I’ve mentioned before how I love new experiences. If there’s a large crowd, I’ll start to feel smothered, but, in general, I’m fascinated by events and people. Add anything about writing, poetry, the craft, or reading into the mix and I’m there — as long as I can afford it. It’s amazing to me how many events, contests and even submissions these days charge fees. And I get it, I really do. You have to cover costs, but what happened to holding events in open spaces? Isn’t that how we used to do things? Anyway! Back to the topic. I like new experiences. Which is handy because yesterday was a day of firsts for me.
The first time I trudged through the rain wet, lost and completely out of breath in beautiful Vitabergsparken (the White Mountain Park).
Three of us were going to Poetry in the Park, a weekly meetup of poets around the Stockholm area. They, the other poets, have met in the park every week since summer began (at least on a calendar. Summer, with things like sunshine and warm weather, hasn’t shown up in Sweden this year). They knew exactly where it was. This was our first time. We didn’t have a clue how to find the other enlightened poets. So we hiked up hills through the rain following my unhelpful GPS until my phone died. We asked two guys drinking vodka under the largest tree I’ve ever seen in my life, but they had no idea what we were talking about. We secretly believe they were outcasts from the poetry circle and just didn’t want to help us. They probably laughed after we wandered off aimlessly. Then we followed my friend’s equally unhelpful map on her phone while we sent text messages to our third friend, who had somehow miraculously found the secret gathering place (she admitted later she arrived just behind another group and followed them). What would have helped everything is if our phone had known what we wanted all along and instead of showing us a big green blob that said, ‘Vitabergsparken,’ showed us the way to the gazebo by shooting giant red arrows onto the ground. If they blinked, that would have been even better.
The first time I attended a poetry reading.
Eventually, we found it. The poor old lady we met along the way gave up, but we stuck it out. Chalk one up to perseverance. After climbing about a gazillion steps, we found two dozen folks sitting on the wooden floor of the easy-to-miss gazebo, which was conveniently tucked behind the large and hard-to-miss amphitheater.
Men and women. Young and old. People with beards and saggy jeans and people with stylish haircuts and workout clothes. Some smiled, some closed their eyes, and some looked off into the sky while poets bravely stood up and recited poems from memory. You could almost reach out and touch the feelings. They wrapped around us as we sat there listening. Humor. Anger. Anguish. Wonder. I was one of those who closed her eyes because it was so beautiful to hear the words and feel the emotion without the taint of visual impressions.
The first time I read my poetry out loud at a poetry reading!
My friend, a talented poet named Lillian Kwok, read one of her pieces. You can read some of her work here. She inspired me to do the same. So when a guy came and sat next to me by the steps to recite a poem about drumming, I began searching through my work for something to read. I didn’t have anything memorized, but I had brought my paper copies. When the guy faltered and nodded for me to read something, I felt it was time. Like everything had come together for this moment. I read two pieces, a short one, and a longer one.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe because I kept my eyes glued on the paper I was reading from the whole time and didn’t have to look up and see everyone watching me :). It also helped when I mentioned it was my first time and everyone broke into loud, encouraging applause :).
Afterward, a young woman came up to me and told me she really enjoyed my poems and wanted to hear more of them. I was on cloud nine.
The first time I visited an Ethiopian restaurant.
We drifted away from the gazebo and back into the city streets to look for a place to grab a coffee. We stopped at the first place we saw, a small Ethiopian restaurant. I loved the decor. Stained-glass bubble lights dangled from the ceiling, which matched a stained-glass window that faced the road. Black and white portrait sketches of Ethiopians hung on the walls. Skins and patches of leather sat upon the chairs, waiting for visitors. We grabbed a cozy table under a pavilion-like tent and talked about the craft. The waiter brought out two Chai’s, which consisted of two glasses filled with warm milk and a Lipton tea bag. I guess that’s a bonus first. I’ve never seen Chai served that way, before. I ordered a latte and thankfully didn’t have to make anything myself.