What To Do About Sharks
If a hammerhead or a great white makes waves during your workshop or poetry reading, don't flap your elbows or slap at it with rolled manuscripts. Sharks thrive on visual stimulation.
Blow out candles. Ease away from the podium, and wait at least ten minutes before going for a light switch. Join hands to keep karma with the other poets. It's okay to recite poems you memorized in fifth grade, Joyce Kilmer, in desperation, even Longfellow.
Rule of thumb: it's a shark not a dolphin if it is slamming about the room, hugging, blowing air kisses. Performers, sharks are almost all instinct and no brain. Without a sense of occasion, they'll crash any gig, underwater or not, from Madagascar to Malibu.
Being eyed by a shark can be exasperating, but don't rush or shift from foot to foot to induce motion sickness. Sharks are immune. They are, however, dyslexic. Flash cover quotes, prize-winning poems directly in front of both eyes. Better yet—stop reading. Pull your new hardback from a knapsack, and if the shark noses you with repeated sharp jabs, hit it on the snout.
If all else fails, sharks have a keen sense of hearing. Sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic at the top of your lungs. Sharks have short attention spans, get bored, leave if there is no open mike. So, swing into another verse: Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.
Copyright © 2008 by Vivian Shipley. First published in the Paterson Literary Review. Used by permission of the author.