Last night I went to an open mic to read some poems. The online blurb about this venue said it happened every Friday night. Most Fridays I am not available. But this week I was, and I was feeling the need to go out and exercise my creaky reading muscles.
The online ad said this was a mix of music, comedy, and poetry, which could be rather iffy. But it was 10 minutes away, so I took a chance. In fact, it was in the shopping center where I had been earlier that afternoon to buy some produce at the Persian market, so I went.
I knew I had found the place when I spied the multitudes queued outside with their musical instruments and sound equipment. The event was about to start when I arrived, so I signed up (first on the list because the people who had already signed up had left the first few blank).
The host was a young would-be comedian with an Ed Sullivan vibe. He was rather good at introductions, I thought, especially given he didn't know who many of the folks (such as me) were.
I read 3 poems, two of them fairly long. I figured I had more time, but I didn't want to tax people's patience in an audience like this, who may never have been to a poetry reading in their lives. In fact, it was probably a fair bet that 90% hadn't.
There were some people about my age sitting on the couch, and they paid close attention. The man looked familiar, perhaps faculty from one of the schools where I've taught over the years. But neither they nor the others came up to me afterwards with questions about the book, which I plugged, naturally.
I am pretty good at handling a room, thanks to my years of teaching experience, and I connected with them the best I could. The group in fact mostly looked like a rumpled group of freshmen, ready to give me the benefit of the doubt on the first day of school. They were about that age.
The older couple turned out to be parents of a young crooner, part of a nascent band with some interesting sounds. The songs were very short, but had something. I am sure this guy at the mic wrote them. I couldn't hear the lyrics, something about mumbling or perhaps the fact that I was sitting next to the amp, which was blasting straight into my hearing aid.
I thought that band was in fact one of the best things I heard, that and a young woman comedian. There were several male comedians whose material ranged from extremely offensive (shockingly offensive--misogynistic, pointless, and generally unfunny in every way) to chuckle-worthy, to bland.
I didn't stay for the whole thing. But it reminded me that open poetry readings aren't the only self-promoting gig that radiate an "all about me" vibe. It still was sort of a cozy feeling, and perhaps I will go back another time, especially since it's so close.