I know a while ago I wrote about Staying in the Room, riffing off the Ron Carlson motto. He’s right, of course. The room (or the desk or the coffee ship) is where the work gets done. Not succumbing to the lures of the refrigerator or the cute person by the window takes discipline. Those snacks aren’t going anywhere; the world is full of attractive people. Stay at your desk and make interesting mistakes.
There comes a time, however, when it’s time to put on your shoes and go out. Especially among your peers. I’m the one who doesn’t always go to hear other poets, preferring the rough edges of the race track to abrade a morning spent with a sestina. But I do attend readings and am usually the better for it.
Last week Bianca and I strolled down the street to a local 99 seat theatre to hear some Spoken Word poets. By grad school standards, they weren’t very good — the poems were derivative and hortatory. But these (mostly) young writers weren’t in grad school. They were performers and charismatics. They riled the small audience up and in the lobby afterwards gave away their chapbooks. Their energy was contagious and I left the theatre in a good mood.
That happens a lot. Sure, at some poetry readings management wisely takes away any sharp objects and everybody’s belt because after a soporific 40 minutes any sensible person would be go Keats one better and be totally in love with easeful Death.
But most of the time, especially with the up-and-comers, readings are fun. They bring out the larcenist in me — how can I take that cool simile and make it mine? How did that poet get a laugh out of such a serious subject? And it’s always a rush to see somebody do anything really well, and that includes writing.
So stay in the room with Ron Carlson, then get out of there with Ron Koertge.