from “First Do No Harm” by Julia Shipley


There were, easy, 100,000 leaves that fell, like reminder notices, little cues. *

Ten Things You Should Know about Attending Poetry Readings and their Afterparties

  1. Prepare to be inspired—but don’t expect it.

2 Take a journal to write thoughts and ideas, but don’t beat yourself up if you get caught up in the experience and the page stays blank.

3 Arrive a little early so you can look at the art on the walls, or walk among the library stacks. Touch the spines of the books, picking out those that speak to you.

4 After you are seated, be sure to slow down and take in the imagery and the language. Let yourself steep in it while the poet’s words fall out like amber-colored liquid. Realize once again that poetry is sparse and beautiful and it’s as much about what you leave out as what you put in.

5 When the mingling starts after the reading is over, give in to the conversations taking place around you—they may surprise and delight. You can be a wallflower, but everyone else is contemplating the same thing.

6 Enjoy the light refreshments laid out on the table, but cake— made from a special family recipe– will be served later for those who push on to the afterparty.

7 Just know that getting lost on your way to said party is a possibility. But the good news is that things will happen while you are driving that make the trip evening even more memorable. The white cat, the family of raccoons crossing the road, they will become shorthand when remembering this night with friends.

8 While lost, joke about the ways to find the house you are searching for. Flashing lights, loud music, cops parked outside, these are all surefire ways to find a poetry afterparty.

9 Once you finally arrive you will be greeted like the prodigal children. For your troubles you will be offered locally brewed beer, hard cider, hot cider and herbal tea. Take the tea if you are the one driving, but squelch the urge to make off with the vintage teacup. Trust me, they will know you took it. And since these groups are small and intimate, your hosts probably know where you live.

10 Enjoy getting to know everyone seated around the table, it’s probably been awhile since you stayed out late talking with people you don’t really know. Accept it for the true gift that it is.

11 Know when to break the rules. Be inspired by the poets of the past, their work is often deceptively simple. Give in to those desires and write what feels true for you.

To read more about Julia and her lovely poetry, visit:

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