THE SPEAK EASY…

Rusty Truck: How often do you participate in readings/are they important in the promotion of poetry?

Todd Moore: Reading poetry to strangers for nothing is a mug’s game.  Whenever I get the itch for a little pain, I do it.

William Taylor Jr. Reading are a good way to introduce your work to a wider audience.  Of course, that only works if people actually show up.  I like reading my work, and listening to the audience reaction can be a good way to judge whether or not your poems are doing what you meant for them to do.

Chris Toll: Get out there and read in public. Often. Read where people adore you. Read where everyone is drunk and ignoring you. Read.

Father Luke: Funny about that. I seem to rub people the wrong way. I was born in Santa Cruz, California. Santa Cruz is kind of a trendy little poetry corner now, with both the Small Press and the Large. The small press poets are much better, which is usually the case.

So, I used to hang out at the poetry readings there before anyone had heard the two words: Father and Luke used together. After I started getting published, it became fashionable to scorn and ridicule me. I was officially “uninvited” to poetry readings in my hometown by people who had moved there, and who didn’t know I had been supporting them by showing up and listening to them off and on for years. They just simply did not want me around. I had to ask people where the poetry readings I had heard so much about were, and when they told me, I went, huh. I know those. I’ve been going off and on for years.

So, personally I don’t see the value in readings. I read once for friends in Death Valley. But they were already hip to my writing and my poetry, and so dug it before I even opened my mouth. Readings don’t promote poetry so much as promoting the people involved. Either you get it or you don’t. Poetry is not a cause it’s a life force. And just like I wouldn’t have sex with my girl friend if she didn’t want to, so too I wouldn’t read poetry to someone who didn’t want to hear it.

Howie Good: I do one or two readings a year. I’m not particularly comfortable doing readings, though I realize their importance in promoting poetry in general and one’s own poetry in particular. But if i was the sort of person who enjoyed public performance, why would I spend most of my time alone in a room writing?

A.D. Winans
: I  don’t give that many readings.  I gave tons of them in the seventies, but now I limit myself to two or three (max) a year, plus reading a poem at benefits or at a memorial.  A well organized poetry reading can be used to promote poetry, but the usual poetry crowd consists on the average of maybe 25/30 people.

Eugenia Hepworth Petty: I haven’t read publicly lately, but when I’ve been asked to read, I do. I believe readings are important, as you are reaching another audience, and you are also having a more intimate relationship with sound and resonance, and hopefully the audience/poets as well!  Some of my favorite readings are the Lunch Poems series at UC Berkeley. I also think open mics are very important as they give the community a voice…and community voices speak truth to power.

Alan Catlin: At least once a month.  Usually more.  Doesn’t hurt like daily vitamins.

Hosho MeCreesh: Never. I’ve only ever recorded “readings” to accompany a book. I see real value in an archive of poets reading their own work–but I also don’t care to attach my mug to my work. I’d like the words to be judged by themselves…not for people to decide they like my work or hate my work based on my face. From what I’ve seen, I can’t imagine poetry being important enough to anyone to ever pay money to attend readings like people did in years past…so there’s hardly any financial reason to give readings…at least not where I live. I could be wrong–maybe there’s a bustling poetry reading circuit somewhere in town…but I’ve never heard of one. In terms of the US, I’d say cities like LA, NYC, San Francisco–poetry readings are still important in those places…everywhere it seems there’s hardly the interest to necessitate them.

Rebecca Schumejda : At least one reading each month, I believe readings are essential to the promotion of poetry.

Jack Henry: Not very often and they are very important to the promotion of poetry, often the only way to market and sell books. I don’t participate for a couple of reasons. One, there are not that many readings in the high desert of California; two, I am not a good reader; and three, I don’t like people gathered into one place staring at me. I’m in therapy for it. Social Anxiety Disorder. I get great meds though.

Misti Rainwater-Lites: Never…yes, they are important.

F.N. Wright:
I think they have lost their appeal to the public because there are a lot of bad poets reading these days. The last one I participated in was May, 2007. The audience except for one couole were the other poets reading. A far cry from when I read in the 50’s,70’s & 80’s.

Jennifer Blowdryer: I read when it amuses me or its someplace i’ll have a decent time. its not good to do something you’ll resent, and I have a hard time sitting through sad sack events. maybe i feel its catching, maybe i just feel things too strongly without a filter. These literary death matches, slams, all that, some older poets are down on them but they’re all just a way to trick people into listening to and writing poetry. plus its never good to just sit at home alone, well not most of the time, anyway.

Scott Wannberg: a lot when in LA–.none so far here in tiny Florence. Really no scene here. Eugene is 60 some miles due east and I am carless. They aren’t that important in promoting poetry en total but it’s fun when doing your energy in front of folks who seem to dig it. I’ve read to empty rooms and I’ve read to SRO rooms(well like the time I read with Viggo and Henry Mortensen but let’s be real, that crowd came out for the Viggo man, not necessarily me, but I had a lot of fun.

Christopher Robin:
A few years back I was doing quite a few, but these days I don’t go to many readings, hence get invited only once in awhile. I don’t really care anymore to work the local circuit. Poetry readings may be great for socializing, but they are hardly good for hearing good poetry. And the promotion of poetry matters not, though I certainly do a bit of it, for myself and others. Selling a book or two at a reading is certainly a good feeling, but I’d rather be writing or sleeping.

Bradley Mason Hamlin: Promotion of poetry… You see, that’s the problem. Readings should terrorize the public, failing that, they are worthless.

One Response to “THE SPEAK EASY…”

  1. I used to give readings, and even organize them, quite a lot in State College, Pennsylvania (home of Penn State) during the 80s and 90s. Then blogging came along, and I found I could reach larger audiences that way. But it’s really very comparable in the type and amount of audience feedback I receive; I just need to start adding audio to posts more often. Getting published in online magazines isn’t as attractive to me because most don’t allow reader comments, for some reason.

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