Open Mic Shocker, Poetry Workshops, and Editing

Photo by Errata Magazine, MPLS, MN.

Photo by Errata Magazine, MPLS, MN.

Open Mic

I did an open mic last night (21/04/15), no one booed. It felt great. I guess I sort of expect that now, for people to boo. Though, I always think that those in the audience who dare to boo would find it hard to get up on stage themselves. One time I was at a U Slam event (U Slam is a group of local slam poets who judge other slam poet’s work as if art is a science) where people did tell me to get off of the stage. I said I had a few more poems, they said “make it one”. I made it 3. Fuck them…

The difference between the U Slam hecklers (or any group of outspoken audience members) and a regular audience member is this: the boisterous kids will go on stage after they boo and tell a person to get off, but only in front of their friends who call them “the best poet I know”, or “the next big thing”, or probably “the best in the Twin Cities”. They have it easy, they would shit themselves to go on cold, knowing no one. The average audience member would be shaking in their boots, because of fear of public speaking, or whatever. Now, the difference between the former and I is that I came to the event alone, and no one in the audience knows me. What does that mean?

I reflect on how easy it is to read poetry in front of a group of friends, though it is fun to stick the neck out a bit, jump into the fire hot, test what is between my legs, get called out, booed, or heckled, say different things, rather than same, but only because those who do the booing the loudest couldn’t stand up their themselves, alone and unknown. This is their art too, or their science. That anonymous sound let in a crowd is a form of art, however weak it may be. It takes fortitude.


Here is a shocker: not binge drinking beers in someone’s kitchen constantly will make you feel like you are healthy again, and if you add movement on top of that you will feel even better.

Recently, I have discovered this new thing called physical activity, or to the laymen: exercise. This exercise thing is rather great. Instead of sitting around all day and drinking beers, lazing on a porch, you head outside, out of your cellphone provider’s service range, and you walk into nature, no map, no plan, just go. See, you cut out a negative and switch it with a positive. You drink water, or coffee, or tea, and take your shirt off, and get some sun, maybe a tan. It almost feels like summer, or a boner, or amazing sex, though it’s not.

This exercise thing is incredible (a great and amazing word), it’s as if life has been re-blown back into me, I have been born again to myself, my religion. I feel alive again. Not only am I using my body for good, in attempting to catch fish—with miserable success, and walking aimlessly, I am running in the mornings, or when I can, to build muscle.

The truth of it is running is something I absolutely hate, though my body seems to like it. I am hating it a bit less now. I like jogging with my fiancée and pretending to beat her at a foot race. I am very slow, I run very slow; I enjoy seeing things at a slow pace, so this works out for me, for her, not so much. Activity is good.

Workshops (my favorite topic)

Workshops are great if you enjoy other people picking apart your personal art. How come Picasso never had a workshop with the local villagers, or his envious contemporaries? I imagine it would go something like this, “Oh, hey, Picasso, I think you should change this, paint this here, paint that there, then it looks better, I think, blah blah blah… I think this… I think that… Okay, maybe then it will be better”, and then Picasso says something like, “Fuck off”.

Isn’t he the master of his own work? Aren’t we the masters of ours? I don’t know.

The Senior Seminar Poetry workshop is rather daunting at times, we sit in this class for 2 hours and do the above. People come in and judge other people’s works, write shit on it, and then hand it back to them and leave. They voice their strong opinions, which are completely subjective and a waste of time—so that what, people can change their identity? I may read what they write and think, “Wow, that is one person’s honest opinion, they thought something, great. That is a huge thing to do, considering it is required. Do they represent the billions of other people who might enjoy it, maybe even love it? NO.” Then after I wipe my ass with it I feel better.

Workshops are like therapy for people who don’t believe in their writing, they are useless unless you want to get prescribed something that will cause more problems, or take care of your shitty, bad poetry. Perhaps they give me a suggestion similar to an English-esque Prozac, and I take it. My day is less real than my twilight dreams, so is my writing. I am a product of a product. I am no longer alive. I don’t know if I will take their prescription seriously, so 99% of the time I don’t.

If you go to therapy for people who don’t believe in their writing, of course something is wrong, you came to the writing therapist. So, of course they say something is wrong with your work, agreeing with you: you need to change this, you need to change that. What if your being wrong was your strong suit, your strength? I mean, you had something that no one else had—every diamond has its own unique flaw, you know—and that flaw was exactly what you wanted to change. You go home later and you change it because the group thought your work was complete shit, absolutely “pat”, and now you are only as good as that group. You have become the same as everyone else. Your writing has been affected, maybe for good, maybe for bad, but you are not the same writer you once were, you are of a collective mind, unoriginal. Now you must always go back and ask, “Is it better now?” or “Is it good enough?” As if anyone can tell you that in actuality, as if it fucking matters.

Now, this idea of writing therapy hangs over your head. Can you produce anything that people will like without drastically critiquing it? I say yes. I am sure that motherfuckers daily try to critique the Mona Lisa, yet would they be able to paint it as they see it? NO WAY EVER. Move along.

If you want to produce quality original art, create something you personally believe in, not because of anyone or anything else. Something that you yourself, no one else, believes in. Just believe in what you do, and then it is good! That is real art, you don’t need a workshop, or a group of slam poets to tell you right from wrong. No phonies needed, you can tell yourself. You don’t need a group of novices to tell you if you like the object you are creating, or if it will sell, or if it will be a success to you. It already is, if you just believe.


From now on I don’t think I will edit anymore, if you read mistakes above, great. I think I will just go and write, and whatever happens happens happens. People miss so much when they cut out all of the good stuff, like the: I almost shit my pants stuff, the boozy sweat weekend mornings stuff, the sheer public embarrassment stuff; we won’t find those scenarios on Facebook et al., yet we all equally have these experiences. Whatever, Selfie Masters can do whatever, they can edit and filter and cut and crop, they miss the big picture entirely. With words it’s kind of the same, though more fun to not edit. Readership not accounted for, this should be fun. Aufwiedersehen!


About Terry Scott Niebeling

Hello, My name is Terry Scott, a human being with flaws. twitter: @sirterryscott Buy my ebooks:
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