You remember, before you left the house going to someone’s house your mother reminded you of the etiquette rules:
“When we get over here, you better NOT embarrass me! If there is something on your plate you don’t like, don’t you go making a big scene!
You push it over to the side and eat around it. When you’re done with what you want, put your napkin over the plate and politely put it down
by your feet!”
The proper time to voice your complaints were when you got in the car or home. You could ask, “who made the potato salad?” You could pass your judgement, ‘It was warm or it was too yellow or it had no taste or the potatoes were hard’. Your mother was simply appeased you behaved while in public even through your discomfort.
When I think of the role of writers, in particular poets, I liken them to the scribes that documented the first civilizations. Because of them, we have knowledge of the rituals, colors, fashions, and more. The role of the scribe, prepared the civilizations dynasties to be immortal. Their role was to be servants of the community.
I have often suggested that poets today have the same role and responsibility. Every artists desires for their work to be admired by an audience. These days poetry venues are a dime a dozen so when the audience comes, outside of the other performing poets, your art has to hold their attention. Your art has to engage them enough to bring them back. How does one achieve that? By communicating the dialogue and happenings in the community. By serving as a news reporter almost to provide an overall snapshot of the happenings in the surrounding areas. Poets need to release the ‘self serving, I am’ poems and involve more of the ‘we are, let’s do’ poems.
Once this responsibility is established, poets can then make determination based on subject matter presented throughout the night to ensure the audience is well fed with information. I’ve often made analogies at poetry venues for the poets to not continue the same energy. If the mood is serious, perhaps you should serve some pie to lighten or sweeten the mood. This balanced energy of artistic expression will ensure that the audience is engaged in the art of poetry.
This also trains the audience to follow the etiquette rules their mother taught them. If an artist gets on the stage and is not speaking/performing to their taste, “…eat around it. When you’re done with what you want, put your napkin over the plate and politely put it down by your feet!” Rest assured, this is your community and the scribes have come to serve you. Sooner or later someone will get behind the mic, dishing some potato salad to your taste.