Every now and then, when I am in a writer's group or at a workshop, someone will ask this peculiar question. Who do you imagine is in your audience? I always want to ask the same question back. Who is in your audience?
I begin to imagine that we all have an audience we never know or meet. It's as if there are these strangers out there somewhere on the other side of one of those one-way mirrors. They can watch our every move, but we never see them.
As a poet, I never imagine anyone reading my work. But what if I did? Who would they be?
Would there be any dentists, for example? Should I include flossing in my poetry?
This next poem, I might announce at a reading, is for all the dentists in the room.
What about rocket scientists? Flight attendants? Entomologists? Members of the Secret Police?
If an oxygen mask drops down during this next poem, place it over your nose and mouth and breathe normally.
I think it would be nice to supply emergency equipment for readings. Flotation devices. Beverages. Seat Belts. Vomit bags.
Sometimes at readings, everyone is wearing black, and a few have shades. It's kind of a New York thing, I guess. Or a poetry fashion statement.
I would like to dedicate this poem to all the secret police in the audience. I know you're out there.
Maybe I would be careful what I said after that. I would read poems written in codes so that only a few would understand.
Of course that's usually not a problem. Poets are already known for speaking in code.
I think they are known for speaking to the night, the dawn, the birds, the rain, the snow.
But audiences? I don't know.
AWP in Minneapolis, and recommended reading
2 weeks ago