On Sunday I hosted a reading at Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, Maryland as part of the Bethesda Literary Festival. This was the second year LitKicks participated in the LitFest and my third reading at the gallery. I think I enjoy the experience more each time. I don’t know if it’s because the space was specifically calibrated for poetry or if it just happens that the right mix of people converge on the spot or (and this is most likely) if it’s due to gallery owner Elyse Harrison’s genuine support and generosity, but Gallery Neptune is a perfect venue for artists and writers to come together. During each LitFest, the gallery produces an exhibit that follows a literary theme. This year’s theme was “The Bookmark” and we saw a wide variety of renditions of this theme — in both art and the spoken word.

While we were thrilled to have the opportunity to share our writing and thoughts on literature with the small crowd, Levi and I also got the chance to meet up with three familiar LitKicks faces: Wireman, firsty and pelerine. Wireman performed a few of his most recent “action poems” and firsty read a selection from the Action Poetry anthology. Also joining us was John Lawson of Raw Dog Screaming Press, whose prose offered a unique interpretation of the bookmark theme by exploring our relationship with novels, their characters — and what happens when we allow them to slip from their pages for a moment. Despite the varying opinions on poetry readings, I find it’s always fascinating to watch writers reading their own work when so many different voices and genres are represented. If nothing else, it allows writers to connect with not only an audience, but with other writers as well — when writing can often be an isolating endeavor.

Focusing on the theme of bookmarks in preparation for the reading and being surrounded by the artistic display of bookmarks during the event, I began to think about what stories a bookmark might tell about itself. I thought of the variety of bookmarks you can find: the rack of bookmarks near the checkout at Barnes & Noble, promotional bookmarks found at tradeshows and literary festivals, more ornate bookmarks fashioned out of leather, metal and beads … the collection of bookmarks that seems to catch the eye of a child at the school book fair. During the reading, I offered up my own literary confession of sorts with a show and tell of my most frequently-used impromptu bookmarks: ticket stubs, convenience store receipts, photos, playing cards — even a fortune cookie fortune complete with lucky numbers. The other writers prompted me to also think about the physical act of picking up a book, putting it down — and then coming back to it all over again. I thought quite a bit on how literature and poetry is, in a way, a bookmark of its own — marking a certain place, moment or emotion so that we can always come back to it, replay it, review it or just know that it’s there when we’re ready.

I’d like to pick your brain about bookmarks and poetry readings and everything in between. Are you a bookmarker, a page folder or a page memorizer? Can you tell a lot about a reader by the way they mark their place in a book? Additionally, do you attend or participate in poetry readings? Do you enjoy them? Or not so much? Either way — I want to thank everyone who attended and participated in our latest outing, especially those who read and Elyse of Gallery Neptune.

12 Responses

  1. Future Solution? A
    Future Solution? A Highlighter

    I just went through the recent task of going through my old (& year old) books to see what to keep and get rid of (for money). I looked through all the books to make sure nothing “embarassing” might be in them. Such as a beef jerky wrapper or a photo from some trip to another state. You can find the strangest things in your books. It’s like they double as places to temporarily store stuff. I am a page folder. I don’t know why. I discovered that in many books the pages were folded down in some random place and I’d try to figure out why. It wasn’t where I was going to continue reading. It was me wanting to remember something on that page. I looked at those pages and couldn’t figure out what was important on any of them.

    I haven’t deliberately been to a poetry reading in over ten years, in part because no one in a 100 mile radius of my town could support an indie coffee shop and a certain chain (starts with “S”) doesn’t seem to throw poetry readings. I did see a poet/musician on a trip recently, who alternated singing old blues songs and reading from his home journal. I don’t know if it counts as a reading + concert. It got me thinking how cool it would be to get the whole history of the Litkicks community into one room for a reading. Don’t know if that will ever happen. Except perhaps online someday.

    (And literature, as you said, is a bookmark of its own; documenting a moment in our time. If we wrote it and get tired of it, we can crumple it up and throw it out. But yet it can remain in our memory.)

  2. Hi Andeh –That’s a good
    Hi Andeh —

    That’s a good observation about finding random things in books, like candy bar wrappers or money. I had a fleeting thought about that earlier in the week, so thanks for the reminder. I think the event you describe definitely sounds like a reading — or falls somewhere on that spectrum. I’ve been to many different types of readings — some that have resembled a church tea time and some that rival a Motley Crue concert. Well maybe not so much the latter, but you get the point. I kind of prefer somewhere right in the middle and maybe a nudge on the quieter side for a reading. Gives me more chances to really think about what’s being said.

  3. Bethesda bookmarksIt was a
    Bethesda bookmarks

    It was a really good reading — thanks, Caryn, for hosting and arranging it.

    I don’t know exactly what makes the difference between and a good and a not-so-good reading, but I think a lot of it has to do with the enthusiasm and camaraderie of the performers. I know I’m biased, but it always seems to me that LitKicks events have a special energy that average poetry readings don’t always have.

  4. Page-FolderI’m generally

    I’m generally page-folder. I’m not very proud of this, it’s just how things work out.

