Ed Johnson

On the List

We had a little get together in our community in April at The Mustard Seed Project’s Crandall Center in Key Center. It was advertised as an “open mic” reading.

I attended to get some pictures for the newspaper and to enjoy listening to the work of some of the rather large number of writers who call this peninsula home. I assumed it would be people reading their own compositions. I was surprised.

At the door, I was stopped by Ian and his clipboard. Ian was about nine years old and tasked with having people sign his clipboard as they came in. “You have to sign it,” he stated. What I saw was a column for names that looked suspiciously like a performance list. I tried to explain I had no plans to read anything, but was only permitted entry after a nice lady nearby explained to Ian that he only needed to get names from people who were going to read something to the audience.

That audience was only about five or six people when I arrived, but the room was full by the time the show got going. While half of the attendees were in their early teens or younger, I thought they would certainly get something out of hearing the grownups read their own work.

But then each of these young ’uns walked to the front of the room and recited works ranging from to Shel Silverstein to e e cummings. Some read things they had composed and many performed as well as their elders.

It occurred to me that I had a poem memorized that I could contribute. I tracked Ian down and asked to put my name at the bottom of the list. He was skeptical, but complied.

There were too many readers to remember them all, but the highlight of the afternoon was the woman who announced that she was going to recite “The Owl and the Pussycat,” and added that she wasn’t sure she could remember it all. She got several lines into the poem before she had to ask for help and from there on out it was a community project. Different people offered the next needed line, and there were a couple of discussions on what rhymed with what, but we got through it.

When my turn came, I described how my sixth-grade language arts teacher had assigned my class to memorize a 14-line poem to recite. I had stood in from of the class and electrified them with the first 14 lines of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. When I finished, the teacher looked at me suspiciously and asked if I was going to finish the poem. He had meant for us to memorize a sonnet but I’d only heard the 14 lines part, so that’s all of Revere’s Ride that I’d memorized.

After the success of that first performance, the Poetry and Prose Open Mic hosted by Erin Schanne of the Living Well Project of Key Peninsula and Jerry Libstaff of Watermark Writers will now be a regular event at the Crandall Center on the first Friday of every month from 2 to 3 p.m.

It looks like I’ll finally be finishing that poem. Or memorizing a sonnet.

Ed Johnson lives near Wauna.

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