| || |
April is National Poetry Month, a fact which has little or nothing to do with my Monday Blog. But in anticipation of all of the events this busy month promises, I've been feeling, well, somewhat poetic of late. In the tradition of this blog's tendency to go slant on its subjects, I'm throwing in a little creative bonus this week. For each of the next seven days I'll be offering a rectangle of art along with its inscription, similar to something you might find in your mailbox. I'm calling this small series Postcards I Have Been.
Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy your travels—
MONDAY: POSTCARD the FIRST
| || |
Something has happened. It involved a derailment. Shorn fields, filigree, a vanishing point. I have been feeling outside myself. I would like to say I have seen your stars, but the sky is plainspoken and pained with daylight. When I try to look into it, I can only decipher the beginnings of bruise. But I wanted to tell you of the sunflowers, how improbable they are. And true. Were.
| || || |
| || |
TUESDAY: POSTCARD the SECOND
| || |
| || |
WEDNESDAY: POSTCARD the THIRD
| || |
| || |
THURSDAY: POSTCARD the FOURTH
| || |
| || |
SATURDAY: POSTCARD the SIXTH
| || |
| || |
SUNDAY: POSTCARD the SEVENTH
| || |
When word came this week that André Cassagnes, inventor of the Etch A Sketch, had died, a little dial twisted inside me, and a squiggly black line tugged at my heart.
I had never heard of Cassagnes, had never even considered that there might have been a real person behind that iconic, maddening toy of my childhood, behind tens of millions of other childhoods.But here was Cassagnes—baker's son, electrical technician, man with a story—and were it not for his invention which has endured for over fifty years and the obituary reporting his death at the age of 86, I never would have heard of him.
When I first read the news of his death, I thought I'd end up writing about toys and games—even candy bars—remembered from my past, many of which have been reappearing in the stores these days in a sort of retro revival. But then I got to thinking about the obituaries themselves, how they are fading toward their own demise. And how it's looking pretty unlikely that they will ever be revived.
The good, local newspapers still print them. These notices of death are often the only means that one-time friends and distant family members have to learn about the loss. An obituary offers the practical information about arrangements and services, but it also provides a public record of an person's life. These records can be precious to generations to come, links to an otherwise inaccessible history, but in the present moment, a community that values its humanity does itself well to take pause, if only for a moment, and recognize the loss of those who have walked in its midst.It's particularly sad to note that my own community newspaper, for economic reasons, has ceased to publish the standard obituaries. Sure, an option remains for loved ones to pay for column space to post a personally written notice. But while these paid remembrances can be heartwarming as well as illuminating, they are infrequently timely, and no replacement for those traditional postings, wherein each of the lost, regardless of means or history or social status, had one final chance to stand equally among all for recognition. For remembrance. The barest bones of our lives have become, it seems, as ephemeral as a child's scrawlings on an Etch A Sketch
| || |
Before I begin, a confession—
Despite my determination of last Monday's blog not to turn up the thermostat before November 1st . . . I turned up the thermostat.
It was cold. I am weak.
This morning, though, a draft of a different sort—a first draft.
I'm looking for inspiration. Oh, sure, I have a project I'm working on. I have several projects I'm working on. I have a new book I'm putting together. I have deadlines. I have commitments.
You'd think that somewhere in all of that there would be an idea or two, some new blood burbling, but you'd be wrong. The buckets are roped, ready to be dropped down into the hole. But the well is dry.
A friend of mine tells me that you can sell writers anything. She says writers are always looking for the magic, that they will forever believe that someone else is holding it. I co-host a poetry series, and one of the things we always ask our readers is to provide the audience with a note or two about their writing routines. What's their process, their magic?
I know I'm interested in process. One of the things I love most in my writerly world is to sit around with my others and jabber on about the things we do to make it happen--the pen-picking, the scribbling, the word-listing, the dog-petting, the tea-making, the candle-lighting, the on-and-on-and-on-and on-ing. But the sad news of me is that I don't have a process. Whatever fooling and futzing I might engage in are undeniably from the playbook of Procrastination 101. If there's a lit candle in the room, it's only there for me to entertain myself by running my finger through the flame.
So what to do when there's nothing to do? Oh, wait a minute! I know!!
I'd tell you, but I'm afraid I'd spoil the magic.
| |Hallmark, the greeting card behemoth, is worried.
Today's Associated Press article tells me that consumers are buying a lot fewer—a billion fewer— greeting cards per year than they were a decade ago.
A number like a billion doesn't mean all that much to me. I understand numbers that come in the size of fingers on hands or eggs in a carton or dollars on an electric bill. But I get the general idea: a billion is a lot of cards and sales are going away.
