Thanks to everyone who preordered my book, available January 30. I’ve scheduled readings with the Poetry Society of New Hampshire at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, NH on my birthday, June 18, and I’m looking forward to warming up for one of my favorite poets, A.M. Juster, at the First Friday Coffee House at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Exeter, NH on November 7. I will post those links as the dates approach.
Having a published collection of verse has been a humbling experience. I’m pleased to have sold most of my first batch of author’s copies to fellow poets, friends, and relatives, but everyone else is terrified of poetry. I brought a few into the high school where I’ve worked for twenty years. Not one of my colleagues was curious enough to crack a book (although a few students and staff members encouraged me to read their own or their relatives’ poems). I understand why people would rather undergo an IRS audit than attend a poet reading, but my readings are different:
- I bribe the audience with food. Like any poet, I’m desperate for an audience, and I realize it’s hard to listen when all you can think about is the bacon-mushroom cheeseburger and Sam Adams you’ll order at T-Bones after everyone shuts up. I’ve brought crock pots full of Collins Brothers chowder to readings, and I set up a grill and had free hot dogs at the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH. I taped a “Free Hot Dogs and Poetry,” sign on the historic marker in front of the house. Bob Crawford, a trustee, laughed appreciatively, took a picture of the sign, then made me take it down. But I gave away a lot of wienies and had a good-sized audience.
- I read for less than 20 minutes. A friend pointed out that the quality of the poet is inversely related to the length of time he reads. I don’t know if this is true, but it does show consideration for the audience, many of whom come only to take their own turn at the open mic.
- My poems are short. I don’t have the attention span to write a poem that takes 10 minutes to read, so the audience doesn’t have to sustain its attention for long stretches.
- My poems are funky. Young children love the music in "Mother Goose," "A Child’s Garden of Verses," the XJ Kennedy “Brats” poems, and Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends." In middle school teachers announce that meter and rhyme are unsophisticated, and poetry is a just a sincere expression of feelings. Kids miss the rhythm and turn to other entertainments, like rap. Think of “Pumpkin Chucking” as nursery rhymes for adults.
- I know my life isn’t all that interesting, so I won’t subject others to a twenty-sonnet series about my Aunt Edna’s battle with foot fungus.
- I don’t read political poems.
- I always include light verse. Life is hard enough.
So please stop by for a reading if you’re in the area, or let me know if you’d like me to read in yours. At least you won’t leave with an empty stomach.