Reflection: The New Salon at Queens College – Carl Phillips Reading

I love writing. Words, for me, are energy; words are oxygen, light, music, touch. Thus, I write obsessively, read obsessively, and edit obsessively; I pour over every syllable, every metaphor, and every clash of letters. Sometimes, I will even read in my dreams.

Ultimately, I am totally addicted; I am always and already writing. This, for me, is a poet’s life – this is what it means to be dedicated to the word.

However, I am terrified – mortified – of reading my work aloud. This, I believe, is largely due to my infamous shyness; I hate crowds, and I am a poor public speaker. And what, indeed, could be more frightening than sharing your work – your soul! – with a group of strangers? What could possibly be worse? How, indeed, do poets manage?

Readings are an integral part of a poet’s life; eventually, I will have to read. But how will I manage? What will I do? And why should I have to speak, anyway? What is so special about reading a poem aloud? Does anything really happen?

The crowd at Monday night’s Carl Phillips reading was large and energetic – and rightfully so, as Phillips showed us the how, and, more importantly, the why of reading. He taught us the power, the art of the spoken word; he showed us what a reading can be, should be, must be.

Indeed, when Carl Phillips reads his poetry, something absolutely happens; the flesh-tones of the voice mix with the ink, the curves of the written words, and the air of the room thickens; new meanings emerge, and sounds bloom; suddenly, the poem has blood, eyes, a body. This, indeed, is the magic of reading; this is what I had failed to understand.

Phillips has changed my perspective entirely; now, I am fascinated by the prospect of reading. I am even beginning to practice – that is, to mutter poems, to test them on my tongue. I am still nervous, of course; Phillips did not provide me with answers, but rather the sort of questions which are fruitful, which grow and thrive. How can I better myself as a speaker? How can I best perform my work?

At the end of his reading, Phillips began taking questions from the audience; one in particular has stayed with me. The student asked Phillips how he wrestles with the necessity of production – that is, how he manages to keep writing, keep innovating. Phillips answered, in short, that he does not see it as a wrestling or a battle; rather, he sees it as an engagement, a working-together, a project.

This, indeed, is how I will approach reading – as an engagement, as something to be worked with, learned from, and built upon. Now, I will engage with sound – I will add a new, exciting dimension to my work.

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For more information on Carl Phillips, click here.

Phillips’ new book of poems, Silverchest, is out now!

For more information on readings at Queens College, click here! 

Stay Tuned…

Hello all! This coming week, I will be covering two events: the Carl Phillips reading at Campbell Dome, and the opening of The Librarians, a new exhibition at the Queens College Art Center.

Carl Phillips is a brilliant poet; I strongly encourage all of you to go see him! The reading will begin at 6:30 PM. Click here for more information. 

The Librarians will be opening tomorrow as well. Remember: the Queens College Art Center is right in our library, on the 6th floor. Go check it out during a study break!

This week is going to be amazing – I can’t wait to share it with you!