Reading is Fearless: A Boiler Room Reading Series Experience

This is my last week as an undergrad. When I signed up for the April Boiler Room Reading Series I thought, “I want to do this one last time before I leave.”

The first time I read at the Boiler Room Reading Series, last year, I was terrified. I was new at Western, but I was still happy to get my work out there. I read a piece of fiction that I had workshopped in Barb Harroun’s intro to creative writing class. That first reading is a bit of a blur, I know my legs were shaking as I stood at the podium. The art gallery was packed full that Friday. People in the back had to stand.

The April Boiler Room was a special poetry addition, celebrating poetry month. The turnout was much more casual than my first reading. As an end-of-the-year event, a huge crowd isn’t expected; everyone is cramming at this point in the semester.

Standing in front of your peers and professors and reading your work is rather nerve racking. You hope people laugh when you expect them to laugh. You hope people sigh when you read a particularly powerful line. And they do. You know Barb Harroun will give you each reaction you’d hoped for.

“Alyson, that was fearless,” Barb said to me after the reading.

I read eight poems. Eight poems that I had been working on for months leading up to April. I wanted to showcase my best work. I wrote about sex, masturbation, sexism, being an outcast, wanting to quit, and about my family. Three of my poems were about my little brother and his drug addiction.

Dakota Carlson, Dr. Merrill Cole, and Alyson Eagan stand proudly around a metal rooster after reading at the final Boiler Room Reading Series of the school year.

Dakota Carlson, Dr. Merrill Cole, and Alyson Eagan stand proudly around a metal rooster after reading at the final Boiler Room Reading Series of the school year.

“…And when I write a memoir it won’t be about me.” As I finished reading the last line of the last poem I read, my absolute favorite, I looked up at Dr. Merrill Cole to see him beaming.

I am proud of myself.

These are the moments I live for. Standing in front of my friends and favorite professors, surrounded by artwork. These people come for art. They come because they love it just as much as me. These are my people.

Dakota Carlson and Dr. Cole read their own collections of poetry, which were deeply moving. The first poem Merrill had for us was presented by a team of student readers, including Dakota, each reading a different line as a character in the work. It was sort of a postmodern technique and I thought it really stood out as something deep with many voices.

“Do you want to hear a sex poem?” Merrill jokingly asked. I smiled, knowing that I had already set the stage for this type of reading, already having covered the bases of masturbation and promiscuous sexual activities.

Apart from the artwork and the reading, there were delicious baked goods, as always (thanks Barb), and afterward, Dakota, Merrill, and I posed for photos next to a lovely metal rooster.

I am cripplingly shy and I hate public speaking, but I love reading out loud. It’s always terrifying and exhilarating, and I never regret it. I strongly encourage any writers out there who are serious about sharing, and hearing others as well, to read for the Boiler Room Reading Series.