Laid-back confidence. If I had to briefly describe Nick Flynn’s reading of his newest book of poetry “My Feelings,” laid-back confidence would be the first phrase that came to my mind. Flynn leaned against the podium during the reading like it was an old friend, completely comfortable and content. This comfort and calm emanated from him and spread throughout the audience. Although Flynn was sharing his deepest thoughts and feelings, the atmosphere remained at ease and intrigued. Flynn seemed so familiar with the selected poems he read that the words smoothly drifted off the pages and into everybody in the crowd’s imaginations.
Walsh Theater was stifling warm and occupied by poetry enthusiasts on Wednesday, February 3rd at 7:00. I observed old friends catching up with one another from the back of the theater, handshakes and hugs were sprinkled all around. When Flynn made his way on stage, acquaintances parted so they could take their seats and a hush fell over the theater. After a few clicks a short film appeared on the screen. It was of a helicopter in flight over a desolate field with a voice over of Flynn reading one of his poems. There was complete silence except for the buzzing of the helicopter on the screen and the intensity of Flynn’s words as he tried to justify and understand his mother’s suicide through a poem. Flynn made his way back to the stage when the film finished to an awed crowd. He explained how the film was a collaboration with a friend and then quickly opened his copy of “My Feelings” and began flipping through the pages.
As I watched Flynn flip through the pages, randomly stopping at a poem here or a poem there, I was unsure whether he had previously planned out which ones he wanted to read or was just “going with the flow.” This relaxed, stress-free vibe, reflected Flynn perfectly to me. He read a selection of six poems and had an image to represent each one. The poems were very personal like, “The Day Lou Reed Died,” which compared Reed to his estranged father and explained how he hardly knew either of them and “My Feelings,” which gave an in depth look at how he felt at the exact moment he wrote the poem. One special poem was based off of a drawing his daughter had created and reflected on his journey with fatherhood. My favorite poem however, was one he wrote for his friends’ wedding. The way he depicted soul mates with the poem left me with a resounding hope and longing for love. At the beginning of the poem he was dark and pessimistic, comparing marriage to nature and how nothing is supposed to last, how love will die along with the leaves in the winter. But, at the end of the poem with the last few lines, Flynn explained that one morning you will realize you are laying in bed with your soul mate and you will question how you woke up all the other mornings without them.
At the conclusion of the reading there was a short Q&A between Flynn and the audience. One thing stuck out to me during this session; each person that asked Flynn a question included a personal interpretation. Flynn would think and then say he liked the way they viewed a certain aspect of his poems before going on with a response to their question. Poetry had always scared me because I never thought I could quite grasp what the author of the poem was trying to say but by the end of the reading I was hit with a realization. I was not supposed to find the meaning, just a meaning and it took Nick Flynn pondering over the audience’s views and questions for me to see that.