And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Last night, I was Featured Poet at a poetry and open mic series in a lovely coffee shop in the middle of a small village in Wisconsin. A small village, yes, but a great one that supports a poet laureate, and their current poet laureate happens to be one of my students. Who didn’t think he was a poet.

I told him differently. Multiple individual publications, three poetry books and one poet laureate-ship later…

So I was Featured Poet. As I’m primarily known and asked to appear as a fiction writer, this was a lot of fun. It gave me a chance to share work that many readers aren’t aware of. Because I knew the crowd was likely to be small, I threw in poetry of every type. Formal poetry (haiku, villanelle, prose poem), informal poetry, long poetry, short poetry, mentions of penises and asses and breasts and sex and food and love and everything life has to offer. I had a ball. And I think I further proved that this idea of writers needing to “brand” themselves is ridiculous. The only thing brandy about me is what I like to drink on cold winter nights. You never know what’s going to fall out of my mouth or onto my page. That’s how I roll. And that’s how writers should roll, in full possession of the creative process.

I also used this presentation as an opportunity to carefully slide out poetry from my newest chapbook, When You Finally Said No, which will be released by Finishing Line Press in February. Carefully, because I know this will be a difficult collection for some. The title should give you some idea as to what it covers. It follows a story – my story. And it follows it through some hard situations.

So for me, this was a chance to read from this book, out loud, in a crowd mixed with people I knew and some I didn’t. It gave me the chance to fight through the fear of doing so, to reassure myself that it will be all right, I can do this, and also to watch and listen to reactions.

There was an open mic after I was done. The last person to read was a young woman who helped to organize the event. Right before she read her third poem, she said, “I’m going to read a poem that I wasn’t planning on reading tonight. But because of what Kathie had the courage to read, I’m going to read mine too.”

And she did. Boy, did she. Incredible. BAM.

And just like that, my poetry chapbook did just what I wanted it to do, even before it was released. It reached someone. It touched someone. It gave someone courage. It helped her to raise her voice and shout her truth and get it all out in the open. No more shadows. No more hiding. And with that…no more burden.

Writers don’t often get to see their words in action. We write and we put it out there, but unless we stumble across someone reading our stuff, we don’t get to see what we’ve accomplished. We don’t get to see the reach.

I saw the reach last night. And it made every bit of hard work and fear and pain of putting that chapbook together worth it. More than worth it. And it can only go up from here. Just wait until it comes out.

Just wait.

I’m going to hold this moment tight to me as I walk on stage tonight to launch Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News; A Year Of Spontaneous Essays. I’m going to watch – and listen – for more reaches.

I’ve made a difference. Oh, man. Hallelujah. Amen. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The cover of When You Finally Said No, a poetry chapbook to be released in February by Finishing Line Press.


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