In the very beginning of April 2012, my lovely artist friend, Kimberly, invited me to a poetry reading in Omaha. I had no information on who the poets were and neither asked Kimberly or researched the event online to learn about the evening’s guests. As someone with a loving connection to the world of poetry–that magical, but also logical, world of symbol and myth and metaphor and emotion created by the language of poetry–I knew it didn’t matter who the writers were, that what they were bringing to their readers was likely to have earned its place in the wider world considering they were now on a book tour together, driving through various states with a supply of their books riding along and ready to enter the lives of others.
We arrived at the reading just as the first poet was taking his place in front of the microphone, and as gracefully as possible stuffed ourselves through the small crowd to get to two open chairs near the front. I love the moment of suspense, that lively energy, that swirls around in the silence just before a writer takes a breath and begins reading from his or her work: What words will show up, what stories and ideas? Where will it take your mind and emotions, where will it all hit you hardest? Also, will I love, really love, the fact that I took the time to be here?
I would never consider sitting in on any writer’s reading a waste of my time, but I do love it when the world they offer with their work invites me in wholly and lets me stay awhile.
We sat through the readings given by Adam Clay, Michael Robins, and Ada Limon, and not only did I love the time I had taken to be there, but I also felt like bowing a little and kissing Kimberly’s hand in gratitude for calling me that evening and saying, simply, “You should check it out!”
If you are a reader or writer of poetry, if you can’t help having a natural soul-connection to the world poems create and reside in, please, if you buy anything new from this artform, make it works by Clay, Robins, and Limon if you haven’t already. And hopefully you will feel a similar connection to and admiration for their work.
Admittedly, the personal connection was there for me at the start, with the first poem mentioning Chicago (a city all three poets have a connection to). I had returned from Chicago a couple of weeks before, still full of the adventure of journeying on the train, still full of the colors and horizon of the city, even more full of love for my dear soulmate and therefore full also with a sense of misery being in our different cities again, unaware he would soon be moving back. That first poem made me happy, it made me sad. It spoke to me in a way it wouldn’t have if I had just returned from any other city in the world under different circumstances. The specific personal connection got my attention, and I loved the poem all the more for it, but the rest of the poems kept that connection with their honest, graceful, unpretentious yet powerful storytelling.
The night had a sense of beauty and magic and energy; not only did the writers’ poems all stand strong on their own, but the writers’ poems getting together in the same space intensified the reading. Whoever was insightful enough to put these three writers together–whether an instructor or an agent or the writers themselves–has a great instinct and should be thanked for bringing such a perfect trio together, dreaming up that they should tour around an area of this world with their own worlds of words.