Monday, October 3, 2011

Houston Poetry Fest "Out of Bounds" Reading: My Experience

Photo with my fellow Part One readers. That's Ann Fogelman in front and from left to right: Chris Wise, Jeremyah Payne, Terry Jude Miller, and myself.

This post is going up a day later than I intended, but I was pretty much useless yesterday. My trip to Webster, Texas, and back over the weekend was as much a physical endurance test as poetry event. During a 48-hour period (from when I hit the road at 6:30 a.m. on Friday to when I made it back home at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday), I was behind the wheel for roughly 28 hours.

But it was totally worth it.

Webster, Texas
I enjoyed my short time in Webster. From my perspective, it's one big mall area, though I'm sure that's not the whole story. It's a hop, skip and a jump to Galveston and right next to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

On Friday evening, I enjoyed my first ever Whataburger meal. I saw these scattered all over the place on my way to Austin last year. So I tried one out, and I can safely assert that it's better than McDonald's and Burger King. I know that's setting the bar low, but it is still fast food.

On Saturday morning, I practiced my poetry set a few times until I was happy with it. Then, I hit the road without any particular destination in mind. My main goal was to distract myself from thinking too much about reading, because I can still get nervous like anyone.

Following some signs for the Armand Bayou Nature Center, I ended up at the Bay Area Park that appears to be part of it (according to Google Maps). Since the nature center cost money (and my time was very limited), I just wandered around the free park, which also has a dog park component. If I ever make it back out there, I'd love to spend a few hours wandering the nature center.

Poetry "Out of Bounds" Reading
This event is kind of like an appetizer for the actual Houston Poetry Fest, which runs next weekend (Oct. 7-9). It was held at the Webster Barnes & Noble location--across the street from an empty Borders store--and involved five sections that were organized with a guest poet, two spotlight poets, and two scheduled open mic poets. There were a total of 24 poets scheduled to read and an open mic round robin (for any and every body) after the scheduled reading was completed.

I enjoyed all of the poets, but some highlights included listening to Terry Jude Miller, Stan Crawford, Larry Fontenot, John Gorman (who had a very funny Writer's Digest poem), Laura Pena, and Juan Manuel Perez (who had some great food-related and political poems). Plus, I met a former member of the Georgia Poetry Society: Jean D. Mahavier.

Picture of me with Poetic Asides reader and poet Laurie Kolp.

Speaking of meeting people, Poetic Asides reader and poet Laurie Kolp drove all the way over from Beaumont, Texas (like 2+ hours away) to watch me read. That was really a highlight of the whole event, and I'm happy to report that I was present for her first public reading--as she participated in the open mic round robin (as the first poet, no less).

My Reading
As far as my own reading, I tried to mix it up with some new and familiar poems. Here's the set list:
  • Delivery
  • Solving the world's problems
  • At the arboretum
  • A small tear in the pillow
  • Waking
  • the silence between us
  • anywhere we dare go
  • this is modern living
The first and last poems are the new poems, and both were written with an audience in mind. As I've read my own poetry and paid attention to other poets read, I've developed a few ideas on what works and what doesn't in reading my poems. Plus, I feel like it's helped me really understand my own strengths and weaknesses as a reader.

The other seven poems I read can be found in my chapbooks ENTER and ESCAPE. As readers of this blog probably know, ENTER is sold out, but I do still have a few copies of ESCAPE available. (Click here to learn how to get your hands on a signed copy of ESCAPE.) As usual, I worked in poems about my dad, my kids, and my awesome wife.

Here I am reading at the Webster B&N.

Two Firsts
This event was special for me as a result of two firsts:
  1. First reading in a bookstore. I've spoken at bookstores in the past, but as the editor of Writer's Market and Poet's Market. I've read poems before in about every type of venue except a bookstore. So it was cool to read poems in a bookstore--while they still exist.
  2. First recitation of a poem. When I finished "the silence between us," I let everyone know that I'd just performed my first poem without looking at the page. It's something I'd been practicing for more than a month, and it's even cooler than finally reading in a bookstore.
That's pretty much all there is to tell. I saw some familiar faces, met some new ones, and got to partake in a fun day of poetry in Webster, Texas. Then, I drove home.


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Andrea (Andee) Beltran said...

Congratulations, Robert! And I'm happy you've discovered Whataburger, a staple in Texas even if you don't care for fast food too much!

Robert Lee Brewer said...

While The Varsity (here in the ATL) makes my favorite onion rings, I really enjoyed the Whataburger version too. Plus, the burger and fries were great.

Debra Gray-Elliott said...

WTG! We have a lot of Whataburge's here in Central Alabama. My entire family loves them!

AC Edwards said...

WTG Robert!

I read some of your work as well this past weekend, in Tappahannock Va. I read "like welcome miracles" & "The world will worry for you" during my two "sets" at a local coffee shop.