First Open Mic

I know, I know. I have not posted a poem in ages. I’m having time management issues. The short version is that I can’t seem to find the time to finish getting any of my recordings into video format. The long version is that I dislike the next one on the list enough that I’ve also been slightly procrastinating. Just a bit. I am genuinely very busy between warm weather events, learning musical instruments, building a father’s day present, and attempting to maintain a rudimentary level of fitness, that my head has been swimming too much to focus on poetry much.

But, that’s why I decided to finally brave up for an open Mic. I put it off too long, and needed perspective.  It wasn’t that I was worried the poems aren’t good. They generally do better when heard than read. But, I wasn’t sure I could deliver them in an open Mic setting the same way I do in front of my computer.

I’ve done poetry mics before. It’s different, because you know everyone in the room is into the thing you’re doing, but at an open Mic, you have to go in accepting that what you’re doing is the thing the audience least wants to see, that you have to win a crowd that may not have read a poem outside of a classroom setting, ever. I didn’t know if I was up for that.

As the night wore on, my confidence, which was ok early on, got pretty shaky. Guitarist after guitarist after guitarist.  Could I seriously be the ONLY poet in the room? Yes, yes I could, and was. Shit.  That meant I had nothing to work from as a template.

The musicians did 3 songs each. Should I do 3 poems, then? My poems are much shorter than songs, which would mean a set half the length of the other acts. It’s what I did.  I think I did fine. My delivery was pretty solid. My pillow talk in between pieces needs work.  But, honestly, it was a friendly room. I realized I can’t tell the difference between polite clapping and I genuinely enjoyed this clapping. Since I was nervous about distractions and losing my train of thought, I didn’t look directly at faces, but just a hair overhead so I could fake it. I think I did fine, but up until the last second I was uncertain about my choices.

I did the piece about crap weather I wrote the first day of spring, because the weather was crap when I picked it, but by the time I had to perform, the weather had cleared. I had to ask the audience to pretend the weather sucked to give it context.  I did Actual Air, because people seem to like that one, and with Caitlin Jenner in the news, it seemed like it would be a good tie in.  I should have left that as the heavy point in the set, I think, but I finished with the kid who got picked last. I don’t know if that was maybe a bit much for my first time at the venue. I think that piece is positive and uplifting, but if the delivery isn’t spot on, or the atmosphere is wrong…

…It was the first time that poem felt like a bit of a downer, like maybe I’d depressed people. I always look to that piece as a source of strength, so it floored me that once I was done, it felt kind of gloomy.

An old man behind me tapped me on the shoulder when I sat back down, and said ‘adversity makes you stronger’. Just now, as I type, I think I realize what happened. I forget sometimes that I don’t look my age. Most of the audience was over 60. I’ve never had anyone guess me older than 25. I get carded everywhere I go.  A piece like ‘the kid who got picked last’ probably delivers really differently when the audience thinks you’rd barely out of school. I wonder if it would have the same depressing effect if they knew that  It was written by a 30-something.  I never thought that my face could kill the mood of a poem! Geez, I guess there are some things you can only learn live. I’ll hesitate on that one going forward, I think. It’s a good piece, but one that needs a better setup to gauge the audience, or other pieces that contextualize it better.

It was a really strange experience overall. Not bad, really, but I felt a bit like an island.  It’s funny because I don’t really run in poetry circles, but it would have been such a relief to have a kindred spirit out there with me. It was just so darn awkward!

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