* on poetry readings

If poems are children, poetry readings are PTA meetings. 

— Vera Pavlova

PTA welcome

You don’t go to poetry readings for the poetry.

Mind you, this isn’t a remark from a cynic, far from it.

I am a believer in the poetry reading, both its flaws and magic.

From the rambling what should I read next talk to the front row while shuffling papers folks to the stand-up-comedy folks who make an open mic a little bit more bearable (when they’re funny).

From the rhyming love poems about a fickle ex that will charm a smile out of you if you let them to the angsty, blood-dripping love poems about a fickle ex that will make you go back to your angsty teenage self and give them a hug.

From the slam poets who do it right and fill the room up with duende ala Buddy Wakefield, Roger Bonair-Agard, and Patricia Smith (the latter of which I heard about word of mouth at poetry slams for years before the rest of the poetry world caught up with her!), to the would-be slam poets who rant, cuss, and flail to no avail.

(sidenote: if I hear another variation of the line “eyes have eyelids to close/but ears don’t have earlids/so they can always hear” I will consider the trope public domain).

From the poets who preface their poems with stories more compelling than the poems themselves to the mumblemumblemumblemumblemumblethankyou poets.

You don’t go to poetry readings for the poetry – you go to see people try.


fiction writer Eliot Treichel, and poet José Angél Araguz. 

Tuesday, February 19, 5:30, Eugene Public Library–Free!

Eliot Treichel

    José Angél Araguz


I have read my poetry in front of people for thirteen years now – which means I’ve gotten up and tried for thirteen years.

As I have previously mentioned, I count age 17 as the first year of my taking writing seriously, seeing as it is the year where I first typed up poems of mine, submitted them, and got them published.  I realize now that I forget to factor in my first open mic readings and poetry slams into that year.

In the time since that first year, I have slammed, ranted, shuffled papers, told compelling stories, worn army fatigues and a sari (not on the same night!), and, occasionally, done a good job of reading a poem.  I have also hosted several open mics – from my days with the Student Writer’s Association (SWA!) at the College of Santa Fe to monthly open mics at Del Mar College where I taught.

The best thing about readings is afterwards, when people go up to the poet and recite a line they really liked, that caught on them like an electric burr on the air of the evening.

On those nights, the poet can say they tried, and did well.

Next Tuesday, come see me try!


p.s. Just confirmed that Eliot and I will be doing a radio interview Monday afternoon on the local station KLCC!  Mas details later!

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