Poetry readings incite audience emotions

Nov. 3, 2011 at 6:03 a.m.

E. Ethelbert Miller reads an excerpt from a poem at the American Book Review reading series on Thursday afternoon.

E. Ethelbert Miller reads an excerpt from a poem at the American Book Review reading series on Thursday afternoon.

E. Ethelbert Miller asked his audience who'd had their ears professionally cleaned.

Just a few raised their hands, and Miller, a poet and literary activist based in Washington, D.C., shared about the profane-ridden bus ride that sparked the odd question and one of his poems.

"It was the language that left us first. The Great Migration of words," he read from his poem, "The Ear is an Organ Made for Love."

He continued, "When people spoke, they punched each other in the mouth. There was no vocabulary for love."

Contrary to some metropolitan public transportation, Miller seemed to have pleased the ears of another packed house at the American Book Review's reading series at the University of Houston-Victoria on Thursday afternoon.

Audience members laughed at nostalgic scenes he painted of the world before cell phones and before people wore sneakers to funerals. They quickly quieted when Miller hinted at a child abused by her father and women oppressed in Iran.

After the end of each reading, a quiet "hmm" escaped the crowd, while the words settled as much in the auditorium as they did in minds.

Miller wove his poetry from a soothing, rhythmic voice to rapid excerpts and scenes punctuated with pauses. In one instance, he revealed some humorous sex advice from his mother and in another, a somber moment in which he visited her in the hospital.

He read another poem, this one called "Boxing with your Mom."

"Her moods change so quick you can't avoid her jabs. There's bitterness in each blow. She has you against the wall. You're fighting with her again. This is sick you say to yourself. You want to leave, but the bell never rings. You're trying to love her too much. You're losing another round."

Miller was forced to cancel his visit to last year's ABR series due to the death of his mother.

By then, audience member Ken Titt had already identified with Miller's book, "The 5th Inning."

In preparation for this year, Titt, 62, read "Fathering Words," which confirmed to Titt that he and Miller had a connection that transcended being different races raised in markedly different parts of the country.

"I thought he was writing the same things I wanted to write, the things I wanted to express," Titt said.

He told Miller the same.

"It puts a person and a face behind the words that I related to when I read both books," Titt said.

Miller said he's just satisfied his words resonated with the Victoria audience and Titt in particular.

"Writing is a lonely task," he said. "And then when somebody takes that into their lives, it's a blessing."

[EDIT: Titt’s name was originally misspelled in the story.]



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