Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Poetry Festival: How to Listen to Poetry

Once again, I have skipped my Saturday post. This time I have a FOR REAL TIMES VALID EXCUSE. I was doing HOMEWORK! I really was. So much homework that I couldn't do my post. I was preparing for my big poetry project presentation on Monday, putting together my illustrated collection of poems about the seasons, which then took like eight hours to actually print and assemble... I won't get into it. But my presentation went really well, yay!

But what else was I doing this past weekend? Surely I couldn't have spent every waking second doing my homework? Well, I binge-watched an entire TV show attended a very prestigious literary event that my college hosts: the Sarah Lawrence Poetry Festival. Which has some fancy credential like it's the biggest student-run festival in New York or something, I don't know exactly, but it's a super big deal and famous people in expensive clothes were there and they gave out free cheese, so you know. Pretty cool.
So I decided that was my new experience of the week. Of last week, that is. And since I didn't do a new-experience post on Saturday, I've decided to make up for it today.

Besides free cheese and fancy people, the Poetry Festival consisted of a lot of poetry readings. Famous poets like Ellen Bass, Timothy Donnelly, Aja Monet, and a bunch of others came to read. Additionally, high school and college students got a chance to read their work, and people working with prison writing programs came to read poetry by the prisoners. That added up to a lot of listening to poetry on my part, sitting in the audience. And I realized something: I find it super difficult to just listen to poetry. I can't do it, really. I need to read it, or at the very least read along to someone reading aloud. It's kind of irritating, because it made it more difficult to enjoy the Poetry Festival.
But in the spirit of an event created for poets, I decided, why not write a poem about it? The atmosphere of poetry was pretty inspiring, and while sitting there trying to pay attention to someone's poem, I came up with the idea for this poem:

How to Listen to Poetry (by me)

Get off to a good start.
Follow the lines like a string that you're a bead on.
Think too much about thinking about it,
and you're lost. Again.

Return to the poem.
She's saying something beautiful but you don't know
the context of it.
Why the hell is everyone snapping and saying "mmm"
like she said something so undeniably true they can't stop themselves?
All you heard was an island of letters.
Sink into your chair and look away.

Look around.
In the audience, there are adults wearing suits,
dresses, sweater vests,
and fellow students who are oh-so-poetic.
That one's been hovering around the festival all morning.
That one's got a moleskine notebook.
And they know how to listen to poetry.

At the end of the poem, be determined.
The next one's going to work.
Catch each line like fish from the river.
But then an intense turn of phrase catches you instead,
and you're lost. Again.

Make up stories. That's easiest.
Every time a bubble of words drifts into your ears,
mold it like clay into fiction.
Make dragons out of the mountains the poets
don't think they're giving you.

But you're still not listening to them.

When she says, "this is the last poem
I'm going to read tonight,"
sit up straight.
Close your eyes.
Detach her voice from the room.
Hear the voice you hear
when you read on paper.
Let each image sink into your mind,
like an imprint,
like a reflection in a pond,
for only a moment.

Then let them float away into your subconscious
like smoke.


Hope you liked that! Next Saturday I *really* hope I actually do a post the day of. I have a couple of new experiences already to choose from, so there's a good chance there'll be something.
Thanks for reading!

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