Monday, July 02, 2007

Night Owl - Martin

Have you ever been to a poetry reading? Of course there are many different kinds. They range from one featuring one or two established poets, reading from recent books, to an “open mic” for those who may have never published a single poem, and may have never read publically. When there’s an “open mic” it’s always hard to know what you’re going to get.

As I drove to the Write! Canada conference in June, I was thinking of some I’d been to elsewhere that were less than what I wanted to see at our Night Owl Poetry Reading on Friday Evening. How was it going to turn out?

I knew I had a solid base from which to start in planning for this event — despite all the uncontrollable variables. Hannah Main-Van der Kamp was leading a poetry workshop at the conference, and she had agreed ahead of time to come and participate. I was planning to read a few of my own poems, and I figured there would be some seasoned poets also attending.

When time came to begin, our audience was still small, due to The Word Guild’s birthday celebration that was still running, upstairs. I decided to go for a more intimate setting and have everyone form a large circle. Although we soon outgrew the circle, it set a tone that made the event far better than I ever would have anticipated.

Hannah, who is a particularly expressive reader began by reading one poem. I then, in turn, asked others to contribute a poem, read one myself, and asked Hannah to read another. I was so pleased with the quality of the work being read, and the sensitivity of each reader to everyone else. Even those who were new to all of this did quite well. Once everyone who had signed up had read, I was able to ask for volunteers to read once more.

So what made the Night Owl at Write! Canada so amazing this year? I realize now the difference was that instead of readers coming to find an audience, they had come to experience poetry! No one hogged the stage, over-staying their welcome, or using up other people’s time; no one slipped out once their turn had passed. None of us wanted it to end!

I was totally impressed by the community that gathered that night. A good time was had by all.


D.S. Martin is the author of So The Moon Would Not be Swallowed (Rubicon 2007) which is available through his website:

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