A wonderous thing happened on Saturday afternoon when Ohio’s Appalachian poets gathered at the Summit Artspace in Akron to read their poetry from “I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices.” The Anthology is edited by Ohio’s Poet Laureate, Kari Gunter-Seymour (www.karigunterseymourpoet.com) and published by Hayley Mitchell Haugen at Sheila-Na-Gig Editions (www.sheilanagigblog.com). It was a perfect brew of poetry, energy, and emotion.
I was the second poet to read, which I considered to be quite an honor. I read my poem from the Anthology, “Rainbow on the Bathroom Rug: Akron Pride,” as well as the poem about my father from “If There’s No Heaven” entitled “Imperfect Strangers.” I got emotional during both of my poems, which was unexpected but not totally unprecedented. Marilyn came up and stood beside me, and Kari gave me a big hug. (I told Marilyn later that she does not have to rescue me each time, but I appreciated her doing so.) The next poet was a person that I hold in high regard and esteem, and he thanked me “for opening my heart” and “opening the space.” He also got emotional during his reading, and throughout the afternoon, three other poets got emotional during their readings of their poignant and personal poetry.
Our society often views showing emotion as a sign of weakness and there is a stigma surrounding it. I’m certain that is what my father believed. However, it actually is a display of courage because it takes strength to open your heart in the presence of others and display your vulnerability. Saturday’s poetry reading was a safe space in which we could fully display our innermost thoughts, feelings, and passions. However, that has not always been the case.
Last summer at a poetry reading I got very emotional as I read my poetry. Afterwards, I was told, “I was brave to get up there, but my reading was not very good.” I admit that I am overly sensitive sometimes due to my low self-esteem and imposter syndrome, but that comment affected me. This same person had already insulted me once before when I was told how I should revise a poem at a reading like the person was some kind of poetry god handing down edicts from on high.
After that first incident, I authored a poem entitled “Anguish of My Soul,” in which I wrote:
I am more fragile than
I thought or hoped.
allowing assholes to bring me down
instead of shielding myself
with the armor of a goddess,
or loving myself enough
to put the broken pieces back together.
I resisted showing emotion my whole life. That is what I was taught to do. But it has become much easier since I transitioned. I am much stronger now too, and I do know how to better shield myself from assholes. There is power in showing emotion, and it is actually a form of resistance that I will never ever hesitate to show again.
Barbara Marie Minney is a transgender woman, poet, writer, speaker, and quiet activist. She is a retired attorney and originally from West Virginia. Now based in Tallmadge, Ohio, her first collection of poetry entitled “If There’s No Heaven” was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award and the Akron Beacon Journal Best Northeast Ohio Books 2020. It is available at www.poetryislifepublishig.com. Follow her at www.barbaramarieminneypoetry.com.