The last reading I saw was the poet Alice Notley reading from Culture of One. No photographs allowed during the reading, so here’s her podium before she stood behind it:
I was in the audience, second row. My sister was with me. (Alice Notley is her favorite poet.)
And Alice was stunning. She was heart-racing. She was shocking. She was like nothing and no one else—ever.
Sometimes she didn’t even look up from the page, so deep into the words was she. It didn’t much matter, the lack of eye contact. She had us all. Held us tight until it was over and then let us go.
Now that’s some reading.
The last reading I gave was a private one, for the small group of artists who were at the MacDowell Colony with me in January. I read from the final pages of Imaginary Girls. I finished and felt good about it, as you may remember.
Tomorrow night I’ll be reading those same pages, if not exactly the same sequence, but this time I’ll be reading them in public, in my home city, with a finished, shiny copy of the book in my hands.
I’ll be doing that here:
It’s such a significant moment to stand up in front of people—some you know, some you don’t, and I can’t say which is more nerve-wracking—and read your pages loud enough for all to hear. It’s making your claim on your work that even scribbling your name on the title page doesn’t do. You speak the way the words sound in your mind—at least I do. You tell your story out of your own mouth, off your own tongue, with your own heartbeat running through it. I know a writer’s writing so much deeper when I hear her read it aloud.
Maybe now some of you will get to know mine.
If you live in New York City, come by. Tomorrow, Wednesday May 18 starting at 7pm. It’s free. And—more—I’m reading as a part of the 10th anniversary celebration of twi-ny.com, so there will be other readers, plus music, and if you find me there you might get to meet my mom and sister. More details here.
But oh! Do you want some background about the book, and me, and my distractions and writing music and the editing process? Including how it drove me to wearing pajamas out in public and pulling all-nighters and how so totally worthwhile all that was? If you do, check out this talk with me on twi-ny.com.
The first words I’ll read tomorrow are these: