Last week, I went to my first poetry reading. Okay, that’s not quite true. I think in college an English professor or two compelled me to attend a few, but those were stuffy affairs in attic classrooms filled with cheese cubes and dusty podiums.
I love to hear authors read, and over the last ten years, I’ve seen Zadie Smith, Sherman Alexie, Isabel Allende, Eric Larson, Geraldine Brooks, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers, and the like. I never go to concerts, so novelists are my rock stars.
With the exception of one Mary Karr poem, poetry rarely, if ever, sticks with past the 80 seconds it takes to read, and that’s my own fault. There are a number of diagnosable reading styles, and mine involves sending my eyes vertically down a page and only darting briefly to the edges. I read very fast, but the nuance of punctuation and structure that makes poetry so complex is often lost on me. As is, one would imagine, much of the most eloquent and lovely prose….
Point is, I’ve never gone out of my way to see a poet read aloud. But last week, The Rumpus (one of my favorite literary blogs and the home of the Dear Sugar advice column) visited Chicago and hosted a reading. Sugar brought me to the room, but poets Sommer Browning and Brian Spears actually made me laugh. Browning narrated single frame comic strips to hilarious effect, and Spears recited Twitter-based poetry composed from tweets hashtagged #MiddleAgeWeRollHard. This looks ridiculous as I type it, but it never occurred to me that poetry could be funny.
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