The First Time I Read My Poems in a Hat
by Carol A. Stephen

at an open mic, I’m too terrified
to be myself, to stand in front, to speak
my own words to all those faces, other poets,
the ones who read their poems with aplomb.

I think of The Hat. It’s a beautiful hat:
swirled brown Swakara fur, pure white ostrich feather.
A frivolous hat, a dramatic hat,
an important kind of hat.

When I place it on my head, I become The Poet,
take on a new persona sporting a splendid plume.
I might be a musketeer, a courtier, grande dame,
I might be anyone but me.

No one sees the paper shake, nor hears
the tremor in my voice. What they see
isn’t really me. They see The Poet,
and it’s all about the poem, all about that hat.

PHOTO: The author at home in her hat.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I bought the hat on a whim at a fur shop, because it was such a whimsical hat, and it went well with my favourite coat. But that one day, I needed something to give me an extra boost. I spotted the hat on a shelf in the hallway, and took it along on a whim to the  Sasquatch Poetry Series in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where I read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Carol A. Stephen is a Canadian poet. Her poetry has appeared in Bywords Quarterly Journal and two Tree Press/phaphours press collaborative chapbooks. You can also find Carol’s poems on-line at and in videos at Twice shortlisted,  in 2012 Carol won third place in Canadian Authors Association National Capital Writing Contest. She’s the author of three chapbooks, Above the Hum of Yellow JacketsArchitectural Variations, and Ink Dogs in my Shoes (2014), as well as a collaborative chapbook with JC Sulzenko, Breathing Mutable Air (2015), and a  chapbook of ekphrastic poems, Slant of Light (2016). Visit her at