One of my writers groups had a group reading last night at a local bookstore. This is something I put together when I heard that another group in Cleveland (all poets) had performed in this way. In my reading, eight writers read for 8 minutes each--4 read poems, 3 fiction, 1 essay. What was most interesting to me was style of reading aloud and what kind of cuts people made to long pieces of fiction. Also, maybe how something is different at a reading than at a workshop-like meeting. The impulse to edit is (mostly) pared away.
I went first which I usually like because then I can pay attention to the rest of the reading without nervous quaking or inner palpitations. I read fast last night (do I always?)--3 poems from my work series and a 4th poem that I characterized as cheerier. Long breaths, good voice, few errors. I felt like I was giving each word a little extra push of energy, kind of like using a sledgehammer, where it's not only the weight but the extra oomph your muscles give that create a bigger effect.
Although I had practiced, I regretted not doing so a little more since these were mostly newer poems, and none I'd read in this kind of setting. If I'd practiced I could have had more eye contact which I believe helps to put a reading over well, even though I here confess that I sometimes pretend eye contact when I'm really looking at the far wall or the back of a chair. I like my audience, but sometimes they can be distracting. For instance, I never look at my sister, if she's there, especially if there's some kind of family content to the poem.
It was a good reading, even though my part was brief because I immediately got into the zone, the performative place where you feel more alive, where your poems feel gestural, rock solid.