    I’m usually reading more than one thing at a time, unless one book has me absolutely captivated, which hasn’t happened in awhile. If I’m stuck on one book, I just remember the page number.

    The bookmark theme made me think about bookmarks in a way I hadn’t before. I especially liked Caryn’s idea of a bookmark for a moment in time.

    I thought the reading was a huge success & it’s so great to see people come out on a Sunday afternoon to support literature & literary endeavors.

  5. Bookmarks in TimeI agree that
    Bookmarks in Time

    I agree that different types of reading material actually bookmark different places in our lives. Well put!

    I’m inclined to use whatever is closest to my hand when I need a bookmark, so mine look a bit like yours. I have used ads, envelopes, match books, pencils, stamps (not such a good idea) well, you get the idea. Every once in a while I will buy a bookmark to keep handy so when I need it, there it will be…right at my fingertips. I usually find them somewhere just inside the front or back cover of a book, completely ignored. I don’t like turning down the pages to mark my place(it damages the book)…but when I can find nothing handy, will actually do this.

    Now… my Bible, that’s a whole different category. This is a book I use a lot, therefore I expect it to appear used. Pages get folded in half, pencil/pen notes written in margins, lines magically appear. Paper used in printing Bibles is usually a different texture, they don’t like hi-lighters, but anything else works. I like different translations and like to “wear them out”. I still have one Bible that I lovingly have duck taped the binding back together two times and still find it quite usable.

    It is a bit strange to me that I don’t like folding down pages in books because it “damages” the book, but the book I love the most, I abuse the most. I hope the fact that it is well used shows that it is well loved.

  6. Dog EarsI’m a page bender,
    Dog Ears

    I’m a page bender, right in the top corner. If I’m marking a bunch of pages in a book I’ll cut up slices of paper or just tear some long thin pieces up. I did find a Robert Johnson laminated photo bookmark in one of my books last night and it made me think of Sunday’s show. When I’m riding the Marc train I also use my ticket stubs as bookmarks, just like you do Caryn.

    Poetry readings are something I can never get enough of, especially when I get the opportunity to read in a situation where the audience is there to be focused on the reading of poetry. It’s a pleasure to read with an audience that is tuned into the words.

  7. The Oft-QuotedBefore setting
    The Oft-Quoted

    Before setting down a book, I urinate on the last page I’ve read. (A little trick I learned in the navy.) This serves a dual purpose: First, it marks my spot; and second, it sends a message to the Curator of Bookmarks.

    Quote: “In addition to rituals involving soft vowels… [etc., etc.], the Curator of Bookmarks shall be responsible for categorizing and allocating bookmarks using the latest DRB (Dynamic Readtime Binding) algorithms.” So when I’m reading poetry, for example, I expect to be issued an ornate metal placeholder. And when I’m reading about technology, I would appreciate a small slab of circuit board.

    Indeed, these were the very promises offered by The Collection’s founders (p. 731), when thematic accentuation was the order of the day (p. 3). But nay… Bureaucratic blundering has left me utilizing those little wooden sticks for stirring coffee. (A trick I learned in the air force.) While you… I see you have been reduced to using a ______.

    Well, I must say… You do look smart in your full-dress uniform. But that’s hardly the point, is it?

  8. paperclipsUnfortunately

    Unfortunately finances often dictate that I check the majority of books that I read out of the library. If I own a book, which is preferred, I like to mark passages with pen and highlighter and mark the page with a paperclips. As for bookmarks, I like to make my own from stationary, construction paper, colored markers and crayons. Airline boarding passes make cool bookmarks. I am currently enamored with a bookmark that is actually a bumper sticker with the backing still on: it says “Library- Academy fo lifelong learning”

  9. Damn, beatvibe, you do have a
    Damn, beatvibe, you do have a unique way of seeing things.

  10. LesionsWhen I read people’s

    When I read people’s minds, I leave a gentle crease in their gray matter to indicate where I’ve left off. This typically evokes one of two responses: “I was just thinking…” or “That reminds me…” Neither of which are followed by anything coherent, lending a distinct irony to the situation. Poets (when not dreaming of angels) take pride in the streams of consciousness they’ve accumulated, and even more pride in the entanglements they’ve devised. But they know not of the convolution, the static… And they don’t realize I come here for the ambience. Then I find I’ve lost my place. (Again.) So she directs me to her own brain, glistening and withered… “Well read.” And I can’t figure out whether that’s ironic, or just sad.

  11. Any Piece of PaperI save
    Any Piece of Paper

    I save train tickets for the Chinese and use any piece of paper available for bookmarks. I only dog ear texts that I will use once and highlight in different colors. Usually I read textbooks three times so each reading gets a different color. I also make notes as I read.

    Crime and Punishment was so boring for me I was only getting through it as I wrote notes so I could remember what I wrote. My bookmark is still on page one of Brothers Karamazov.

    A pet peeve is when people place books down open on the pages, starting to break the backs. I listen to Everlast and B.I.G. and song lyrics and the only reading I’ve ever been to was my single one.

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