The whole family came down with a stomach bug after Sunday night, when we had our Corned Beef Cook-off. My sister called me, because she was very sick, and needed me to bring her Ginger Ale. I, of course, ran into the burning building of germs because that is what I do when my baby sister needs me. The next day, I felt like crap. I spent most of the day sleeping, and when I woke up I felt a lot better. I had made plans to go to a poetry reading on Wednesday night, and since I was no longer ill, I figured I would give it a go. Probably a mistake, since by the time I got home I felt terrible again, but this blog is not about feeling terrible, this is about the brief moment in which I did not.
Now, as the usual reader knows, I attend a poetry night at a bookstore near my house about once a month. In fact, I was the featured reader last October, and I have sadly not been in attendance since, because weather forced it to close for a few months, and then Momma passing caused ME to close for a few months. (By the way, both are back open.) I plan to attend tonight’s reading, but it all really depends on how I feel when I get out of work. But that is beside the point, which is that I went to a reading on Wednesday.
I started attending the bookstore reading pre-pandemic, when it was a mix of a crowd and I was far too anxious to try and speak to anyone. I arrived, read my poems, and went home. Then the world got sick, and we stopped doing things for a while, and when poetry night returned it was in a different incarnation, run by a different moderator, and with a different group of people. I got to know their faces and styles of poetry over the past year, and I like them all very much. However, and I am not saying this in any sort of bragging way, but I am almost always the youngest person in the room. This is not a problem for me, because I have always interacted with “adults” better than my peers. But I also know that poetry is having a renaissance here in Buffalo, and I’ve been to one or two events where there was a younger group of poets. But I only knew a couple of them, and I didn’t know where they hung out! It certainly was not the little bookstore I went to the last Friday of every month, so where have they been? I started looking around for other readings or workshops last year, and I discovered that there was a coffee shop in the Elmwood Village that was doing readings on Wednesday nights. I further discovered this night was hosted by my favorite local poet, and so I decided to attend. Of course, every time there was a reading something came up. It was almost always my health, so on Wednesday when I woke up sick, I was not at all surprised it would be ruining my plans again. However, I then slept for 6 hours, and when I woke up I felt like I could take on the world. It was a blessed break from feeling crappy, and it came at the perfect moment, right in time for me to go read a couple poems at a coffee shop to a group of strangers.
Because that’s what they were: strangers. There was a single man there that I have seen before, an older gentleman with a rambling poem that transports you back in time. I saw him once or twice at the bookstore, but every other face in the crowd aside from Justin’s was unfamiliar to me. And I don’t even know Justin that well! I thought to myself that there was a time when I would never have been able to go to this event. It took a lot of work to get me to the one at the bookstore back in the day, with me waging a constant war against my anxiety. But now, there I was, performing my poetry for a crowd of folks I had never seen before. Progress.
What struck me was the age of the folks in attendance. I was surprised to find people younger than me, older than me, and most surprising…folks my own age! It’s not that I feel out of place at the bookstore, but I do often feel like the baby of group. Here, I blended into the crowd and that is something that my anxiety really enjoyed. Then, it was my turn to read. I read Heaven is History, my little rhyming poem about the afterlife, which was met with much applause and cheering. Then I read Brigid, my poem about the saint/goddess, and myself and my mother, to which I received massive applause, as well as someone in the crowd screaming “Go, poet!” I don’t know who that was- but they made my freaking day. I felt really good afterwards, and driving home I thought to myself that there was nothing I could not accomplish. Of course, then I woke up sick in the morning, but that is beside the point as well.
Tonight, I have the bookstore, but I have decided that I will be attending the coffee shop as well from this point forward. The older group gets together on Wednesday’s at a venue in Amherst, and while I would really like to check that out at some point, I think my Wednesday’s will now be devoted to a different crowd. It’s not like I’m going to stop going to the Friday night readings, because I have been going for a year now and I very much appreciate and admire the folks I have met. But the circle is small there, and I need to expand my reach. So we will incorporate Wednesday evenings into the rotation. Mark mentioned the age differences between the two groups to me, and I smiled. Perhaps I will write a poem about them, how they write about different topics, with very different voices, and live life in different ways. And yet, no matter our age or walk of life, we come together to read our work and express our love of existence. That has no age limit.