The last week has truly pushed beyond the "zone".
Saturday night I found myself with rained out plans followed by two failed attempts at a sold out movie, and ended up stumbling into the pleasure of performing at the Brewers Collective Open-Mic hosted by marvelous Rorie Kelly, and the Ladybeast Collective. A bar. Open mics at a bar are HARD, I read at one every few weeks in Bay Shore and I love to challenge myself to be loud, work to captivate the room, hope to garner the attention of pool players and regulars just getting their drink in the back corner. This bar was new to me though, and new spaces always make me a little anxious.
A loud, boisterous bar full of music and darts and gorgeously crafted brews, around the corner from the house I grew up in, reading in between sets of wailing guitars and vocals (the stuff people are "really" there to hear) was intimidating to say the least. I have grown into my words the last few months, approaching 25 open-mics now since February, which is far from impressive, but impressive to me nonetheless, and I am enjoying the stretch beyond normalcy. I chose to dust off an older piece, worked out a newer one, and genuinely enjoyed myself. I was well received which is always great to hear as it isn't easy to get a bar to listen to your words. I was grateful for the scary, but marvelous feeling that I left with.
The next day I would arrive at Arts on Terry in Patchogue for my first poetry feature. Having only been on the mic since February I still consider myself VERY new to this, and was grateful for the "warm up" set I had performed the night before having given me such a rush, knowing I captivated men playing darts and women with faces buried in cellphones was the right amount of ego I needed to perform on an actual stage, in front of an entire street fair who was also, not listening to me. There were probably only about 15 to 20 people physically standing on the stage in front of me while I read my work. The rest would fall on ears that I would do my best to gather the attention of.
I love applause, but agreeable nods and "mmhmm!"s and finger snaps do more for me than any amount of clapping hands could ever. It's so marvelous to read a piece, speak a valuable line, and hear the audience relate to that. What an indescribable feeling to hear that note of solidarity while you are up there wondering if the audience thinks you suck.
For a first feature I received some feedback that was incredibly uplifting coming from people I didn't even know, which, despite my adoration for those closest to me, means the most. I always feel loved ones are obligated to tell you something was great, that you did a wonderful job, but strangers approaching you to say their work spoke to them, made them cry, hit them where it hurt, those are the comments I will never forget.
On Tuesday evening I was lucky enough to attend a read-around-the-garden Open Mic at Sachem Library held by the lovely Chris Nicola. To sit in a circle in the grass with amazing human beings and read our pieces in a round table format really felt great. Opening my ears and my heart to so much beauty and pain and a plethora of important notes, funny topics and vulnerability carried my spirit in such a way that I wish everybody could experience. This informal reading allowed me to visit some old work to share- and having a sea of familiar faces that I adore was marvelous.
I do my best to remind myself that open-mics are practice, not performances, they don't need to be perfect, polished or even finished. I try to share dusty pieces that have been sitting on the shelf, works that need to be revised, stuff I just wrote the night before, and not beat myself up over sloppy tumbles from my lips because most people at an open are here to grow, and it isn't a competition.
Thursday night Alive After 5 was rained out. I was disappointed to miss out on my friends performances, and hate the idea that they rehearsed only to be drowned out. I dusted off my disappointment and headed over to The Velvet Lounge for Muse Collective, a rare treat as Thursday nights are tough for me to get out to Setauket. I have only performed there once and it was mostly empty, but still fairly nerve wracking (see my initial paragraph regarding new venues and anxiety). The stand up bass player was absent this evening which actually alleviated my stress because I felt like my pieces didn't jive with that accompaniment last time.
Pete opened up the mic with captivating words about love and kindness, how malice is easy and the quickness in which we could "turn a place upside-down" versus the amount of difficult, yet crucial work it takes to make the world better. The importance of being good to not only others, but yourself. Kindness can go so far, it's easy to be mean. These words have been resonating with me all day and were great to hear under a full moon where manifestation is abundant. I chose to read some pretty personal pieces about making time for yourself, being true to you, and being accepting of others. I delivered them as always, with conviction and passion.
I carry a sense of pride in myself, I have worked hard to get to a place in my life where I am comfortable with who I am and I certainly do not shy away from it- I have an immense amount of self confidence. You cannot extend into the discomforts of the world without first reaching the comfort of self. While most of the room (which was packed!) seemed to be "picking up what I was laying down" I heard later from a good friend that there were some individuals who were off put by my confidence and unable to handle my honesty. I have never been happier to have offended somebody - that two women were unable to hear a fat girl talk highly of herself and chose instead to grumble through my entire set. I am full of pride and feel further pushed to continue writing, reading and hell, offending!
I closed out my week of open-mics under the open sky with Muse at the Farmingdale Gazebo. Once more I was met with a new venue, new audience, and new scenario for reading. Children, passerby's from town, friends, all present to bask in the beauty of art. Trying to select a piece that is all-age appropriate, captivating, and also interesting to a passerby who may not be there for the event proved to be difficult, but worth it for me, as outdoor readings are my favourite by far; I always enjoy the connection with the earth, in addition to the picnic blankets, snacks, cuddles and a nice breeze, even though the open nature of outdoor reading presents a vast space to fill, it seems to bring a more intimate feel to any event.
The acoustics outdoors are also tricky, but after reading at two very loud bars this week I had little trouble ensuring a quiet park full of people could hear what I had to say. Even so, reading in such an open and public space did give me some anxious feelings, and going last on the list did not help. I usually prefer to be one of the first few to read so that I can relax and enjoy myself, I still get a bit of the pre-name call jitters.
If you find yourself in the presence of something positive and uplifting, but are met with disdain and anger, ultimately you must reflect inwards and see what is making you feel that way. If you find yourself in the presence of kindness, do your best to spread it, and listen to the things others have to say. It's cliche, but everybody is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Finally, I have to remind myself that my readings do not have to be perfect, opens are a space for growth and experimentation, honing in on your craft and being better than the last time you got up on stage.
I have really enjoyed pushing past my normal routine, doing 5 readings in 7 days, practicing a large array of pieces in varying scenarios of familiarity and difficulty, connecting with the amazing community of writers we have here on Long Island, and re watching all the footage to help myself learn/grow.
Below is the video for my feature at Arts on Terry, which I finally worked up the nerve to watch (nobody likes to watch themselves on video but it is part of the process, as I said above). I was very happy with the outcome and I hope you enjoy it!