As an optimist with an idealist streak, I believe that poetry can change the world, one reader or listener at a time. Today’s story is how I got to be a better version of myself, because of Poetry.
Yesterday I attended the 10th anniversary party for Living Poetry, my home base for poetry in NC’s Triangle. Despite the pounding rain that caused minor flooding in the area, about 20 brave souls gathered at the NC Botanic Gardens for lunch and poetry. These annual gatherings always involve sharing poetry in some way. Earlier this year, I suggested to my friend Bartholomew Barker, LP organizer, that he and his co-organizers turn the event into a fundraiser, (group expenses are primarily Meetup.com fees, some printing costs and the party costs) by holding an Open Mic competition. Attendees vote for the winner, $1 a vote. They decided to go with it.
Two of the LP organizers donated copies of their poetry chapbooks as the prize for third-place. I chipped in a box of magnetic poetry tiles. The second-place prize was The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove. The first-place winner would receive The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, and all the “votes” (dollars) they had received. The remaining “votes” go to Living Poetry.
Out of habit, I checked Robert Brewer’s blog for the April 13, Poem-A-Day prompt before I left home. The prompt, “Write a view poem,” sparked an idea and I composed one during the drive over, which I scribbled down as soon as I got there. When it was my turn, I performed the two poems I had pre-selected pieces — one of which was a known crowd-pleaser — and this freshly minted poem:
The view today is grey skies and rain.
I hate driving in it; it’s such a pain.
I’m more than damp. I feel wet.
Please tell me if it’s stopped yet.
I’m done but for just one note.
I’m only here to get your vote.
Every poetry reading is a performance, or at least, it can be. Whether a poem is funny or serious, high art or doggerel, it is fundamentally entertainment. Being a natural ham, I enjoy the performance aspect of poetry. Now I can’t say for sure if it was the quality of the work I brought with me, or the performance, but apparently, this is what it takes to win!
I can’t tell you how happy I am with this beautiful thesaurus with it’s 1000+ pages of definitions, word lists, and short essays by a wide variety of writers. You probably want to know how much money I won. Unfortunately, I never counted it.
Generosity is a core value, but given the financial realities of my life, I don’t generally donate money to causes. I do strive to be generous with people though, in terms of time, attention, and mentoring. That is until today! The applause and the beautiful thesaurus with cash tucked inside was exhilarating and inspiring! Bart brought the prize to me and had stepped away but I stopped him and said loudly, cause that’s how I do it, “OK, this dollar is for the vote I gave myself,” and peeled one off, “and these two are for a lottery ticket because I’m feeling lucky, and these go back to the pot.” And then I handed the rest back to him with more applause. I felt like a millionaire at a high-end charity ball! It was so much fun – I called four people when I left to tell them the story and to squeal about it all over again! By the way, I did stop to get a Powerball ticket for Saturday’s drawing. I did not win that one but it’s OK. I still have the immense satisfaction and connection of being a member of a thriving poetic community.