Tuesday, January 17, 2017


The monthly Creative Colloquy reading and open mic in Tacoma. Photo by TWT.


Sometimes I find it hard to be a poet. Other times it is rather easy. Most of the time it is enjoyable, even though it is always work. The part that is most difficult, however, is taking myself seriously—actually owning the title, wearing it proudly, and making the effort to connect my work to an audience.

I know what I, myself, like in my writing, so it is always gratifying to re-discover that there are others who also like my writing for what it is.


This past weekend I made the effort.

I knew that there were two regular open mics in Tacoma at which I would be able to attend, listen, and read, so I got busy doing the work to be present at both.


On Friday (1/13), I headed out to the Puget Sound Poetry Connection's second Friday Distinguished Writer Series at King's Books. I was primarily there to hear Washington State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall read, and read he did.

He started by reading poems of others—poets from whom he draws inspiration and poems that seemed to speak to our own time. For me, the most powerful "other" poems he read were "For a Lady I Know" by Countee Cullen, "A Poison Tree" by William Blake, and "Shine, Perishing Republic" by Robinson Jeffers. (In fact, once I arrived back home, I pulled my copy of Rock and Hawk off the shelf so I could read the Jeffers poem a few more times.)

Mr. Marshall then proceeded to read his own poems. He read one poem ("Describe Turner to MLK") from his second poetry collection Tangled Line and one poem from his first poetry collection Dare Say, but otherwise mostly new and or unpublished work. My favorite poem of the evening was his dark "Scars," which picked open a few of his own in addition to those of others, delivered in a confessional manner, which felt a mixture of memory, catharsis, and healing.

There were plenty of readers for the open mic, so each person was limited to one poem. I had brought a poem-in-progress with me, as well as my Black Psalms chapbook. I decided the new poem was too new, being a really rough first draft, mostly written earlier in the day and a bit crude and crass, so I opted to read "Black Psalm XI (First Person)" instead. That felt like the right decision and "First Person" fit the tone of the evening, as established by Mr. Marshall and some of the other poets.


In order to take myself seriously, I need not only to write, and not only to listen, but also to read. I spent the weekend reading poems of protest by Daniel Berrigan and Old Testament prophet Hosea. I also spent the weekend reading poems by Derek Walcott—reading (and re-reading) "The Sea Is History" and other poems from his Selected Poems (2007).


On Monday (1/16), I headed out to the Creative Colloquy's third Monday reading and open mic at Tacoma's B Sharp Coffee House. I spent a good part of the day revising and reworking four newer poems, hoping to read a couple of them later in the evening.

This was my first time participating in a regular Creative Colloquy event, although I took part in their 2016 Lit Crawl. I wish I had gone to this monthly reading event sooner. The coffee house in which the reading takes place is suitably funky, has plenty of seating, and serves drinks (coffee, tea, wine, and beer). The house was filled with an eager and engaging audience and plenty of local writers and poets.

The evening was a mix of people reading creative non-fiction, short stories, excerpts of novels, and poems, reminding me of my time as part of Seattle writing collective Les Sardines. Four featured readers started the evening, followed by a ten-minute intermission and the open mic.

I got to wrap things up as the final reader of the evening. I had a generous limit of five minutes and/or two poems, so I picked what I felt were the two strongest poems of the four I had with me. I led with "Now You're Talking Bananas," which was inspired by the concept of plants communicating with one another. I finished with a new octopus poem, "Athene," wherein I compare a giant Pacific octopus (and avatar of the Cosmic Octopus) to the Greek goddess.


The weekend of reading, writing, and performing poetry was good for my soul. And it reminded me once again to take my vocation, my calling, as poet seriously.

It also reminded me that I need to get out and be around other writers, even though I would prefer to play the role of hermit and stay at home. Or, as the Creative Colloquy "About Us" page states: "These gatherings aim to lure writers out from the solitary activity of writing itself to connect with like minds and fuel inspiration and love of their craft." It is a good goal to carry around for the next year. Hopefully, with a bit of practice, it becomes a discipline.

Troy's Work Table reads new poems at the Creative Colloquy open mic. Photo by Jackie Casella.

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