When it comes to poetry readings, I firmly believe that 95% of the common ones just bore the entire audience, while the other 5% completely engage everyone's complete attention. I will always remember how Maya Angelou completely owned an entire gymnasium for an entire hour before everyone just sort of floated out into the parking lot. At Cal Poly, everyone hung on every word of Sekou the Misfit; and in Boulder, everyone in the super-cool, totally apathetic coffee shop would suddenly stop talking and stop drinking whatever they were drinking when Glenn Hergenhahn took the stage.
Last week, Will Jones had one of those unforgettable performances. He packed the the room at the Palm Street Theater, and had everyone laughing, and feeling, and sharing in the communal experience of life. The audience's appreciation of his words was evident—like the cases I mentioned above, I don't think a single person missed a single word.
Will was a role model of mine when he was a principal at SLO High (where I taught English). Now, he's a role model in retirement. It seems every week, he's climbing a large mountain or publishing an article. This poetry reading was a perfect example, one where he explicitly announced: "This is how you do retirement!" He had all the bravado and personal excitement of somebody running down their bucket list, but he balanced it with a humorous humility, exemplified when he proudly announced that we could buy a signed copy of his book, and then immediately admitted with a big smile, "I have no idea who I think I am."
The poetry itself was a great lesson on how to look at, appreciate, and reflect on life.
The poetry reading was a great lesson on how to actually live life.
More of this, everybody. More of this.
P.S. Will wrote on his Facebook page, "True Stories from My Past Volume 2, is now available online at Half.com. Go to www.Half.com and enter the title or the ISBN, 9781495146138, to order a copy. I will mail it to you personally."
And there's also a great YouTube video of one of his poems at https://youtu.be/TdVmkJSIQz0