Event: Reading at Tango Marron, 4 May 2012, with Mercy Teague

Local photographer and friend, Erin Whitson, is displaying his work throughout May at Shades of Brown Coffee & Art in Tulsa. His show is called Tango Marron. You’ll have to come check it out to figure out why it’s a brown tango. I might dance with you.

This Friday, May 4th he is hosting an opening reception from 7-?. He has asked Mercy Teague and me to give a poetry reading starting at 8. The reception details are here.

Mercy’s bio:
Mercy Gallagher Teague is a performing poet from Tulsa. She was the Tulsa City-County Library’s 2006 Unpublished Poetry Prize Winner, and was published in Write Bloody Publishing’s The Good Things About America in 2008. She’s been a featured reader at Heller Theater and the Southwest Conference on Literature and Christianity. She can be found at myspace.com/mgtpoetry and youtube.com/user/mgtpoetry.

Friday Favorite: Mark Doty

Mark Doty is a highly accomplished contemporary poet, but there’s a distinct lack of pretension in his work. His poems suggest a mind that is always surprised and elated by life’s experiences. And he invites us to appreciate life with him. Here’s a 2009 reading at Cornell University:

On Confidence

I asked my social media followers and friends if they have any questions about writing poetry, and Aaron Burrow asked, “Where do you find the confidence to share your poetry?”

The transition from just writing to writing and sharing isn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t for me. I started writing poetry during junior high as an emotional outlet. It was what you might expect from someone that age–sappy, self-absorbed, sloppy. Part of me knew that I had more to offer, but it would be a few more years until I started calling myself a poet.

I claimed that title near the end of high school or beginning of university, but I had only shared a few verses with close friends. It would be a few more years before I started sharing my poetry with an audience beyond those few. Those friends deserve much credit. Without their urging, I may have forever hidden my words, myself. When I began sharing my poems publicly, I was overwhelmed with fear of judgement and a good dose of stage fright.

But I did it. I scouted out a few open mic events. I mumbled my lines. I sulked to my chair hoping people would leave me alone. Thankfully they didn’t. A few people stopped by my table and let me know how certain lines affected them. In a good way! I didn’t know what to think. Were these just nice people who complimented everyone, or was I finally becoming a poet (several years after I started calling myself one)?

These early experiences didn’t magically fill me with confidence, but they were encouraging. I started sharing more often, usually two or three poems at open mic night. Each time, even though I was still apprehensive about sharing (and about hearing my voice amplified), was easier than the previous time. I also began writing more. I felt that some people were beginning to care about my work (Fans? Can I call them fans?), and I wouldn’t want to let them down by reading the same poems each week.

Confidence was sneaking up on me. The act of reading publicly still frightened me, but I started feeling better about the quality of my work. I also began feeling limited by the 10 minute sets at the open mic I frequented. I was ready, or at least my writing was ready, for longer readings. In December 2010, I gave my first full-length reading. I read for about 45 minutes to an audience that included about 15 friends and a coffee shop filled with students studying for finals.

That reading impacted me more than the lot of short readings. People who hadn’t come to hear my poetry approached me. A writing professor I’d invited had many kind things to say. My friends didn’t give me pithy compliments as I feared. They were engaged. They had favorite poems and lines that they wanted to discuss. I realized that my simple words had changed the atmosphere in the room.

A few days later, I was contacted by the manager of Ida Red Boutique about giving a reading there. That morphed into something that wasn’t merely another one-time event. A few months later Third Thursday Poetry Night got started, which I still organize and host each month. We’ve moved to Topeca Coffee’s Roastery, but it’s still going.

When I started sharing a few poems three or four years ago, I couldn’t imagine that I would be not just reading but hosting a poetry event. Am I confident now? I don’t know. Microphones, spotlights, and waiting audiences still scare me, but once I start reading I let my poems, in which I do have confidence, do their work. For me, confidence wasn’t a prerequisite for sharing. It’s something that’s coming along as I go.

Event–I AM Yoga, Art, and Music Festival

I’m scheduled for a poetry reading at the I AM Yoga, Art, and Music Festival in Bixby, OK on Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 4:00pm in the “acoustic corner.” The festival starts on Friday at 5:00pm and goes through Saturday at 11:00pm. I think it’ll be a fun event, so please come hear my poetry and stick around for all the other goings on. For more details, see their Facebook page or website.

Event–Rock Island Arts Festival

I’ve been scheduled for a poetry reading at the Rock Island Arts Festival in Chickasha, OK. My set is at the Chickasha Public Library reading area at 5:45pm on Saturday, October 1st. It’s just a 15 minute set, so be on time if you want to hear me.

