Some of the members of the Creative Writers’ Circle of Northern New Jersey, at a poetry reading at a NJ bookstore.
Remembering the Poetry Readings
By Richard Mabey Jr.
From 1995 till 1999, I had the distinct honor to serve as the President of the Creative Writers’ Circle of Northern New Jersey. We used to present poetry readings at local bookstores in northern New Jersey. It was a a wonderful and magical time.
Some of the times, we would open the poetry readings to folks in the audience. We used to call it “Open Mike Time.” But then what happened is that some of the people, from the audience, would have some rough language in their poems. And, we got in a little trouble with the bookstore manager, so we decided to keep the poetry reading presentations strictly for the members of the Writers’ Circle.
I was always amazed at the talent that came from that small group of dedicated writers. Not only were these good people talented writers, they also had a gift for reading poetry in a very dramatic and heart-moving fashion. The bottom line was that the poetry readings were a blast!
Traditionally, I would be the last person to read a poem. After reading my poem, I would thank everyone for coming out. Then the gang would do a “curtain call” of sorts and come up to the podium, one last time, and the audience would give a hearty applause. It was just a great boost for my fellow writers. I have to confess that it was a boost for myself as well.
Then, I would announce that we were all going to have tea or coffee in the little coffee area in the bookstore. A lot of the people from the audience would join us, and ask us all a lot of questions about writing. The manager of the bookstore loved this. For everyone would buy a cup of tea or coffee at an outrageous price. Some people would even splurge for a bran muffin or one of those oversized chocolate chip cookies. They also overcharged for the muffins and cookies!
I miss the days of the poetry readings. I really do. I tried to get a few poetry readings started here in Central Florida. But the big bookstores want the big name people for readings and book signings. When I say “big name,” I mean some of the big wheels who have their own news format shows on cable television stations. Fox News celebrities are a fave, for the people here in my gated community.
It seems the unknown, up and coming poet doesn’t have the same chance that he or she had about 20 years ago. The big brass from the corporate bookstores want the big name types to do readings. And, little privately owned bookstores are becoming harder and harder to find. They seem to be disappearing here in Central Florida.
Alas, times change.