“Mortal Beings,” my first book of poetry, is now well and truly launched into the world. And I’m even more in love with it than I was when it was first accepted for publication.
The launch celebration was held at Enso House, our island’s end-of-life care residence for people with terminal illnesses. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate venue; some of the poems in the book were actually written at Enso House, where I’ve served as a volunteer caregiver for many years.
The huge Enso House dining table was relocated and the dining room became our “salon.” We had just enough seating for the twenty-five who came to hear the poems, discuss the writing process, and nibble on the fabulous snacks that friends provided.
Long ago I learned that poems are meant to ingested in two ways: reading the words on a printed page, and hearing the words spoken aloud. In each way a poem enters the receiver through a different sense. And each way allows a poem to lodge in the body of the receiver in a different manner as well.
My preference always has been to let a poem in through my eyes, to savor the words and the construction, to see how the poem is laid out on the page, to think about its message. But it’s also wonderful to let go to the voice, to the cadence, and to the meaning the poet bestows through their particular emphases.
So if we get to read a poem AND hear it read to us, the poem becomes a much richer experience.
But there is yet another dimension to poetry. I discovered it at the book launch, and at the readings that have followed in its wake. It is another element that rises in the space surrounding the reader and the listeners. Is it the chemistry of pheromones? Is it the physics of electrical vibration? Some other kind of invisible energy?
Oh heck, let’s just call it magic. It is a spell, almost palpable, shimmering just on the edge of sensibility. It is cast by combining the receptive presence of listeners with the words carried by the author’s voice. This magic spell enables a poem to become more than it was in the mind of the poet, more than it seemed to the publisher, more than it could ever be on the page. It makes the poem become a living being.
Now that I’m aware of it, I want that magic replicated! I want it to happen once again, twice again – often – and in a variety of venues. It feels to me as if that magic spell just might contribute to replenishing the dwindling supply of JOY in our world.
Hint: if you’d like to become a part of the magic, I’d welcome your facilitating a connection with your book club, discussion group, library, favorite bookstore, place of learning or worship or healing.
Here’s to the joy of speaking poetry!