Behind the Scenes: Summer of Poetry

Published on 2018-08-30

Kickstarter's first Summer of Poetry reading was amazing -- the readers (including Margot Atwell, Carlos Hernandez, Andrew Nichols, Elayna Darcy, and myself) each arrived safely, despite the weather, and each read from our own work, as well as one poem that inspired us. As night fell, the audience stayed and listened, and then stayed some more and talked about poetry and the value of creativity and the importance of community and sharing our work and that of others.

Here's the behind the scenes take: I was so nervous!

Not about the event -- Kickstarter had that well in hand. Er, except for the weather. Margot and I had talked about hosting the reading upstairs in the rooftop garden, under the stars, and now it was POURING. Not a light drizzle, either. No stars for poets.

I wasn't nervous about the readers, because they were ready to share their poetry, and the poems of those who inspired them. And the audience had arrived too and was settling into comfortable library chairs.

And the fabulous WORD bookstore was on hand to help too. That was wonderful.

So, I may have mentioned, nervous thing one: it was raining. It had been raining for days. 

This was no problem whatsoever, actually, as Kickstarter's library is gorgeous, and a perfect venue.

Nervous thing two: I thought I was cool with what I was reading -- old favorites -- but when Carlos arrived, he encouraged me to shake things up a bit, and read something new. So, to the two published poems you can hear on the main kickstarter post, "Theft," and "You Are Two Point Three Meters from Your Destination," I added a third poem, "Orrery," that I'd never read live before. (spoilers, it worked out really well. You can have a listen here).

Nervous thing the third: this was the first time I'd helped host a poetry event. And the first time I'd been a poet in residence anywhere. It was the first summer in a long time that I'd felt like a poet in decades. Even though I spent a lot of the time commuting from Philadelphia (trains, ferries, buses, *parking* in Greenpoint hahaha) thinking about poetry, and even writing some. Even though I finished my MFA sometime last millennium. 

Since then, I'd set my manuscript aside for paying the bills with programming and game design, and then had become a novelist and short story writer. I wasn't sure, not completely, that I was still a poet. Even though I'd just completed that first collection of poetry (heavily revised and added to), now called Clock Star Rose Spine.

(Truth: thanks to this drip, I am now a third of the way through a second collection. That's amazing to me. You can read more poems, as well as see other projects, by subscribing right on this page.)

So to be up there, with my fellow poets, reading in front of an audience that contained friends from across publishing, new friends from Kickstarter, and my fellow creators in residence (you all are the best), was a bit of a graduation for me. And I was all nerves! What helped ease them? Sharing the work of a poet who has inspired me with the audience. 

This inspiration poem was the brilliant idea of the Director of Publishing at Kickstarter, Margot Atwell -- and it was genius. 

The wonderful Margot Atwell, Kickstarter Director of Publishing, and a fantastic poet in her own right.
The wonderful Margot Atwell, Kickstarter Director of Publishing, and a fantastic poet in her own right.

Because we were in Brooklyn, I chose to read current U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith's "Don't You Wonder, Sometimes"  (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/55520/dont-you-wonder-sometimes) which is a lot about Bowie and Brooklyn and stars and being daring. 

I love this poem, and all of Smith's work. And being encouraged to share poetry I love by another writer was a perfect antidote to nerves.

The evening was filled with newness: Elayna had just funded her Kickstarter book of poems, Unraveling Light, Andrew read in public for the first time (in English AND Catalan), and Carlos and I had never read together before (it was GREAT FUN, friends). 

Turns out, the nerves were like the weather, quickly overcome in a beautiful space filled with words.

I would like to invite you to read more about the Summer of Poetry, here.

Thank you so much to Kickstarter for a wonderful summer, of poetry, discovery, delicious fun, and new friends.