dormancy,
return me to my debut.

—Julie Laing

You can hear me read this poem at the Kalispell Get Poetry Open Mic, thanks to the work of Mat Lee and The Jamhole. Other poems in this reading are “Free Bird” and “3 a.m.”

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2011 12:23 pm

    Invite you to join poets rally week 42,

    Bless you, your absence is missed.

    Keep up the excellence.

    You Rock!
    xx

    you win the outstanding award, plus the perfect poet award for week 41, carry pride, smiles.

    let me know if you take the awards.
    😉

    Like

  2. April 16, 2011 10:11 pm

    yes speaking and writing are so different

    Like

  3. April 14, 2011 1:08 pm

    Nice…this sums up so much about a feeling most may have at one time or another. well done.

    Like

    • April 17, 2011 8:30 am

      Thanks for reading, Dream Trekker! I’m glad you enjoyed this one. Check out some of my others when you get a chance; I’d love to hear what you think.

      Like

  4. April 14, 2011 12:14 pm

    I think this is a dedication to the debut at that place? You’ve a very nice voice and expression to match your poetry, Julie. if it was me on that stool reading out loud, I think it’ll be full of stutters and jitters and what not 😉 yours.. twas wonderful.

    Rally Week 41 – My Poetry

    Like

    • April 17, 2011 8:29 am

      Thanks, Vinay. You are right about the dedication bit. And I definitely have those jitters–sometimes worse than others. I find that if I get up and read early in the evening it’s easier; fortunately for me, most people don’t want to be up first thing! You should try it sometime, though–for me, it’s such an important part of the “poeming” process!

      Like

  5. April 13, 2011 1:20 pm

    I really like your use of moths instead of butterflies. All too familiar feelings! thanks for sharing, keep up the good work and i can’t wait to hear more! 🙂

    Like

    • April 17, 2011 8:26 am

      Thanks, Tanya! I wanted to get to that butterfly feeling without running out the cliche, and moths seemed even more appropriate once I hit on it. I’m happy you’ll be back to to hear and read more!

      Like

  6. Melisse Laing permalink
    April 11, 2011 11:28 am

    I thought you’d be a “pro” by now … but I understand the butterflies. I still get ’em when I start to sing. Love, Mom

    Like

  7. April 10, 2011 4:27 pm

    I hope you had fun. I love doing performances, though it has been awhile. Kudos on the exposure and keep on rocking! 🙂

    Enjoy the rally!http://www.lynnaima.wordpress.com/

    Like

    • April 12, 2011 10:07 am

      Thanks! I find I learn so much about how a poem is working by reading it aloud. I hope you get back to performing your pieces soon!

      Like

  8. April 10, 2011 1:21 pm

    cool to be able to hear your voice…
    fabulous when a poem speaks itself and pass the message to others all over the world..

    thanks for sharing..

    Like

    • April 12, 2011 10:08 am

      Thanks, Jingle! Since I started this blog, I’ve been wanting to be able to post clips so people can hear some of my poems, as well as read them, so it’s fabulous to have Mat recording us regularly.

      Like

Trackbacks

  1. Outstanding Poet of National Poetry Month in 2011 Award Nominations | Promising Poets' Poetry Cafe
  2. A little light reading… « The JulieBook

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