Poetic JuJu

I went and read some poetry Tuesday night at Borders’ River Oaks location. It’s a regular reading held the second Tuesday of every month, hosted by a guy from the Art Institute of Houston, which apparently is the tacit sponsor of the event. This was a pretty nice, well-attended reading. Everyone was good — no excruciating teen-angsty daggers-at-the-back-of-my-ex screeds here.

In fact it was kind of intimidating. Everyone seemed to know each other from a previous creative writing class or workshop. Many of the readers were reading from their chapbooks or from poetry journals they were published in. Some very accomplished poets. Still, I think I held my own. I read a coupla my dystopian futures poems and everyone laughed and nodded in the right places. I must have been mistaken for a political poet I guess, because people kept walking up to me after the reading and agreeing with my “statement.” All in all, worth going back to.

But I couldn’t help comparing in my mind this reading to the one I attended at G.K.’s coffee house off of Almeda blvd. in mid-town, where the atmosphere is, um, less affluent. I was one of three white people in the standing-room only venue. There was no reading from prominent poetry journals. There was no reading at all.

These people performed their poetry. They lived it. Seethed it. They yelled, they jumped, they sang, laughed, wailed. They had background grooves they rapped to. It was awesome. I felt so, so, suburban standing on the stage reading from my notebook of poetry. Everyone was supportive, but, if I go back, I’ll leave my stuff at home and just soak up their poetry juju.

(edited later in the day: I have to add this thing I forgot. Some of my friends, whenever I talk about doing poetry readings, tease me by doing a mock-beatnik clicking-in-the-air gesture with both hands. They do this ’cause they know it’ll get an irritated, “They don’t click at poetry readings anymore!” out of me. Well, when I read my poems at G.K.’s in mid-town that night, one of the ladies in the audience put both arms up and clicked away, shaking her head from side to side. It was the first and only time I have been “clicked” at a poetry reading. I was quite pleased.)

So our little reading Tuesday night, with the chapbooks and polite applause had me wishing that I had memorized some of my poems. Wishing that I had worked something emotional, something startling, into my delivery. Maybe one of these days I’ll shock a prim poetry reading with a little jump-and-yell reading of my own, but I’ll need to sit through a lot of readings in mid-town and soak up a lot more poetry juju to make that happen.

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