Recently I was flattered into giving a public reading of some of my poetry by the charming people at Descant. They have been gracious enough to publish one of my pieces so the least I could do was stammer my way through a reading in honour of the launch of their summer issue, #149: Summer and Smoke.
I have always been terrified of public speaking. Despite being a kiss-ass brown nosing teacher’s pet I almost failed fifth grade English because I flat out refused to participate in Speech Arts. I wrote the speech, I rehearsed it, I just failed to deliver it in front of the class. I have been unable to give toasts at weddings or elegies at funerals. I am not sure where the fear comes from, but I can tell you what it feels like. My voice is so loud I can’t hear what I’m saying. My stomach drops into my feet. I am covered in sweat. Every part of my body is trembling and my vision has tunneled to a pinhole. If not for the staunch encouragement of my friends and my kid I don’t think I would have accepted the invitation to read last night, nor would I have been able to get through it. I know I rushed through most of it just desperate for it to be over but I think I did well enough that people could at least hear and understand what I was saying.
I have been writing and sending out poetry for a number of years now and each time I have had the privilege to speak with an established member of the Canliterati, they always ask why they don’t see me at readings or why they haven’t heard of me. Part of it is that I don’t have a lot of credits yet and that my book is not yet published but most of it is because I am a big ole chicken. It’s been a hindrance and a detriment to my career to be this ridiculously shy, and I hope that I can get by on just my written words alone.
Big thanks to all of my friends who came out, especially those who were at their first poetry reading and who couldn’t hear the speakers and suffered through the lack of a/c just to prop me up. And to my child, who politely put his Gameboy in his pocket while I was reading and plastered on his feigned interest expression he’s been cultivating since first grade.