I hate readings, even though I run a reading series (Lip Service West). I especially hate poetry readings, which tend to be one of the sadder events you'll ever attend, kind of a less festive funeral with worse food and fashion. The only people who go to poetry readings are other poets (Bukowski has a great bit about this). The funniest part about going to a poetry reading, like my buddy Tom Pitts and I did a few months back, is the stereotyping. Like Tom when pointed out, "Oh, there's the angry ex-stripper." My reading series, LSW, is the anti-reading series reading series. That's sort of our tagline, along with "gritty, real, raw." I just produce the thing; I don't read at it. Once in a while I will, like, if we need another reader. Reading at your own reading series is kind of like throwing a surprise party for yourself. Which I'd do if I thought anyone would actually show up. But I wouldn't throw it at my house, because I don't want people staying at my house, eating my food, and using my shit. Still, the real reason I don't read is I hate doing it.
I get so fucking nervous reading. It's never fun. I remember when I was selected as one of the CT Touring Poets back in 2004, I was complaining about how anxious I get, and one of my professors told me I'd get over it. Much like my father telling me one day I'd learn to love the 9-5, I didn't get over it. I just smoked more. I gave a dozen readings that spring, and each one felt like a midget tap dancing on my nerves (although I did get asked for my autograph, but I am pretty sure that is because the girl thought I was cute).
When I went to grad school and started doing Lip Service with Andrea in Miami (Andrea is someone who would definitely throw a surprise party for herself), I learned a trick to make life easier. I'd memorize the piece and then pretend to read it, mimicking what a normal reader might do, pausing for dramatic effect, gesturing, trying to accentuate my nervous tics and make them work for me. Somehow I developed a strange cowboy twang. Maybe it's best I'm not on a book tour.
I get nervous playing rock 'n' roll, too. Because I am neurotic. I am anxious the moment I wake up. Literally. I grind my teeth all night and wake with a clamped jaw. I've done this so much there are little cracks in my teeth and my dentist says I have to wear a mouth guard.
The question is always, "What are you so anxious about?" I have a fucking anxiety condition, that's what. Some days I have throat cancer. For a long time (and still), I am afraid of contracting a retroactive junkie disease. Often these days, I worry about Holden. Tonight, it's botulism because my hippy mother-in-law fed the kid raw honey. But what I am nervous about doesn't matter so much. It is always something, like a giant black hole inside me that needs to be filled with fret and woe.
I'm not even reading any time soon. Don't ask me what the hell I'm so worried about.