Last week, we featured a review from a Champlain College freshman professional writing major about her experience at this year’s Burlington Book Festival. Read on to learn about another student’s experience while attending GennaRose Nethercott’s poetry reading.
The Price of Passion
By Shannon Angel
I entered with an oddly detached mood. All of my peers seemed to be excited or nervous, and yet something about the festival seemed very relaxed to me. Although most people would be relieved by this, I was a bit worried. “Why don’t I care more about this event?” I thought to myself. My location mocked me; I was present in a place which I should be interested and yet was distracted. Thinking about this for a few minutes to myself amongst the crowd, I blinked up and robotically did what I knew was what was expected of me—to seek out the author.
Step by step, I migrated towards GennaRose Nethercott, who was dressed in a somewhat obviously outstanding fashion of a bright red 1920’s dress with lipstick on to match; this greatly separated her from the hills of fall plaid over the audience’s backs that filled the landscape of the room. Glimpsing around at me with a soft grin on her face she introduced herself and I followed with gave the monotonous intro which I assumed every single author of the festival had heard three times per hour over the weekend: “Hi, I’m Shannon Angel. I’m from Champlain College and I’m volunteering today for your event. Is there anything I can help you with?” She answered that there wasn’t at the moment, but that she would let me know if there was anything within the next few hours that she needed. Gaining interest to get on with the actual poetry (I don’t usually look forward to potentially awkward social interactions like the previous conversation), I took my seat.
Poem by poem, I was expecting myself to be disappointed somewhere along the way, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t help but notice that I want to make people feel this way, like they can’t get enough. And with that, I thought: how is it that she’s making the audience feel this way? And it dawned upon me that it was her performance, her voice inflection, the way the audience could see how she felt about what she wrote with the look in her eyes and the drop or bellow of her tone. It seeped into my mind the way a good idea does—slowly but surely until it smacks you in the face. I was so pleasantly surprised by this interest that flooded me that I was aching to ask her questions about this astounding skill she had mastered; or even to ask whether it was a skill or a way of living.
She concluded her performance. Every second counted in my head as I calmly and coolly made my way back over to the author which I once thought was just an hour of my day, a scribble into my schedule. I stumbled over the first words, but the questions came out easier and easier the more she talked to me like a human being, and a writer equal to herself. This touched me in a way I cannot describe as my views of authors suddenly changed from that of people who have written books to people who write with thoughts and letters and words just as I do—and that there is no difference between the two. This made some magnificent epiphany evident to me in which I realized that the reason I believed becoming an author was such a huge feat was because I viewed these people as better than myself, like some extraterrestrial being that had more cells in an inch of their brain than my head had of hairs. Although GennaRose was no weathered author, she was the bridge for me between what I am and what I can become as a realistic path.
With my new interest, I went on to inquire about the ways in which she wrote and performed performance poetry. She answered this by saying “I cannot write in public. I literally talk to myself aloud when I write because I write knowing I will perform it.” This justified her belief that the written and oral English languages are completely separate monsters, and it is the author’s responsibility to link the two; but that wasn’t what rang out to me in what she said. What I saw was that I was actually interested in the bigger picture of writing as a whole—which is to make a connection with others through expression. I had been asking myself over and over again for weeks these questions: what was I really interested in writing? Why do I doubt myself? Do I really enjoy this? Am I making the right decisions? GennaRose not only made that clear to me in her passion for her pieces, but with the love the audience could see in them with her performance. I learned that if it isn’t what you love, there is no reward in writing. And that you must be interested in the aspect of a writing profession in whole to do it for life.
Passion is everything in writing. That is the most important thing she taught me. And although I may ask as many questions as I wish to authors and look at their technique and style, it will always come down to the fact that the level of passion is where you’re writing gets its drive. And that is what matters.