Yesterday I attended a poetry Open Mic at the Jacksonville Public Library. It was hosted by poet/professor Peter Hoheisel. I was the sole, token millennial of the group–a good thing since it meant there was an abundance of wisdom and life experience in the room. Several notable original works were read. A professor of chemistry shared a mesmerizing musical piece that attempted to convey the powdered-glass sound of falling snow with repetitions of the word “listen”; a fisherman relayed a bass-fishing yarn from the fish’s perspective wherein its fellows and finally itself are taken through “the rippling mirror” by hook and line. And my new friend, a local poet and horror story writer, shared a disturbing futuristic meditation wherein, topsy-turvy, computers teach humans how to think.
I read my “Ode to the Smartphone,” “The Locker,” and C.S. Lewis’ “Evolutionary Hymn,” the latter being an interesting oddity since it features the Christian theologian musing on the truth of Darwinian theory. Professor Hoheisel kindly showed interest in my Deus Non Machina compilation, so we exchanged autographed booklets, netting me his estimable North to Superior blank-verse collection.
But what stands out most in my mind from this outing was a compliment my aforementioned new friend paid me even before we were properly introduced. She was standing outside of the library as I arrived–it’s notable that several other library-goers had already passed her without eliciting any response–and as I drew near she asked me if I was there for the poetry reading? A little taken aback, I confirmed this and said I’d see her inside. After the event, she explained, matter-of-fact, that I look unmistakably like a poet. Shaggy beatnik or silken decadent connotations aside, I admitted to her that this was the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.
Occasionally, in my vaguely paranoid way, I fancy that strangers give me weird looks out-and-about. From now on, I will assume it isn’t due to my size or any off-putting air, but rather because they are shocked to see a poet in public! 😉