It's not hard to figure this out. With so many ways—speedy ways—to communicate, who's got the inclination to take the time to choose a card, dig up an address and slap on a stamp, not to mention hunt down a mail box to drop it in?
I'm not really feeling blue about Hallmark. Big companies have a way of tacking when market conditions shift. (Though I do feel for labor when an industry's in transition.) But I do get a bit downcast thinking about what we lose when we abandon the tactile for the virtual, the plodding for the quick.
Don't get me wrong: I love speed. I love immediacy. I love that I can take care of business in almost-real-time. I love that I can type a note to a friend in a jiff, hit the send button, and by the time I've reached for my mug and taken a sip of tea, my little bit of correspondence has already arrived at its destination. Instant gratification!
But I'm convinced of the value of the old-fashioned ways of correspondence. And it's not really about the mass-produced Hallmark sentiment. I'm thinking of the love note tucked in a lunch pail, the personal invitation, the letter of condolence, the unexpected missive sent off to a friend.I actually make a lot of my cards. Or cobble my cards from a jumble of materials I keep on hand. I thrill to the trappings: the paper and the pens and the scissors. The rulers and the glues and the razor blades. Friends sometimes tell me how pleased they are with what I've sent. But I don't really know if they at all understand where it is I'm coming from. When I collect those materials to fashion a card or choose the words to compose a note, the pleasure is entirely mine. What joy it is to offer a friend a piece of me that says, I saved this moment to think of you. Only you.
| || |
| |People sometimes comment on how creative I am.HaHaHaHaHaHaHa!There isn't an original bone in my body. Those moments of cleverness? They're mostly stolen, not even on the sneak, from other sources. And usually those sources have been around a while (my keepers will tell you I don't get out much), although they may be brand spanking new to me.
For instance, my wonderful, anonymous friend who writes a fantastic blog all about Oregon, recently sent me a link to an article about found poetry cobbled together from the spines of books. I've written previously about the joys of cut-and-paste, so of course this had instant appeal for me. I quickly summoned The Genie Google and did a hasty search for book spine poetry, a search which came up with approximately 500,000 hits! A half a million? Hmmmm. Alas and alack, once again I've arrived at the ball long after the glass slipper's found its foot.
Little matter. A good idea's a good idea, and any day I can find a new way to get the poetic love juices flowing is a very fine day indeed. So I've been writing. Or more accurately, I've been stacking books, and the poems—somehow, miraculously—have been writing themselves. Cock your head 90 degrees and take a good look at those bookshelves of yours. You'll never see your books in the same way again!
THE SIMPLE TRUTH
you've just been told
you have time for this,
this clumsy living.
Looking for luck,
the light comes slowly.
| |I'm getting letters.
Asking where the letters are.
Let's just say I'm a bit behind with my correspondence. Not good for someone who bills herself as a letter writer. (See that bit of puffery on the right-hand side of this page, just above the Nancy postage stamp?)I have a satchel full of excuses. I even have a little beaded coin purse in which a couple of legitimate reasons are clinking together, making merry in the dark. But when I look in my stamp drawer and see the meticulously cared-for bonsai, the folksy bouquet, a swampy landscape and those 10 poets' omniscient faces, I'm reminded of the real faces peering into empty postboxes, expecting to find a letter that not only isn't there, but isn't even on its way to being there. The check's in the mail, the old joke goes. To those of you who've sent out the needle (you know who you are) and to those of you who wish you had, let me say this: The letter's in the mail. And that's no joke.
| || |
| |I write poems.
I submit poems to literary journals.
Sometimes my poems are accepted by a literary journal, which responds with a very nice note and—ACK!—a request for a biographical note.
We all have things we love to do, even though there may be elements of the doing that we don't love. I love writing first lines. I love the buffing and glossing, the rock-polishing of a new poem. I love packing my little gems in their electronic pouches and sending them off to market. And hoo-boy, I'll admit it: I love acceptance letters.
