UPDATED to correct where the reading actually takes place: Open Books. Apologies.
Last week at the Hugo House in the middle of a packed reading, local poet Elizabeth Austen read from her new book, Every Dress a Decision, and I heard something I've never heard before in all the readings I've ever attended. Austen read from her poem, "The Girl Who Goes Alone." It begins with some thoughts on stranger-danger and the perceived vulnerability of girls, and it builds into a meditation about going out into the wilderness alone after the end of a relationship with a gorgeous, nature-loving man.
Austen knows how to read a poem: Her voice, which started quietly, built into something fiery and raw. At the end of the poem, just after the very last line, was the thing I'll always remember: Somewhere in the audience, a woman groaned out loud with pleasure. Or maybe it was a moan. No, on second thought, it was definitely a groan: It came from somewhere deep and gravelly. It was in the split-second between when a poem ends and when the audience starts applauding, and it was a perfect little moment, a sexual sound barging into the middle of polite company. Everyone understood where the groaner was coming from. The poem felt like a release for everybody. Some of us laughed at the recognition.
Austen reads tonight at
Elliott Bay Book Company Open Books. You should go. You can read more about her book in this week's books lead, and you can find out what else is going on tonight in the readings calendar.