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.