SWP: Open Panel (Week Four)

The opening panel for the final week of the Summer Writing Program was on Performance. Anne Waldman chaired the panel with Fiona Templeton, Karen Finley, and Miguel Algarin. Although I am not interested in performing in front of an audience like many poets are, when I am writing it is a type of performance. Sometimes when I am writing my body moves and my head nods as the words come out of me. The words are like footprints left behind from a performance in front of my computer screen.

Miguel Algarin’s comments were brief but to the point. It’s not what writers like Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez leave at home that matters, he said, it is what they choose to bring out into the public. Don’t get up on stage unless you can stand behind your work, he added. Poets who bring less than their best to a reading support the unwise impression that poetry is boring.

I can relate to these words with my own writing. Last year I worked in a restaurant. During the lunch rush I would keep several orders in my head, call them back to the cook, total the bills, collect the money, and smile or crack jokes with the customers. I decided that if I could have that kind of focus and dedication working for $7.00 an hour, then I would also be that dedicated in my writing.

That is what Algarin’s words mean to me. When I write I write with all of myself. Writing isn’t easier than regular work. It’s harder. Writing takes all of myself.

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