It is the third day of Advanced Placement Literature class, and my teacher, Mr. Morris, presents us with a poem. Feelings of incomprehension rise up. Then, he reads the poem aloud with powerful tone and appropriate inflection. Imagery, allusions to Greek mythology, symbolism, and meaning in the poem seem to reveal themselves through his recitation. It is then I see Mr. Morris as a performer at his podium. I see myself, the spellbound audience member.
Communication has always been something I valued, because in a family of six, harmony could never live without it. I realized performance is simply another venue of communication similar to my usual medium of music. During Poetry Out Loud, I felt a connection to poetry, but was too ignorant to realize the impact of words. Mr. Morris’ reading of “The Eagle” by Lord Alfred Tennyson delineated the influence my words can have on others. I decided I wanted to be a poet again, except reciting my own poetry rather than someone else’s.
As any performer, I have to prepare before I mount the stage. Preparation led me to read through hundreds of poems, and I developed an appreciation for the convoluted and allegorical works of literature. I used the literary devices I discerned in other poems to write my own. Studying poetry transformed my concept of verse. Formerly, I thought poetry consisted only of the gloomy works of Edgar Allen Poe and the renowned oeuvres of Shakespeare, but I discovered satire in Emily Dickinson, military allusions in Wilfred Owen, and wit and humor in Andrew Marvell.
Before I stepped on stage, I first adorned myself in humility, applied the lipstick of diligence, and sprayed my hair with neutrality to the outcome. Sitting in the audience, I witnessed boos as well as standing ovations, but never experienced them as a performer, and was anticipating the event. My walk up the rickety stairs of the stage consisted of mental preparation: preparation to fail and preparation to succeed.
I step onto the stage. The browns, blues, greens, and hazels of eyes center on me as I recite my poem. My heart hammers against the confines of my ribs. They can see me shaking, I guarantee myself. I disregard my thoughts, focusing only on my recitation. I finish and receive the silent applause of awestruck gazes, followed by clapping. I exit stage right, edgy, frustrated, and drained. Despite these negative thoughts, I’m excited to be on the stage again. I ascend the stage another time, this time as club president. I greet members at the door and hand out surveys for feedback. I perform service to my members, even if I don’t receive roses in return.
Fright: an existential part of performing. I was scared when my first poem was published, nervous when I attended my first poetry slam, and unsure of what to expect every time I mount the stage. Unpredictability, uncertainty, insecurity: no matter how much I try to ignore them, they are omnipresent. But without them I would never fail, and thus could never succeed. I use the glitches in my performances to prove to myself my adaptability.
In the audience an unilluminated figure sits, head cocked, shoulders slouched, eyes agape. That’s what it looks like when you have someone’s mind within your influence. I was that audience member less than six months ago; I was captivated and inspired by the poignant performance of a 58-year-old man, bedecked in a Hawaiian shirt, with a classroom as his platform. Now that I’m on this stage I will never get off. I will continue inspiring onlookers everywhere through my life’s words and actions.