“Next on our open mic…Sabina!!”
I grabbed the crumpled sheet of paper at my feet and stood up, practically tripping over the emcee as I walked up to the stage.
“This is my first time reading,” I said, and the crowd responded by cheering and waving their “Muppet Arms” excitedly in the air, a tradition at the Portland Poetry Slam. “I turned 19 on Thursday, so I wrote this.”
And I proceeded to read 18 Things I Learned at 18, modified for a spoken-word poetry format.
I’ve been going to the slam since high school, but I’d never performed anything both for lack of writing and a lack of confidence about sharing my work.
Thanks to blogging, I’ve gotten a hold on both of those, but the slam is another animal. After all, reading something highly personal out loud to a large room of strangers is slightly different than writing something fairly objective or surface-level and publishing it in a low-profile corner of the internet.
I didn’t feel particularly nervous. I don’t consciously fear public speaking, unlike many people who would rather die than get on stage.
My body disagrees though. It fears public speaking like no other. After the third sentence, my body took over. My voice was shaking, my muscles were twitching, my heart was pounding, and my palms were profusely sweating.
But my mind was calm, focused on nothing but the piece’s rhythm and the audience’s harmony–snaps and hums to signal their identification with my words.
At the end of the piece, the audience burst into applause as I proudly smiled and walked cautiously back to my seat, hugging my best friend in congratulations and trying to return my heart to a normal pace.
I conquered my first poetry open mic, and I can’t wait to go back for more.