The poetry reading went very well tonight, thanks be to God! We ended up with about a dozen people at our town's library (a good turn out for such a small town). We spent time talking about one man's plans for a woodworking class for selected kids in town (including my oldest boy), and we discussed his ideas until almost 7:15. So I only had half an hour to fill, which was fine with me. I ran out of time to do a short poetry workshop on cinquains, diamantes, and haiku, but I distributed the papers in case anyone wanted to write some poetry on their own.
It helped immensely that my dear poet-pal Kitty called me this afternoon to encourage and pray with me. She stressed again the good things about my writing after her critique, and I realized that I had only heard the negatives and had blocked out the positives when we discussed my work Sunday evening on Kim's driveway. It wasn't a conducive time for me to discuss my work anyway as I was in more pain than usual which tends to contribute to tears and negative thinking. Sharing with her (we're so much alike!) and praying together really marshalled God's spirit in me, and I was able to put the finishing touches on my preparations and even grab a short nap.
So after breaking down in Bible study this morning and breaking down again as I spoke and prayed with Kitty this afternoon (and crying Sunday evening and Monday morning), the talk really couldn't have gone much better tonight. (I know, silly me! I always do this before I speak to peers!) I actually had the bravery to tackle revising a few of my poems late this afternoon, starting with her more positive comments and working my way through the more negative. Some poems needed so much work that I really couldn't tackle them, but others just needed a few lines revised here and there, so those were the ones I concentrated on.
Tonight I talked about "what poetry is" and alluded to the movie Dead Poets Society and the "greatness" scale for poetry in the intro to their poetry book -- how poetry is an issue of the heart and mind, not of a sliding graph of supposed greatness. I spoke Mr. Sebastian at Granite Hills and Dr. Seamans at Point Loma who most influenced my love of poetry with their own passion. I read "anyone lived in a pretty how town" aloud as a memorial for Mr. Sebastian (and I mentioned reading it at my Internet community's very first retreat, too), along with the openings of a few other poems to illustrate how he taught us poetry -- he used to recite them completely from memory while tipping back in his chair, one toe hooked under his desktop to keep him from falling backwards. I also read one of the poems I wrote in high school that was published in the yearbook.
I talked about how academia and birthin' babies got in the way of my pursuit of writing poetry -- how many brain cells I lost during the '90s and how my main poetic influence for the decade was Dr. Seuss. Then I spoke about how Kitty and Judith got me back to writing again over the past three years. And then I read about six of my poems. After I read the poems, a few people commented and seemed to really like them. And then I discussed my current book which may take a miracle to finish with all the research there is to do, besides homeschooling, teaching, etc.
Here's one of the poems I revised this afternoon. It was the one that Kitty seemed to like best, and I only had to tweak a few things.
Traveling in Colorado
by flat-topped mountains,
our motorhome only a tiny ant
crawling between, among
vast brown expanses of grasses,
peaks crowned with snow,
gray-green pines shielding the over-modest land.
“Pass with Care”
advises the square white sign
alongside the deserted two-lane --
wisdom given not only for highway travel,
(Copyright 2007 by Susanne Barrett)
So it went much better than I thought it would. People seemed to laugh at the right places, and Judith congratulated me on the way home. The next time I freak out about a speaking engagement, please remind me of tonight!