In attending a poetry reading at a local park gathering, I was able to experience both the pleasure and discomfort of Patti Lowrey’s poem, “Woman’s Light”. Hearing Lowrey recite her poem was engaging, yet on varying levels. At times, the entertainment was invoked by a sincere appreciation for her words and her passion, while at other times, the entertainment was invoked by a sense of disturbed discontent in not agreeing with what she was saying or how the words were being spoken.
For me, my interest is carried both by a sense of compatibility with the literature and performance as well as by a sense of defense against something perceived as false. In reviewing literature and literary performances as well as any other type of presented media or work of art, I judge the art and behavior of the artist from a perception of good and bad as those terms relate to truth and falsity. In my personal belief system, something which is good is equivalent to something which is true, and these qualities promote behavioral, physical, and moral health.
Regarding an aspect of media or performer as being bad involves a perception of the object as being false, having qualities which encourage behavioral, physical, and moral illness. I was able to engage with the poet and be entertained by her poem both by my pleasure in perceiving the goodness of the experience as well as sensing the badness of her work. In parts of Lowrey’s poetry reading, the emotional responses evoked from me ranged from joy and comradery to apprehension and distaste, and sometimes even a mixture of the two.
In parts of her poem when she spoke radiantly about her “grandmother goddess”, I was overwhelmed by a sense of gratefulness at the idea of worshipping a female deity while also feeling unsure and uncomfortable at the idea of leadership coming from a woman. In analyzing my mixed response to this area of Lowrey’s jubilant reading, I come to the conclusion that I yearn both for appreciation of the female as divine as well as support the idea of hierarchical leadership stemming from the male.
I noticed that at times when the poet spoke about concepts such as “wielding her grace as soft, purposeful nature”, I myself was filled with purpose and gratifying my feminine contributions to the world. However, when Lowrey strengthened her tone with comments such as “rising up from under my father’s walkway”, I became hesitant and even disapproving, catching a sense of blaming the masculine for the plights of the feminine.
In noticing my emotional sways throughout Lowrey’s reading, I came to a greater understanding of my conceptual backbone and have reconsidered some of my stances in regard to appreciation of the natural woman and support of the universal man. At times during the performance, I admit that I felt disturbed and even angry with the poet. I see my frustration as a natural repulsion to beliefs which strike me as false or unfair, however my distaste for aspects of “Woman’s Light” brought up personal questioning of my belief system, which can sometimes be helpful if changes to my belief system are necessary.
In rejecting the poet’s apparent blame of men for the plights of women, I realize that I do honestly believe that only women can be blamed for their own personal plights and that they should not resort to attempting to shift blame onto their spiritual partners, the men. Although I do like for my beliefs to be challenged and find this oftentimes refreshing, I do recognize that my rejection of certain aspects of the poetry reading still stand. I do still abide by and appreciate my initial belief system which lends open yet differentiating support for the feminine and the masculine qualities of humanity.
In recalling the poet’s engagement and interaction with the audience, I can say that she was a highly interactive and engaging performer. While some performances can be rated as dull, the performers casting eyes downward with low voices and uninteresting words, Lowrey was energetic, clear, and decisive with her literary presentation, while also retaining a colorful and feminine quality throughout a large part of her performance. Performer engagement with the audience is of tremendous importance if an artist genuinely wants to be sensed and heard.
It is really of no consequence whether or not an audience member agrees with what the performer is saying or representing, as long as the performance offers an entertaining look at a personal perception of human life. Watching this poetry reading was a picture of an older woman, full of charm and energy, describing passionately her view of woman’s place within societal standards regarding religion, spirituality, and social mores. She offered an oftentimes beautiful description of the meaning of feminism in modern life, while also proposing controversial opinions on the nature of women which could stir up and be rejected by the audience.
In considering the mild bashing of the male which was sensed from the author’s words as well as her slightly harsher tone in speaking these words, I have to wonder if she was aiming to try to put people on the defense simply as a way of catching the attention of the audience. Perhaps her apparent struggle with human masculinity is not truly a rejection of masculine qualities, but more a gimmick used to entrance to entrance the readers, viewers, and listeners, making them want to refute her and drawing out emotions not only pleasant, utilizing the entertainment aroused by various conflicting emotions.
As Leary aptly states, effective self presentation isn’t always in being viewed positively, but in aiming to “influence other people in desired ways” (1996, p. 5). In attending the park poetry reading, I did not know exactly what to expect other than knowing that some local artists would be speaking and performing their newly crafted works of art. It was fulfilling to watch and hear the various performances, some dreary, some amusing, some passionate, some disgusting, and still some having had interesting mixtures of appeal and lack of appeal.
I have to honestly say that if every performer was in agreement with my views, I am not sure if I would have been as interested in the readings. Total compatibility with my own thoughts is something not often experienced, and perhaps for good reasons. The droopier poets with the more boring pieces left me time to sip my iced coffee and watch other happenings in the park. Poets with arousing and flourishing speeches made me grin and nod my head, yet I was calm in the simplicity of having heard and seen something which matched my own personal radar for truth.
However, “Woman’s Light” stirred my soul to the depths, grabbing at a heartfelt appreciation for the feminine spirit of humanity which resides and breathes in the universe in a lovely way as well as moving my emotions to disgust with the rejection of the masculine support and shaming of historical situations in which the male was considered oppressive. Lowrey’s poetry reading was able to mix me up and arouse me in ways that other poets were not able to, and I appreciate having had the experience of being deeply identified and deeply disturbed.