Joe O’Connor had a book launch for his poetry chapbook, Why Poetry? and it was different than any other reading I had seen in a very profound way.
As an undergraduate student and biochemistry major, presentations I have viewed are almost always rigid in structure and stale in content. Presenters want to get a lot of information across in a short amount of time and as a result they generally speed through presentations as quickly as they can. Being speedy is not particularly bad if the content is dynamic and still comprehensible for the listener, but students often rush in order to meet all criteria pertaining to a syllabus, leaving the audience clueless and bored.
O’Connor managed to give a very down-to-earth presentation that was compelling to audience members. Whether the audience had read his works or not – it didn’t matter. O’Connor spoke the simple truth and that was it. Opinions on his background, how he defined poetry, and the types of people he met in his life, are just a few of the topics that he covered and these topics gave his formal presentation the illusion of casual conversation.
As a audience member of several literature readings, most presentations have been exactly the same – first there is a discussion, next is a reading, and finally there is a question and answer section. Often times the reading section feels long and boring because the author fumbles trying to decide good places to read from or just picks spots that are seemingly random to the audience.
O’Connor started with an introduction but then intertwined his personal notes and stories with the poetry that he read. In between each poem, he included shared another segment of his life or just gave an opinion on something pertinent to his poetry. The back-and-forth structure kept the readings fresh and set the stage for individual poems so that they could be well-digested by the audience.
My reading from the event was O’Connor’s “Double Negative,” where O’Connor explains how war and times of struggle can make aspects of life that should be beautiful and meaningful seem as if they “Don’t mean nothing.” He read the text with such great pacing and power that is needed when reading a text with repetition; I don’t think the text has nearly the same effect when not read aloud.
My favorite side-blurb that O’Connor gave was his discussion about simplistic poetry and why its existence is important for the sake of what poetry is. He shared that he used to not fully appreciate simplistic poetry, but then how he grew to appreciate it because simple poetry allows the reader to form a lot of imagery, ideas, and so forth, from simple ideas. I felt like the O’Connor’s blurb complemented “Double Negative,” because to look between the lines and draw out the good in times of stress or war is what exactly what humans need.
Overall, the book launch was a neat experience and a chance to appreciate the simpler things in life. I was glad to have been a part of the project and I hope to one day have the chance to speak at my own reading with a creative angle to match.