Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Surprised Poet (on Open Mic Night)

Apparently, I'm a poet and I don't even know it.

That long used funny statement came surprisingly true tonight when I finally got to read my poem at the Open Mic night at the Community Television building.

I confess, I never liked poetry much before. I found it too limiting and obscure. Poetry takes so few words to describe something that I would usually prefer to take several pages to describe. Many poets use references and analogies that are so obscure that I can't even figure out what they are trying to say. But nevertheless, three weeks ago when I attended my first Open Mic night, I found myself trying to write a poem. Sitting in a chair in the back room of the CTV building, I scribbled some random thoughts on a piece of paper that I hoped approximated a poem. Inspired and encouraged, I wanted nothing more than to get a chance to go up in front of people and share something with them. (I know, I know. Most people hate public speaking. I have never been and never will be "most people." Sometimes, that is good. Like tonight.)  I tend to be good at everything most people hate and hate most things people are good at - go figure. The world needs all kinds, right?

Anyway, I didn't get to speak that night, nor the second open mic night I went to two weeks later (although I was #16 on a list of people that cut off at #15 - how frustrating!)

But somehow, that little piece of paper with what I was loosely calling a "poem" remained in my bag for the next three weeks, not once getting lost in the fray of all the loose papers, money and trash that fills my bag. I'm quite sure nothing *else* has ever survived in my bag for that long... It was a sign. It was meant to be. Or maybe I was just looking for encouragement. Either way, I got to the CTV building at quarter of 7 to sign up tonight, position #6, and then nervously awaited my turn come 730.

(In between I walked to the East End and back since I had left the bag with the poem at the Jewish Museum, which was the second time I had lost the bag in 2 nights.)

The Open Mic night was far better tonight than the last two times. Which is good. For reasons I will not enumerate here. Someone played a decent song on the guitar to open, and the person before me actually did poetry as well - and did it really well. In fact, in my entire life I have never seen poetry read so well. Not that I've spent much time listening to poetry being read, but yeah. The words were so vivid, so emotionally resonant, so THERE. I never knew words could have so many meanings and feelings when spoken aloud. It was a beautiful and entertaining reading.

The second poem (the first was a fun one about olives) actually talked, in a roundabout way, about humans finding their way on this planet we call Earth. It was a perfect lead-in to my poem. It was the first time in three weeks I had heard anyone talk about anything serious or even do poetry really so I was relieved he set the stage so well for me.

Before I go any further, I will reproduce the poem here. Keep in mind I am not a poet or used to writing or reading poems, so  I take no responsibility for whether or not you like it. Um, yeah. There's that great self-confidence talking, lol.


Lost behind the glass window
Inside, looking out
Stuck, how do I get out?
How do I connect to the world?
Is there anyone in here but me?
High school, hiding behind a Walkman
College, forever the odd one out

Surrounded by others talking, laughing, but I can't touch them
I look out, but there are walls
Thick walls I can't break through

Life is survival
Seven years, isolated
Music my only company
Connecting to the world through the computer
Longing to get out

The tide changes
Inspiration comes
I walk into a room
I meet people who speak my language
I can reach out and touch them

You are my people
You speak my language
You see who I am

They call it Asperger's
I call it coming home
I can reach out and be seen
They call it Asperger's
I call it coming home
Finally, the world is open to me again

So yeah the middle needs a little work I think, but not bad for the first time and scribbling it on the back of a whole foods cafe menu.

Of course the way you read it matters - I read slowly, carefully, being careful to put emphasis on the appropriate words. Trying to make my facial expressions match what the words were showing, and my voice match it as much as I could. If I hadn't been holding the papers, I would have used my hands to gesture a little bit as well.

When I got up there, of course, it was so bright - the lights were on you - I hadn't expected that. But I thought, well just go with it. The lights were bright you literally couldn't see the audience a few feet in front of you- which might have been a blessing in disguise. I made a joke about the groundhog and the winter and then got into the poem. I remembered that above all, I should sound confident, strong and steady. Emotive - that's a good word.

When I got off the stage, the guy in the front row who I had been talking to earlier said to me very earnestly "You just made it incredibly hard for me, as a poet, to come after you." What a compliment! What an honor. I thanked him and sat down. A middle aged guy came over and said "Thank you" and shook my hand. More feeling very honored. Someone told me that it "painted pictures in his mind" and one woman told me "Your poem was awesome. I almost cried." Such a nice feeling. As I said the quality of the acts was much better than the previous two times and was enjoyable to watch. I really like listening to the guy with the Russian accent who hosts it. He could be reading the phone book and still probably be fun to listen to. People did singing - more guitar than ever before - and some other things. I stayed until 930. I ran into a guy I knew from whole foods who worked in the deli, someone I've always enjoyed chatting with. He did some nice stuff on the guitar later on.

So yeah, I think I'm addicted now. I think I'm addicted to being in front of a microphone. I want more! Soon! I will have to write some more poems for next week =)

Margie says you have to go where your heart takes you and my heart dictated the poem above. I have a feeling (or a hope anyway) that there will be more where that comes from.

Now if it can only give me more ideas for this presentation I am trying to develop (also on Asperger's) =)


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