Last night, the reading went off fantastically. Bobby C. Rogers, Elizabeth Witte, and I all read to a packed, all seats-taken house.
I’m a super anxious public speaker. I’m a teacher, which means public speaking should come naturally for me, but I spent half the day reciting what I thought I would say over and over again, shuffling through my pile of poems and seeing how they sounded aloud. While I drove there alone, I spoke aloud too, and then I spent my time before I actually got up there trying to calm my breathing and clear my mind.
Once it was my turn, the nervousness dissipated, and once it was done, I felt that giddy loose feeling of, “I HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT NOW!” I could move around, chat, and not feel like my anxiety was curled in a ball under my lungs.
After the reading, I re-connected with an old friend from high school who also attended the same MFA program as me. He said he remembered me saying once, “What are you doing for your writing today?” and that he had really taken that heart, making sure he submitted, wrote, blogged, or read a little everyday. It’s something I did for a long while, and it worked for me. I submitted and got a lot of rejections, but also a lot of acceptances. I generated a lot of decent, editable poems. I read and kept in touch with poetry and the writing community.
I still keep in touch with writing everyday, but it’s different. I’m reading a lot of novels, blogging regularly (for another private project), journaling daily as well, and listening to audiobooks on my commutes to and from work. I’m connected to writing, but not poetry. I haven’t written a poem in several months. I haven’t submitted a poem separate from my full-length manuscript in a while. I even discontinued my membership to Duotrope because I wasn’t submitting enough to warrant the $50 a year price tag (which is really such a small sum).
Being at the reading around so many lovely poetry-hungry people made me miss having poetry in my life. Hearing my friend say those words also reminded me that I can put in baby steps: I can read a poem today. I can submit a packet of five poems today. I can reconnect, re-build that relationship a little bit at a time.
I’m so grateful for the writing community I have, and it was good to be reminded of what things I can do for myself to stay connected to poetry, not just writing in general.
If you came out last night, I’m grateful for you. Thank you to everyone (especially Heather Dobbins and Ashley Roach) who hosts and supports poetry in Memphis!