Advice for a Gaggle of Young Poets

What little guidance I shared (and wished I shared) when they sought shelter from the pouring rain.

They laughed at each other over their respective literary choices. They debated whether to just spend the rest of their evening in the bookshop with the cool vibe (patting myself on the back for that one). They “secretly” bought each other books to cries of, “You need to stop doing that!”

One of them was actually quiet and approached the counter with a question they all wanted answered, if only for her sake: Do you have any suggestions for getting your poetry read?


I do. 100%, I do.

When you’re shy or quiet and have written something you want read, what you need isn’t just to be read, it’s to be bolstered toward your next bit of writing. So the first thing I told her about was ProvSlam, or The Providence Poetry Slam, which was having its last night of the season that Thursday and so promised to be mostly an open mic.

ProvSlam is the local poetry slam team/organization and is an incredibly open and welcoming place that I cannot recommend highly enough for the shy/starter poet. We want to witness each other, we hold space for each other, and we help nudge each other forward as poets and as human beings.

Clearly, I’m biased. It’s my idea of church with the open mic being a way for us to all homily each other.

She mentioned that it was her and her friends’ last week in Providence and I told her she should come and exchange emails with people. That when she gets home she should find her local slam group.

What I was driving at, and should have put into clearer words is that to get read (and keep on writing) she needs to find/create a group/community of writers she trusts to be kind and honest, with honesty sitting at the intersection of intelligence and right work.

That’s what all of us want and need at a beginning, it’s why we have turns of phrase like “It takes a village.” Because it does take a village.

You — like the young poet who came in from the rain — want to surround yourself with kin, people who will call you out on your less-than-helpful nonsense while ultimately holding space for you and all your more-than-glorious nonsense to thrive.

Like the friends who were with her that evening, who — upon hearing about the open mic — all clamored to chime in with conspiratorial cries of “DO IT.”

Also published on Medium.