Thursday, 12 June 2014

Poetry in a Small Town

Yes, our little town is actually quite enthusiastic about the arts, which is probably due to its being well endowed with both nouveau hippies and seniors.  Not to mention senior hippies.  Whenever I attend an artsy event it always seems that it is largely populated by people I know to be teachers but my friend Sheila says she always sees plenty of her nursing colleagues there.  Not to confuse correlation with cause, it is probably not so much that teachers and nurses are artsy as it is that we just have a lot of them in town.  The hospital and the school district are probably two of the biggest employers with the third being the air base but military people seem not to make much of an appearance at artsy things.  Perhaps they are afraid they might inhale and not pass their next drug test.


So plenty of amateur arts events go on here and I recently attended a poetry reading night held at a local bistro.  I didn't know what to expect; I only knew it was scheduled from 7pm until 10pm and I figured that surely it had to be designed for a bit of coming and going amongst the patrons.  With this in mind I arrived a bit late, closer to 8pm.  My arrival was a bit awkward because the stage was immediately next to the entrance.  I slipped in as quietly as I could and waited for the performer to conclude before making a beeline for the back of the room where the only available seating seemed to be.  I had to sit at the bar and felt badly for blocking the view of the other person who was also sitting there.  She said not to worry, the poorly placed palm tree was much more in the way than I.

I wanted food.  I had intended to have food all along but now that I was there it seemed a bit awkward.  In order to eat I had to face the bar counter, but in order to watch the performer I had to turn my body sideways.  I perused the gluten free menu and nothing looked simple to eat.  I felt the need to eat surreptitiously, quietly and unobtrusively and it felt somehow rude to be eating when the woman beside me wasn't.  I had to slip down from the bar chair and go over to the cash register to place my order where I pointed to my selection on the menu so as not to have to speak and the server nodded.  We conducted the ordering and paying as quietly as we could and I felt so guilty and rude the whole time,  feeling that I owed every performer my undivided attention.  I ordered a quinoa salad and a glass of red wine.

The salad was not easily eaten, definitely not surreptitiously and unobtrusively.  It came the way salads are so often presented in restaurants, with large pieces much to big to put in one's mouth all at once, requiring me to tackle pieces of cucumber and tomato with my knife and fork, arms oddly raised due to the awkward height of the bar stool and counter.  There were enormous pieces of lettuce, not torn into manageable pieces, but whole leaves sitting there on my plate.  This was not something to quietly eat North American style with my fork in my right hand; this was food that required full on tackling with two hands and both implements.  It required my full attention.  I was completely preoccupied by guilt and hunger.

Thinking of how horrified my mother would be, the woman who had raised me with manners suitable for dining with royalty in case the need should ever arise, I took my knife and fork and cut up all of the vegetables on my plate the way one does for a toddler.  With that job done, I set the knife down on my plate and quietly ate, stabbing or scooping with my fork as needed.  Then I slammed back my glass of wine and ordered a coffee from the passing server.  With my coffee and my satisfied tummy I could now pay better attention to the performances.

It is difficult to sum it up these performances in a word.  A few were inaudible.  Some did not grip me and some were well done.  They all seemed to know each other to some degree so I suspect they are members of a writing group.  There was the man-bun wearing black clad dude who performed in a sort of rap music style, asking the audience to clap out the beat for him.  It was his performance I arrived in the middle of.  He was followed by a middle aged man of a type I call trucker-hippie.  His poetry was largely about pot and being stoned.  There were two white haired men, the outdoorsy hiking type, who read poetry about  nature inspired by their hiking trips. Although there were two of them  my memory blurrs them together and at least one of them was nearly impossible for me to hear despite a microphone.  There was a young woman, early twenties, quite focused on a fierce ranting style of feminism and sex themes.  She had a powerful and expressive voice and was enjoyable to listen to.  A voluptuous young woman in a vintage style dress and with long, lustrous, wavy hair read her piece about the ups and downs and anxieties in a romantic relationship and she did it in a very dramatic style, as though she were a stage actress.  Another young woman with a style I call delicate-punk-hippie read a poem about being transplanted from the other side of the country but I could not hear most of it.

And who was in the audience you are wondering?  It seemed mostly to be family and friends of the performers with perhaps a few people like myself who had come out of curiosity.  At 9pm the MC announced that the scheduled readings were over and there was now an open mic and anyone who wished to read something was welcome to come forward.  Nobody did.  I decided at this point to leave, after first making sure that my exit towards the door did not look like an attempt to go on stage.  I wonder if I would ever participate in something like this?  I don't really know but perhaps I would.  I cannot see myself belonging to a poetry group but perhaps I would respond to an open mic call next year if I came prepared.  Perhaps I will slam back two glasses of wine first.

Glossary of Terms:

Nouveau Hippie:  A nouveau hippie is anyone who adopts the look and lifestyle associated with hippies but is not an original hippie of the 60s or early 70s


Trucker Hippie:  A trucker hippie doesn't drive a truck for a living but he probably owns a pick up truck.  He has long unkempt hair, a ball cap is a distinct possibility but he might be old enough to know better than to wear it indoors.  He wears baggy jeans or olive green work pants, work boots and a sweatshirt with a faded slogan and the sleeves cut off.  He has a heart of gold and a foul mouth. He smokes a lot of pot, usually drinks beer and champions womens' sexual freedom.