What I do not love is the subsequent, inevitable request for the biographical note. Send us a few words about yourself, the editor might write. Our readers report that our Bios page is one of the things they love most about our magazine. Eeep! All that labor of buffing and polishing, and the readers want to know about the quarry?I have a stock version, a version that would make a Mad Lib fan very happy. It goes something like this: [name] is the author of [title]. Her [plural noun] have appeared in many [another plural noun], including [title] and [another title]. She lives in the State of [noun]. Filled in, this might read something like Nancy Carol Moody is the author of Please Please Please Don't Make Me. Her rough drafts have appeared in many trash cans, including The Kitchen Trash Can and The Hall Closet Trash Can. She lives in the State of Dishabille.Despite the contradictory evidence of my self-promotional website and a couple of self-indulgent blogs, I'm not much for showing my cap, much less feathering it. (No, really. Truly. Really really truly.) But in the interest of satisfying those wonderful editors who pull my work out of the slush and place it in their journals for their readers—my readers—to discover, I offer a tip of my cap, this new, upgraded version of my bio note. Trust me on this—I've dug deep:
NANCY CAROL MOODY was born on one of the stormiest nights of the decade,
the hospital running in the dim of generator power. It is entirely possible
that in all the chaos the name tag was switched on Moody's bassinet
and that she is actually the child of fantastically rich, though not necessarily famous, parents.
Her family included 11 invented siblings and Anita, a much-loathed imaginary friend.
Moody's childhood was marked by several traumatic incidents, including having mispronounced
the word "jealous" in the second grade (much to the mocking delight of her classmates)
as well as the unfortunate spillage of a contraband box of Red Hots
during third-grade arithmetic class. On more than one occasion she stole paper
from the teachers' storage cubbies at Our Lady of Guadalupe School.
Moody has a B.A. in Psychology, which explains nothing. And everything.
She has trouble distinguishing east from west, though right and left are rarely a problem.
The round mole on her shoulder has been removed, but left her with
a lifetime of anxiety in the presence of polka dots.
She also suffers from intermittent phantosmia, olfactory hallucinations
which cause her to smell cigarette smoke when it isn't there,
and she likes to believe the twitch in her nose is a consequence of her plastic surgery, though others tend to roll their eyes when she suggests this may be the case.
She prefers that strangers ask before they touch her hair.
Moody loves the combined smell of popcorn and new rubber in the waiting room
of Les Schwab Tires, the sound of a squealing fan belt, the heft
of a Swiss Army knife, and salt on her ice cream.
The children's book, Love You Forever, will forever and ever make her cry.
I was published this morning.
In the "Mailbag" (aka: Letters to the Editor) section of the Register-Guard, our local newspaper.
What fired me up was a headline which appeared a few days ago above an article about a trio of 20-ish siblings who'd been "spinning cookies" in their car, the driver allegedly drunk. The headline referred to the behavior as "driving antics."
Antics? Really? Dictionary.com, my handy ready-reference, defines antic(s) as "a playful trick or prank." To my mind, there is nothing playful, tricky or prankish about such behavior. And I imagine—would like to imagine—that most grown-ups agree with me on that.
Don't worry. However worthy a rant, I'm not going to lecture about drinking and driving. (I'll leave that to MADD, which has spent three decades working to get that particular message across.) My beef is with sloppy language—in this case, the sloppy editing that allowed a headline to equate reckless endangerment with playground hijinks.I can't speak to what led the writer of that particular headline to miscast the word "antics," though I can theorize aplenty: Was it a lack of understanding of the actual definition of the word? Tone-deafness to the nuances of meaning? A biased perspective on the seriousness of driving while impaired? Perhaps it was a simple matter of economy, the word chosen for the purpose of meeting that day's space requirements. Regardless of the reason, the choice of one word over another can make a huge difference in the message we send.Today's editor didn't have to print my letter with its stinging tone. But it was printed. I like to think that my message was heard. That it was important enough to pass along.Our voices matter. Words matter. Choose wisely.
I've been a bit stuck lately, writing-wise. I don't get much into the muse-myth (sparkly ideas landing unbidden on my shoulder) or the notion of writer's block (bricks—unbidden as well— blamming down to squash the sparkle). I'm pretty much of the school that believes that you just pull up your big-girl underpants and get the work done.
One of the things I do to get in the mood when I'm not in the mood is take a little side-trip through my Drafts folder in search of an idea to kick-start my ambition. The Drafts are little baubles that once caught my eye, but didn't quite make the cut on paper. In theory, what once glittered is still gold, but that doesn't always prove to be the case. This example, for instance, which just last night I hauled up from the muck:
No one knew
where the cat came from,
but there it was in
behind the baptismal font,
ready to strike.
Huh????? I have absolutely no idea where that came from, nor do I now find that passage the least bit interesting, but it does get me thinking about baptismal fonts and black cats:
Which gets me thinking about mosaics and Halloween:
Which gets me thinking about witches and food:
Which gets me thinking about television and good food:
Which gets me thinking about France and French cooking:
Which gets me thinking about Julia Child and that poem about her I've been hungry to write . . .
So what have I been stalling around for?