Mike - he's also open to feedback...like ooh aren't you a big girl's blouse (before running away etc.)
A couple of weeks ago I attended an open mike session for a writer's group. I'm not sure exactly what possessed me but the event popped up on Facebook and while I ignore most of those invitations to crappy events for church pig pickings or to occupy some half empty city center, when I'd rather be occupying my own bed, this one sounded interesting.
I had images of Bohemian folk in a smoke filled bar, dropping their clever verse into a mike. On the way out a literary agent hanging in the shadows would take me by the arm, tell me I was discovered and I was on the way to the $3 million deal for my first novel.
OK that last bit's wishful thinking. I would have settled for a few eclectic Bohemian people. Or just a beer really.
However, by the time I hit the highway with a crumpled up sheet of Mapquest directions in my hand, once again cursing the fact I never got the light fixed in my car, my original enthusiasm melted away with every mile of lumpy interstate. The venue was a library. Libraries don't usually serve beer or serve as hang outs for Bohemian types.
Libraries are usually the haunts of old biddies who read Nora Roberts. Although in the city where I work they tend to attract a fair amount of flashers who like to display their Charles Dickens to the aforementioned old biddies who might even welcome the odd fleshy interlude between chapters of Nora.
This library was in a crumbling suburb on a chilly seafront; we're not talking Greenwich Village.
I followed a sign to an over lit room where a woman asked me to sign a piece of paper. It took me a few seconds after sitting down to survey the new habitat which was little short of dismal. Not only did I appear to be the youngest person in the room - and that's saying something these days - but the folks sat in the hard chairs were a certain type of geriatric. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but they looked like they thought a lot of themselves and ate too many lentils.
The moderator was a white haired man who must have been about 80, although he seemed to have the energy levels of an 18-year-old. In no time at all he was launching into his tedious piece of prose about a military plane landing on an aircraft carrier, banging his fists on the lectern and shouting and screaming for effect.
I'm not really sure if his stuff was any good and I'm hardly an accomplished judge anyway. I was too distracted by his wild hand gestures.
Then a portly middle aged Jewish woman started reading from her recently published book. The material was serious and disturbing, touching on relatives lost in the Holocaust, and yet her delivery was flat and the prose seemed uninspiring. She was talking about the biggest tragedy of the 20th Century like she was reading a recipe for strawberry jam.
One woman was shy about reading, telling the group her material was terrible. They persuaded her to get up and and read it out. They told her it was great but their faces said terrible. It wasn't terrible; awful perhaps.
There was some kind of academic. His writing wasn't at all bad and he seemed to know it. As he read it he puffed up in a self indulgent way and eyed the mere mortals below him hoping to see in their faces recognition of the crushing superiority of his poetry. When a less accomplished writer took the stage after him I could hear him quietly tutting under his voice and making disparaging remarks to the woman next to him.
So the torture under the bright lights dragged on and I found myself developing a neck ache from looking at my clock. To my horror the white haired man finally called my name, his brows knitting when realized I was going to read blog extracts.
(yes folks the best seller is going rather slowly so I was forced to fall back on Brits in the USA).
So I went up to the lectern and read a couple of blogs, succeeding in injecting some feeling into the work when in reality the brightly lit, half empty library room had left me feeling flat. I didn't stumble on my words - I didn't turn into Rick Perry. But neither did I inspire and the elderly people in the room looked at me afterwards as if I had just popped out of a flying saucer, plucked a small aerial out of my head and cried: "Hello earthlings."
At least they clapped politely while one elderly woman said she had been moved by my pseudo poem and subjected me to an unexpected hug that was so intense I feared she's go into cardiac arrest.
Having read a couple of pieces, I declined the opportunity to read again. The door was looking very appealing.
At this point College Lecturer Man took the stage and smugly and slowly read a poem that was probably as long as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner but 100 times more tedious. It made me realize there was a limit to the number of words that can be written about the upper reaches of a river. College Lecturer Man seemed blissfully unaware of this as he slowed down his diction so as each word fell like rocks into the souls of us mere mortals.
I shuffled out of the library, shell shocked - stoned into submission by College Lecturer Man. I didn't hang around for post mortems or to talk about the forthcoming December Grand Poetry and Lentil Eating Slam.
I didn't breathe until I reached my car. I had escaped but something was bothering me under my right arm. With a feeling of mounting horror I realized I had carried out a prosthetic limb that the clutching woman had left behind during her bear hug....
by way of disclaimer there is one rather blatant lie in this posting. Just saying.