I finally completed my second practicum. This one was at Busboys & Poets, during the TOTUS reunion dinner. While I was nervous at the thought of embarrassing myself in front of a crowd of people outside the safety of the university, I was nowhere as nervous the previous week. I was scared when we arrived but I had not been having anxiety attacks at the thought of performing beforehand. Even though I know I still have a ways to go, I’m very proud of how far I’ve come and very grateful that TOTUS gave me the opportunity to grow as a person and, and as a poet, and as a performer.

I also felt more confident with changing my poem. While I was practicing in a corner before the open mic event started, I thought of a line that would add some humor to my poem and had no problem adding it in. Comparing this to my first practicum, where I tried desperately to memorize my poem and was scared of changing it in the few days before the performance because I was so scared I would forget it or mess it up, I’ve changed dramatically. I was more confident coming up to my second practicum, and I made changes without needing to go over every line with someone else. I appreciate (and appreciated) everyone’s feedback, but at times felt like I relied on it too much, and that it stifled my own words because I needed approval for every new word I added. However, I felt more in control, and I felt like I could write new lines without needing to run to someone else for them to approve it.

When I finally went on stage to perform, I was so nervous all I could hear was my heart pounding in my ears. However, as soon as I started speaking, all that went away, and I said the old lines as well as the new with confidence. I was happy that I had to stop when people laughed at the funny lines, and love the affirmative “hmmm”s and the snaps that came after I delivered the lines that I thought were poignant. It felt so good to be able to connect with people using the lines I had felt resonated with me, and having those lines hit the audience hard. It felt exhilarating.

One thing that made me nervous after I went up was the woman who went after me. She said that my poem reminded her of a quote which read “Those who stay silent when they witness oppression join the ranks of the oppressor.” It bothered me while I was there because my poem was about me staying silent as I saw racism manifest itself because I was too scared to say something. I’m not sure she meant it as I heard it, but that was how it came off to me. Finally, as I was leaving, so many people came up to me and told me how much they liked my poem, and how it really resonated with them, and how they could relate to it. It made me feel like I created something beautiful and valuable with my words.