Posted by: Viola | June 29, 2015

Preparing for a poetry reading at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago

For the past week, I slowed down as best I could, took time off from Facebook and social media, and began, in earnest, to prepare for the upcoming poetry reading in Chicago, celebrating the chapbook box set, Eight New-Generation African Poets. The event is sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and the Poetry Society of America. It will feature poets who have been published by the chapbook series of the African Poetry Book Fund. Also, the editors for the series will be at the event: Kwame Dawes, Chris Abani, and Matthew Shenoda. I know the energy at the reading will be very positive and uplifting and I am looking forward to it.

I have reached out to a few of my Cameroonian friends who live in Chicago, inviting them to attend the event, which is a free event but requires an RSVP for those who wish to attend. I am so grateful to my friends in Chicago, especially to one of my Cameroonian classmates (from my secondary school days) who is hosting me for a short stay in Chicago for the week of the event. I get nervous about travel, so I padded my time, making sure I arrive Chicago in plenty of time to rest and be ready for the event. I will also spend a few days after the event getting to perhaps talk and reconnect with friends or visit some sights in Chicago.

My preparations for the event involve selecting what poems I would like to read and practicing them. A week ago, I broke out my audio recorder for the first time ever. I began recording myself and playing the recordings back. I can now listen to each poem from my chapbook, something I have never done before. You can hear me reading a few poems, as well, shared on Soundcloud. It is one thing to write a poem, it is another thing to read the poem, and then it is a whole other thing to actually hear yourself reading the poem. To me, it’s a beautiful experience. When I hear myself reading the poems, I feel very happy, content, at peace. I feel as if I enter into a very calm and serene space. I am enchanted, I am entranced. By my own poems. Strange, but how come my poems do this to me?

I had no way of knowing that I could do this (to myself) with my poems–record myself reading them and see/hear each poem at work, feel the words in my bones. I had no way of telling exactly what rhythms I might be capturing, what kind of atmosphere I was creating in each poem. Now that I can hear the poems out loud, really focus on how they sound (not just how they seem to sound when played silently in my head), I have a sense that there is something special at work in each poem, something much larger and more beautiful than anything I might have originally intended or imagined or envisioned for each poem. Perhaps it is magic. Perhaps it is grace. Perhaps it is light.

What ever it is, I know it is so incredible. I can see this beauty and brilliance trapped and exploded in the words, all at once. Because of this, I feel so glad and grateful to be a poet. I feel so proud. To be an artist. To be an alchemist. To be able to be a magician, a worker of mysterious and powerful and transformative sounds. That thing we call language. That thing we toss around every day on our tongues. That thing that is the real magic. And somehow, something thought us worthy of this power, this gift, this grace of speaking words, making sounds, rolling our tongues and shifting our jaws and opening our lips and babbling into infinity.

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