I am so excited to tell y'all that I'm a semifinalist for the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award. If you're in Chicago, please come out to the Chopin Theater at 7 pm on July 23 to hear some poems performed.
After a number of rejections, I didn't expect anything to come of my submission to this contest (besides discounted admission to the reading). I'm a little terrified. But I welcome the excuse to learn a poem by heart again.
This will be the first time I've tried to commit my own work to memory and recite it, instead of just reading off paper. It's a different and more excruciating process than learning to deliver someone else's poem: I'm blaming myself for the two barely pronounceable words I chose. (When was the last time you heard "pestle" uttered? Or "crystalline," unless you've been jamming out to that Björk song, as we all should?)
But there's a special satisfaction in knowing that you haven't shaken loose a particular combination of words between the page and your memory. Knowing the poem after several attempts feels like turning a difficult key in a very important lock. While reciting, you have the chance to inhabit someone else, the poem's speaker, distinct from who you were when you read it.
I made myself recite my poem to Nick twice before lunch yesterday. He asked how I wanted to perform it: what was the attitude, the character? I said I wanted to be the person speaking in my poem, who is powerful, even magical, but also vulnerable, uncertain, and scared. And so it was.
What have you learned by heart? What's in your memory palaces? (And isn't that a wonderful phrase?)
I hope I'll see you on the 23rd. If not then, soon.