Coming Home: the power of performing

Performing your own poetry can seem a daunting prospect. Reflecting on her own experience as a poet, Alyssa Cooper believes that shouldn’t be the case. The void we have all felt, as poets, suddenly “has a face.”

Being a writer can feel like lonely work. Writers are – as a rule – not a particularly social group of people. We work in isolation, pouring our hearts onto paper in blind hope that, someday, it might find someone. If we’re really lucky, maybe the person it does find reaches out – an email, a book review, a tag on twitter – but to be honest, a lot of the people who read poetry are almost as anti-social as the ones who write it. Being a poet can feel a bit like screaming into a void that never screams back. It’s lonely work.

But all of that changed for me when I discovered performing.

Once you start performing, you’re not sending your heart into the world alone anymore – you carry it on stage with you, and a room full of people listens. Really, really listens. Suddenly, the void has a face. It nods along. It snaps when it really feels what you’re saying. It even comes up to you at the end, to tell you that it’s felt exactly what you’re feeling, and suddenly, you don’t feel so crazy for feeling it. And the next time you sit down to write, maybe you don’t feel so lonely.

When I started performing, my life changed entirely. I am so, so grateful to the spoken word scene for welcoming me with open arms. Performing has granted me so many amazing opportunities, and most importantly, it has taught me that being a poet doesn’t mean being alone.

Dying of Thirst

Kiss your cheek like the sun kisses the horizon
at the end of the day,
coming together after an entire sky apart and being completely
like I want to be consumed,
like I am falling into your chest,
                                                     and nesting in the cage of
your ribs,
where your metronome heart will rock me to sleep,
                                                                                   and keep me there
until morning –
when I will leave you again,
because that is my nature,
                                          my goddamned, godforsaken
to love you
       and leave you
              and live with my regret
                                                    until sunset,
when I come crawling back like a beaten dog,
and you never make me say
                                             I’m sorry,
gracious and forgiving like the lonely horizon,
like I am a spoonful of sugar
on your precious hillside tongue.
And it has been said
that a man dying of thirst will swallow down sea water,
knowing that it won’t
                                   save him,
only wanting to die with the wetness
                                                           on his lips –
and I want to be that dying man,
want to turn my face to the salty shore and open my mouth to the
       sweet kiss
              of death,
I want to be that tragic story,
want to die kissing your cheek like the sun kisses the horizon,
because I want to be remembered for
                                                             my return,
and not for
                  my departure,
I want to be remembered for my brilliance at sunset,
       for that flash of green and touch
              of destiny,
and I want to die with your oasis blooming
                                                                      on my lips,
because nothing ever tasted as good as
                                                               you did,
like earth
       and sea
              and marshmallows,
and no one ever made me want to come home
like you –
and I am,
                I swear;
I am coming home.

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