MANY TIMES I’VE READ my poetry aloud at events. I’m not a fan of public speaking. But it’s getting easier to stand before an audience and share what I’ve written. Practice helps.
When I read six poems at Content Bookstore in Northfield several days ago, I experienced a real connection with the audience. I don’t know if it was the intimate setting in a cozy independent bookstore or the people in attendance or the poems I selected or my frame of mind. Probably all. But something clicked that made me realize my poetry meant something to those hearing it.
This proved a profound moment—to recognize that words I crafted into poetry sparked emotional reactions. I had created art. Literary art.
People laughed when I read a poem about my 40th high school class reunion and selecting “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” as our class song.
But, when I read an especially powerful, personal poem titled “Hit-And-Run,” I observed facial expressions change to deep concern, even fear. I struggled to get through the poem about my son who was struck by a car in 2006. I glanced at his then middle school science teacher sitting in the audience and remembered the support she gave our family. When I finished the final lines of the poem with an angled police car blocking the road to my boy, I sensed a collective sadness. I felt compelled to tell the audience, “He was OK.”
After that, I composed myself to read four additional poems. I read with inflection, with all the emotion a writer feels when writing a poem. I unleashed those feelings into spoken words. Words that, when verbalized, hold power beyond print. Poetry, I understood, is meant to be read aloud to fully appreciate its artistic value.
© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling