Red Indian Road West Reading by Anna Geiger

“Gears Turning Poetry Series” at Modern Times Bookstore

In Creative Writing, once every six­-week period, each student attends a literary reading
that they then write a reflection about. Typically, I go to smaller readings at local bookstores that allow the audience to feel intimate and close with the writer who is being featured. On January 10th, I attended a reading at Modern Times Bookstore that focused around the experiences and ancestry of Native American poets and the recently published poetry anthology Red Indian Road West. I assumed that the reading would be similar to those I have usually attended, with a similar atmosphere. However, I am writing this post on the event because it was altogether the most enlightening, entertaining, and personally influential readings I have been to.

I had never been to Modern Times previously, and upon joining the crowd for the reading, I was immediately introduced to what seemed to be a whole literary community. Each poet and audience member knew one another, which contributed to an atmosphere of security and enthusiasm for every reader. The event began with readings from three Native American poets who had work in Red Indian Road West, primarily stories about their family and ancestral roots. Because I am not knowledgeable about many aspects of Native American culture, and I have come to realize that my favorite way to learn about different communities is through the deeply personal context of poetry and other writing, this aspect of the reading was fascinating. The other artist at the reading was a guitar player. He sang three songs that he wrote and composed himself, that were all a combination of alternative and country sounds. His songs were entertaining and witty, one about how he was doing assigned reading for college and realized that Jack Kerouac was “kind of a dick,” one written in 2012 about eating in a diner when people believed the world was going to end, and the last one of finding a giant squid. Listening to his music was one of my favorite parts of the event because his songs combined skill, good acoustics, and lyrics that were a balanced combination of funny and unique.

Up until this point, I already felt as if I was becoming immersed in this rich community that apparently regularly congregates at Modern Times readings; however, the most important part of the night would still be an entirely new experience for me. At the end of the reading, people in the audience began to encourage me to read one of my poems, as they had asked earlier whether I was a writer, and I reluctantly accepted. I am typically awkward, uncomfortable, and nervous when faced with reading my work in front of a crowd, even when I have rehearsed doing so. It took quite a lot of willpower to talk myself into going onstage, but I am glad that I agreed to read one of my pieces. The sense of reassurance and encouragement that came from the audience allowed me to come out of the reading feeling more confident about performing in front of strangers. I was not rehearsed, and as a result did not read entirely smoothly, but since I went to the event, I’ve realized that being confident about sharing your work is not about reading it perfectly; it is about putting yourself out there and trying new things, even if it seems daunting, In the future, I am going to seek out opportunities to read my work for people instead of being nervous about it, which is a tool that I believe will help every young writer to become more assured about their writing.

Anna Geiger, class of 2017

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