At 5-something this morning, through the haze of my post-dream stupor, I heard the TV weatherdude introduce his forecast for the day: If you hated yesterday, you'll hate today.

Well good morning to you and thanks for the cheer, I thought as I rolled over and wrapped myself in the cozy blanket of just a few minutes more.


It's not that bad. Actually it's not bad at all, and I think our weatherdude's just a tad grumpy about October meaning it's off with the Birkenstocks and back on with the socks. However belatedly it arrived, our summer lasted a long and easy while, though I will admit it's hard to wave adieu.

Here in Oregon, autumn takes its time revving up, and while some trees have already turned to sticks, others are lackadaisical about revealing their colors, the oranges and reds creeping into their leaves like trick-or-treaters sneaking up to a shadowy porch.

Now the sky is about clouds. And intermittent rain. And swirl and bluster. The temperature has taken a dip, and if you're anything like I am, refusing on principle to turn the thermostat up before November 1st, the chill can be a bit shocking to the bones.

Yesterday, on my neighborhood walk, I captured a maple leaf and brought it home to slip in a card I'll send to a California friend. It's not an easy labor, choosing just one leaf to represent an entire season. I thought of Joy Sexton, daughter of the poet Anne. Early October, 1974: Joy away at school and selecting her own such leaf, slipping it in an envelope and mailing it to her mother. By the time Joy's offering arrived, Anne was dead, lost to a turn of key and a gas-filled garage.

I've often wondered if Joy regretted sending the leaf, disintegrating symbol of all that would forever be left undone. Or did she manage to hold onto a small sort of glad—for the reaching out, for the having tried?

I'm thinking about my early morning weatherdude, assuming yesterday's script has already written today's. I'm thinking, too, that every dropped leaf presents an opportunity. Just listen to the way each one shuffles when your feet plow through.

But, by golly, I'm not turning that thermostat up for another 10 days!

 
 
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

Sweet Machine,
you've just been told
you have time for this,
this clumsy living.

Looking for luck,
flying blind,
the light comes slowly.

Brace yourself.

 
 
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.


 
 
When I was a kid, I loved the ransom notes on the TV detective shows: a piece of grimy paper covered with letters cut out from magazines: 1 million $$ if U ever want 2 see your kid alive again. No cops.

Forget the mystery; I wanted paper and scissors and a pile of magazines. I'd be happy cutting letters out to make messages all the livelong day.

Which is why, given the chance this past weekend to join Sally Ehrman's Cut-up Poetry workshop at the Northwest Poets' Concord, I jumped at the opportunity to spend the 9 o'clock hour playing cut-and-paste.
One hour's precious little time to create a poem from a random source, but Sally had all the tools ready for us to use: blank paper, scissors, glue sticks, and a stack of pages culled from old magazines and books. The timer ratcheted, and we all took to our tasks: cut cut cut arrange arrange glue. And too soon came the end: DING! The final few minutes of the session were dedicated to reading our poems. Mine was nothing to blog about, the ending leaping off a non-sequiturial cliff, but it sure felt good in the making:
Ten o-clock and all was well, but turns out there was another joy embedded in the workshop . . .

A few days prior, as I was taking my morning shower, I was obsessively trying to recall the lines from a beloved poem, Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias," entirely frustrated with myself for not being able to remember all the end rhymes. But by the time the water was turned off and I'd finished up with the towel dance, my brain was already away on other adventures and I forgot my mission to look up the poem in order to refresh my memory banks.

So what unbounded joy to find among my allotment of 10-or-so workshop pages a sheet torn from an old literature book, all 14 lines of dear "Ozymandias" right there in front of me, right in my hands! The odds of that??


I'm thinking I should blame those two vast and trunkless legs of stone for the colossal wreck of my cut-up poem. "Ozymandias" was the first thing I cut out with my scissors on Saturday morning. And I wasn't about to cut it up.
 
 
Picture
On Saturday evening I attended a reading at Tsunami Books. One of the two featured poets* was my friend, Catherine McGuire, whose new chapbook, Palimpsests, has just been released by Uttered Chaos Press. Cathy was radiant with enthusiasm and didn’t appear to be anxious, although I knew she was less than comfortable with performing her work in public.

Of course Cathy did just fine. As I knew she would. Her reading was vibrant and clear, and the potentially awkward gaps between poems were neatly filled in with explanatory bits and well-timed dashes of humor.

And then she arrived at the final piece: a poem, she explained, that she had only recently written. A poem she had submitted (and which has already been accepted) to an anthology despite the fact that Cathy had had her doubts about its merit. A poem that tackled a serious political topic via the most unlikely of vehicles: a takeoff on Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel.

But what came next was the real surprise: Cathy released the microphone from its stand, stepped out from behind the lectern and began to sing her version of the Elvis classic! The audience was thrilled, and soon hands were clapping in time with the music. Cathy concluded her set to a room filled with robust applause.

We all know that moments like this can go either way. What might have resulted in embarrassment was instead a raging success. Cathy took a huge risk and emerged triumphant.

Here I sit, two days later, and still I’m thinking about this reading. It’s one I’ll remember for a long time to come. Not merely due to the bookstore’s warm atmosphere, or the comfort of being in the midst of so many familiar faces, or the very quality of the poetry itself, though all of these things are true. No, I’ll remember this reading as the night my friend took a chance. Took a gamble on herself. Tried something she’d never done before and was rewarded with applause from every corner of the room.

Of all of Cathy's successes that evening, I wonder which one will remain with her the longest.
    

How will I choose to enter this week? Will I reach for the unimaginable? Will I be willing to place a good, solid bet on myself?








         * Also reading was Michele M. Graf, whose new poetry collaboration, Lifelines, (InkSpotter Publishing) was released in October, 2011.