The festival is all day Friday and Saturday at the historic Rock Island Train Depot and includes music, poetry, crafts, wine tastings, and a host of other events/features. Check their website or Facebook event page for more details.

Video–Open Stage Tulsa Poetry Reading 7/11/11

Open Stage Tulsa is a roaming open mic event organized by my friend, Smitty Jones. Each act is given 30 minute sets (though it looks like I only used 20 minutes this time). The venue for this particular edition of Open Stage Tulsa was Crystal Pistol Saloon, which is quite different than the coffee shops I frequent. Many people were participating in other activities, including background noise production, so I had trouble gauging from the mic how my poems were being received. You can probably hear the nervousness in my voice; I have to admit following back-to-back hip hop groups was intimidating.

Enough excuses and analysis. Here’s the video:

Event: Open Stage Tulsa at the Crystal Pistol

Open Stage Tulsa is a little different than most open mic events in Tulsa. It isn’t tied to one location, and the sets are 30 minutes, instead of the typical 10-15. The next one is at Crystal Pistol Saloon in downtown Tulsa’s Brady Arts District on Monday, July 11, 2011 at 8pm. I’m on the schedule for 9:30pm, but come early; sometimes the schedule runs early due to some acts not lasting their full alloted time.

By the way, I have new poems.

Note: Venue is 21+

Friday Favorite–E.E. Cummings

E.E. Cummings

E.E. Cummings was born October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, MA. He was a prolific writer of poetry, prose, plays, and essays.

When I was in high school, many of the my fellow students only knew him as “that poet who doesn’t use capital letters.” Non-standard capitalization is a feature in many poems, but it’s incorrect to say he avoids capital letters. He just uses them sparingly, a technique which highlights the importance of certain words or phrases.

He covers many topics in his 2900+ poems–nature, politics, religion, sex, etc. His poems often challenge traditional forms, though formless would not be an apt description.

He has long been among my favorite poets. Reading him repeatedly has taught me (and continues to teach me) much about diction, form, syntax, rhythm, imagery. You know…all that poetic stuff.

Here is a website that has compiled a few poems for your reading pleasure.

And here are a few lines I like from various poems:

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) / it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond / any experience,your eyes have their silence:

I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing / than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance

i like my body when it is with your / body.  It is so quite a new thing.

pity this busy monster,manunkind, / not.  Progress is a comfortable disease:

my father moved through dooms of love / through sames of am through haves of give, / singing each morning out of each night

Poetry: On the Page vs. Read Aloud

Last week, my friend Andrew said to me, “I like attending your readings, but your poetry really comes alive on the page.”

I asked my Twitter followers and Facebook friends which they prefer, and it seems Andrew is very much in a minority position. I’m speculating here, but perhaps he prefers it on the page because he’s an English major. We English majors spend four or more years at university learning how to read differently than lay readers. He may want to spend more time with each poem, deriving its meaning, analyzing my use of rhetorical devices, and so on.

As for my opinion on the topic, it depends on the poet. I attended a Billy Collins reading at the University of Tulsa a couple years ago, and, though I was already a fan, hearing him read added something extra. His cadence and tone highlighted certain images, made his frequent jokes funnier, and helped me feel connected to the poems.

Some poets are awful readers of their work, though. I found a CD at Barnes & Noble featuring 20th century American poets reading selected works. The worst reader on the disc is Robert Frost. I don’t think many would deny that Frost is among the literary greats, but his drab, rushed presentation of “The Road Less Travelled” disappoints. While I was still trying to decide which road to take, he was already finished. I didn’t feel the emotional pull that I get when I read it myself.

Then there are poems that don’t make sense when read aloud. E.E. Cummings has several like this, poems in which the form serves a necessary function. Example:





So what’s your preference? Do you like poems on the page or read aloud?

For those who prefer the audio/visual experience, here is Billy Collins reading three poems at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival.

Event: Third Thursday Poetry Night–June 2011

I just created the Facebook event page for Third Thursday Poetry Night–June 2011. It is this Thursday, June 16 8pm at Ida Red.

Our poets this month are:


MistyRose is a frequent reader at Open Mic Night at Gypsy Coffee House. She was also a semi-finalist at Living Arts Tulsa’s Annual Poetry Slam.

Randall Weiss

Randall Weiss is the organizer and host for Third Thursday Poetry Night. You can read selected poems at his blog. www.randallweiss.wordpress.com

For more info about Third Thursday Poetry Night, including information about being a featured poet, click here.