If you’ve attended a few poetry or book readings, it’s likely you have attended a dud. Some readings are dull, awkward, or in some other way, forgettable. I have found that the ones that stand out are those that give me goosebumps, make me laugh, and/or inspire me to get my pen and write.
About a year or two ago, Carrboro, North Carolina-based poet Ricky Garni held a reading for his then-new poetry book. (Some years he publishes one every month. I’m not exaggerating.) At one point during the reading he passed out sheets of paper to everyone with some of the poems he was about to read. Everyone received one sheet. Then he invited everyone to smell their paper.
Yes, smell the paper.
He had researched the preferred colognes of the stars of Old Hollywood and sprayed one of the poems with one late celebrity’s scent, and the other poem with another scent. If memory serves correct, Cary Grant was one of the aromas. How is that for memorable?
This past spring I attended another one of Ricky’s readings. This one for his new book Divisive Potatoes. At this reading he held a pseudo raffle. He asked everyone to pick a charity and the audience decided on one charity. Then he asked everyone to take out a piece of paper and to write down the amount they would donate to that charity if they were asked to make a donation. When he asked the room who had the highest donation written down, I tied with two other people. We each pledged $35. Ricky expected to have one winner and he had one ‘prize,’ but then decided to create more ‘prizes’ for all three of us.
Inside this curious bag is a curious corked bottle. A flash drive is wedged in the cork, and shaved coconut and an apple blossom fill the bottle. The apple blossom had been picked that day from a tree Ricky had planted with his son almost 20 years before. The flash drive contains his new book, music he created and recorded, and obscure photos. Isn’t that more memorable than receiving a free copy of a book?
Last month I attended another one of Ricky’s readings. He circled back again to celebrity cologne. This time he invited anyone who wants to smell like Keith Richards to stay after the reading and get spritzed. I obliged, of course!
The other memorable reading I attended this year was by Natalie Goldberg. She came to my little town of Pittsboro, NC as the first stop on her book tour for The Great Spring. Before she started reading from her book she explained that she decided her book tour would only take place in North Carolina. That set the mood that we were in for a special event. Visit the next link for more about that reading and my Natalie Goldberg fandom.
Later this month my poet-friend Bartholomew Barker hosts the launch party for his new collection of food-themed poetry Milkshakes & Chilidogs. He’s already brainstorming ways of creating a memorable reading. With food surfacing in every poem in his book, it’s no secret that his plans involve something tasty! (For blog readers local to the Triangle area: His launch is at 7PM on Tuesday, August 22nd at Matthew’s Chocolates in Hillsborough, NC.)
What have you done at readings or open mics to connect with the audience?