Last night I gave a reading of my thesis manuscript. The final major, public demonstration of my undergrad career, it was an extremely satisfying night: hosted by my former boss and wonderful friend, Paula, the evening was billed as “Poetry & Healing” – my reading was immediately followed by an open house that allowed attendees to explore the services offered by the holistic health practitioners at Acu-Health Center. The venue was packed – every seat was taken, and there were a number of people standing in the hallway and reception area, listening to my reading. I had worked hard to prepare the reading (it probably went a little longer than intended), trying to ensure that my thesis was clear, the poems were well-connected to the thesis statement and each other, and that it was still entertaining.
The audience was filled with friendly faces – friends from high school, college and various aspects of my non-academic life were there. Everyone was so lovely and kind and supportive, and I felt very much like a rock star.
I am still, in so many ways, a complete fangirl in poetry. I get tongue-tied around “famous” poets, have a hard time communicating with any credibility the impact the work of poets like Komunyakaa and Howe have had on me as a person (and a writer), and I tend to avoid approaching poets to tell them how much I enjoy their work – though I know this is an important thing to do, to validate the work of others. I am also still a bit starry-eyed when I consider how many brilliant, talented poets I get to count among my friends and friendly acquaintances. But I am accustomed to people taking me seriously, as a writer. I am accustomed to people recognizing that this is something of a vocation for me. I believe in my own work enough to keep doing this, keep putting it out there.
So it strikes me as a little funny when my non-poetry friends tell me they were impressed by my writing and reading. I think many people don’t realize – perhaps largely because I don’t make it clear – that writing is so important for me. That it is The Thing I Do. That my daily work at a corporate organization is simply that – daily work, a job that pays the bills. That poetry is my passion, one of the few reasons that I keep moving forward in life. (I say few because I consider few things so important that my very life depends on them – I can do without, say, television, good cheese, a new pair of jeans. But doing without Jacob, without Donna, without art? It is a life I would rather not consider.)
It is a huge compliment to me when I manage to communicate to these non-poetry friends the passion I feel for the genre. It is important and fulfilling to show them this part of myself, to make it clear that I am doing everything else (kickboxing, working, driving, running, baking) with poetry always at the root, always turning over in my head.
It was a good night. Jacob stepped up halfway through the reading to give me a small hug; I felt lucky and loved and warm. It reminded me that I really could not have planned a better life.
(**for those of you who are interested, there will, at some point in the next week, be a video of this reading available via YouTube**)