Reading anything aloud is a challenge for many of us. I think of my students and how brilliant they can be on the page--but, when asked to read to the class, they fumble words...mis-pronounce "the"...lose their place again and again. During my sophomore year of college, Spring semester (the one where I discovered Petunia Moon's existence)--I had a frustrating and mildew-laced old professor in tweed who sucked the life out of Shakespeare every Tuesday and Thursday morning. I dreaded his class...staggering in there bleary-eyed and often still up from the night before. But, the man gave us one disguised gift--he forced us to memorize and recite over one hundred lines of Shakespeare to share with the whole lecture hall (about 85 students). At the time, I wanted to kill him for brutalizing Shakespeare and forcing me to (ugh...) actually learn something. Then, at random moments--the Shakespeare vaults from my lips--still there these years later. Also, this immersion in Shakespeare out loud to my drowsy peers broke--once and for all--my fear of public speaking and reading to large groups. Ultimately, this skill has become my career as an adjunct professor at a local college--where my performances fall every Monday and Wednesday night...minus the tweed, the beard, and (I hope) the frustration.
Reading my own writing aloud remains another story altogether. I can recite all day long, unless I'm the one who generated the words...then it may as well be written in Latin--the dead language the nuns taught me in Catholic school for no logical reason I've yet to discover. So, when the poem of mine appearing in the We'Moon anthology: 2006: Love happened to be the one anchoring the book for the week (it was featured on the wall in March)--and Poetry Thursday dared folks to risk a read-aloud, I decided it was a sign.
I went in my room and shut the door as Boy-o and Rosie played in the kitchen with measuring cups of dried rice (Hey--I was desperate and they have a lot more fun with this than you might think, pouring into containers and the floor, scooping it up again...). Then I turned to page 96 and I dove in. The first line, I blew twice. Then I was lost on the word "unfurl"--it looked like a foreign language...I kept going until I was tired of hearing my voice and I could get through without messing up (or, only once). Then--I conjured up my old musty professor and took it with me to class last night. My students were my captive audience...we were actually reviewing an essay on aging, so I used my poem as a discussion leap-off point.
I took a risk last night and shared my words with them, and now again here--not to inundate the world with another twisted cliche, I nonetheless have to mention it anyway. Last night? I didn't miss one line...