Delicate-Punk-Hippie:  A delicate punk hippie has a slight build, but with feminine curves.  She looks like she could be a ballerina but she is covered in tattoos, has a shaved head, wears no makeup and boyish clothes, usually jeans and a tee shirt and she favours Doc Martens or Birkenstocks depending on the weather.

20 comments:

  1. Well I know I NEVER could ... public speaking is not my forte ... in fact I'd rather have a Pap smear ;0P
    xx

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    1. If I had been drinking tea at the moment I read that I would have spewed it across the room. I think if given the choice I'd actually give a speech.
      xoxo

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  2. Hahaha, your struggles with food while on an artsy event reminded me of Homer Simpson :D I hate artsy events, they're always so snobbish, and they don't have food! :D
    And boy, we have a lot of nouveau hippies here! :D

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    1. Keit, I am not sure I feel complimented if I remind you of Homer Simpson!!
      I definitely didn't feel this event was snobbish but then it is a small town. Nobody was wearing black and looking superior.
      xo

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  3. that is exactly how i remember poetry slam back in berlin - the unperfection and personally style. somewhat raw. even the readers are the same - in B. you had to add the poor urban philosoph ;-)
    i had an image of charlie chaplin while reading your struggles with your perfect manners and shyness. poor shawna. but a good lection in let´n it go.
    if i ever could be there when you take the open mic! your international fanclub would mix up the event :-)
    xxxxxx

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    1. I love imperfection, casual, brave, raw stuff. LOL I am sure I looked better than Charlie Chaplin in my skirt but now you've got me thinking about that bit where he is the poor hungry tramp and boils and tries to eat his boot. It would be very difficult to eat that without making any noise.
      I would need you to round up my friends and come to watch and listen and then cheer madly for me because I am quite likely to just go alone. Poor pitiful poet standing alone at the mic with no friends to clap and cheer. LOL
      xoxoxo

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  4. You give a new meaning to the term poetry slam! Do you think they had slammed back a few to give them courage?
    You are hilarious with your description of delicate polite eating while trying not to offend the performers :-)
    If you decide to participate next year, you have to promise to practice on us first! I wish I lived closer!!

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    1. I'm sure there were a few slammed back, yes! I always eat delicately and politely when dinging with the Queen. But at home I just like to use my hands and throw food around.

      Yes, you are a bit too far away to drop round for a drink and some poetry. Too bad. :(
      xoxo

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  5. Ha ha. You need to write a book of all the hippies that live on Vancouver Island. That is the only place in the world where they have so many different kinds : )

    bisous
    Suzanne

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    1. Yes, I'm sure there are several types of hippies and hippie wannabes. I will have to work on developing that! Also I had better figure out which of them I am! ;-)
      xoxoxo

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  6. I think open mics, jam sessions, spoken word, etc, etc are cool! I see them posted from time to time, usually at local coffee houses near a college campus. My musician son, who is 16, has participated and I think it's great.

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    1. Yes, I think they are fun too. That's great that your son participates. I hope he continues and that it makes him happy!
      xo

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  7. I quite fancy a poetry evening! and I think the next one you should definitely get up (after 2 large vino's, naturally!) maybe next time, eat before you go and get there early, it does all sound rather fabulous though! x x x

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    1. Well I had been looking forward to eating at the bistro but next time I will just eat cake and drink. LOL I'll take you with me next time!
      xoxoxo

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  8. Shawna,

    You describe with particular accuracy and hilarity, the awkwardness of arriving at a venue which for the most part, is very quiet, and remaining unobtrusive can be something of a daunting challenge. I can relate. I have had "Nice of you to join us this morning, Mr Aveson" delivered with a merciless facetiousness by a teacher in full flow of today's lesson. Bolder peers may respond with "Did I miss anything good, Miss?". And you had a rumbly tumbly that may well have been reminiscent of a scene from The African Queen - where Humphrey Bogart who plays Mr Allnut, is embarrassed by some pretty loud rumblings from his tummy just before sitting down to dine with Rose Sayer and her brother. Not that I am suggesting your own tummy was equally vocal about its protestations of emptiness. Having to then communicate one's order and then eat sizeable chunks would only add to your self-consciousness. I bet that the plate was china and the cutlery heavy, so that even with the greatest of effort, the clicks and clunks emanating there-from, would only make matters worse. I think that probably in this kind of situation, loudness is in the ear of the beholder - a sort of feeling of all of a sudden being a Mr Bean type of character, where despite all efforts to blend in, you feel that you are the single cause of a rumpus.and distraction.

    I hope that next year, you WILL take up the challenge of an open microphone. I can see that you clearly have talent in writing, a talent which will transfer exceedingly well, from prose to poetry.

    I wish you well with that.

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  9. You are such a sweet friend. Be careful or I might practice my poetry on you! Do you think they would like Ode to a Cardigan at the poetry night? ;-)
    xoxoxo

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  10. Ha ha, I laughed and smirked lots as I read this because I knew exactly what you meant by the salad!!!!! It's v annoying! And sometimes you accidently flick salad dressing around when attempting to cut. Mmmmm, open Mic. I write poetry occasionally but I know It's pretty rubbish! Wouldn't mind the speaking part though. What scares me is karaoke!!! I get so so nervous about it!!! X

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  11. But you should TOTally Do this next year-you have a way with words x

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  12. Shawna, your accuracy is deadly hilarious!

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