Overall my first poetry reading program was successful; at sixteen people, the attendance was unusually large for this type of program and I was not the only one who had a good time. Although the majority of attendees were from my church, six came from the community at large, indicating some effectiveness in the advertising.
The advertising for the event included posting fliers and handouts at the Silver Spring Library (both on the bulletin board and on the adult floor) and at the Wheaton Friends of the Library Bookstore at the Old Silver Spring Library, putting an event announcement in the Silver Spring Patch, having it announced in a Women of Wallace emailing (Wallace Presbyterian is my church), having handouts at church, and personally contacting some church people about the program. Having ten people from my church show support was rather encouraging.
The preparations for the program were somewhat intimidating. If I had not had significant support from Chris Pressau, Laurie Crunk, and Karen Frank, I might well have been overwhelmed by the extent and unfamiliarity of the effort. All three were involved in some aesthetic decisions and in moral support — the importance of which should not be underestimated. Chris and Laurie advised on advertising; Laurie put the program on the library's event calendar (as well as assisted generally in interfacing with the county, even adding — at no cost — time and space to my room reservation) and Chris announced the program in the aforementioned church-related emailing. Chris was heavily involved in the selection and presentation of the refreshments, making some (reimbursed) purchases, providing serveware, and doing much of the preparation work; she also took pictures.
With respect to the program proper, I am quite happy with my selection of works and the recitation had relatively few and entirely minor errors. Most of the attendees stayed after the end for conversation, which indicates some success; I certainly enjoyed my part.
Perhaps the most prominent failing was not allocating sufficient time after the program for conversation and clean up. I had not expected people to talk afterwards, especially not to me, and I had not realized that the room was expected to be cleared a half hour before the library closed. Even without my mistake about how long the reservation was actually for — the library staff was very forgiving for my occupying the room past the allowed time —, the clean-up was very rushed even with help from several people. Being able to merely carry much of the remaining refreshements to the staff break room was also quite helpful.
The lottery for giving away extra copies of Sonnets from the Portuguese turned out to be entirely unnecessary; no one took a scroll. Some did not understand that the books were free for the taking and so four of the first-come-first-served copies were left when the program began. (I am proud of the attractiveness of the ribbon-tied scrolls — and of the discovery that a prescription bottle could hold a loosely rolled scroll for attaching the ribbon and the ribbon could later tighten the rolling. This technique may be useful in the future.)
I am not certain whether requesting reservations would have been helpful. Such might have discouraged some attendance and might not have been helpful for knowing how many would attend as one would have to account for no-shows and drop-ins. Knowing the number of attendees in advance would have been helpful for setting up the room and preparing refreshments. Knowing that the audience would not be uncomfortably small would also be a significant comfort.
I do wish that I had gotten more feedback about how people had learned of the program — which forms of advertising were effective —, how much the performance was enjoyed, and how much the refreshements were enjoyed as well as an indication of interest in a future program. One audience member commented to a friend of mine that the refreshments were like a full English tea; another told me directly that books were usually sold at such programs not given away. One person asked about how I had made the selection; sadly, I did not provide a good answer as I had not recorded the process thoroughly and much of the selection was merely a matter of taste.
The following pictures testify that the refreshments were abundant, diverse, and attractively presented (thanks to Chris Pressau, who also took these photographs) and that I enjoy reciting.