Believe it or not, I transcended my fears of public speaking (well, kind of), when I emceed E.P. Atelier's first spoken word event -- a reading for Spout Press' chapbook series that featured poets 25 and under.
The Elliot Park coffeehouse-bookstore (a blend of fine art and kitsch) was packed to capacity, which was good for them but bad for me. I was certain it was painfully obvious that, no, I wasn't in the habit of presenting my shaky verbal skills to the masses.
But the audience listened attentively, and as I tried to speak slowly in an effort to gloss over my jumpiness, eventually I didn't even notice my discomfort. My rawness seemed to thaw as the poets were welcomed onstage with enthusiasm (and I pretended the audience didn't know that I wasn't a pro when I introduced each one).
Listeners laughed with affectation at impromptu editorial comments and, later, even purchased copies of their readers' poetry collections. When the reading finished, I didn't seek out a dark corner or don a pair of funny-nose-with-mustache glasses to conceal my identity. Instead, I thought, "Not so bad," and was glad I took the risk.
So, if you're looking for a place to experiment with old or new material or just to see what it's like to take the stage, try this poetry open mic night. Feel free to take in a couple shows first, if you must.
Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. E.P. Atelier, 609 S. 10th St. Free. 332-4000.
Give 'em room
Remember when solitary confinement was punishment? When teachers sent kids to the corner to contemplate their ill behavior and all of its profound implications? It was almost impossible for those poor kids (you were never sentenced to the corner, of course) to maintain a tough dignity/cool when forcefully and literally separated from the rest of the class. For those with energy to burn, to pause stirred panic and seclusion; the corner definitely became a space for torture.
Now, for the grownup troublemaker, a quiet room/corner is a rare and valuable commodity. There are always lots of distractions tethered to a vicious cycle of needs. Privacy is fleeting as petty misdemeanors willfully interrupt (telemarketers, kids of one's own, roommate squabbles, demanding pets).
So, is there refuge from minute-by-minute woes, a place where disturbances are mostly optional? Where somebody can go -- away from the pack just to think, maybe even finish that essay or compose a few poems? Sounds like fiction, right?
Those still searching for the ideal gift for the hard-to-shop-for writer or are in need of their own writing niche take note: The Loft rents studios, wherein writers settle into a cozy chair and desk, with access to a lounge, locker and a Downtown view. Takers enjoy six hours a week of regularly slated studio time (per month), with access to additional open slots. Now, how can you beat that?
The Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Ave. S. $85 per month or $200 for three months. 215-2575.
Have a blockbuster movie in the works but can't produce it to its full potential due to a lack of resources? Filmmakers in need should take note of IFP MSP's grants for up-and-coming Minnesotan artists whose medium is film/video.
Funds are meant to supplant the efforts of mid-career artists and are a significant launch pad for those who want to take their craft to the next level: The 2005 IFP MSP McKnight Artist Fellowships for Filmmakers will award $25,000 to two locally based filmmakers.
Applications are available at www.ifpmsp.org/grants.htm. Or call 338-0871 for more information. Applications must be postmarked or received by March 4 at IFP MSP's 401 N. 3rd St., Ste. 450 office (ZIP 55401).
Anna Pratt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org