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?
Nancy Carol Moody
I'm a poet and a letter-writer. Yup, that kind. The kind who uses pens and paper and actual stamps. The kind who will leave the house with nothing on the agenda but to get to the mailbox before the scheduled pick-up time. The kind who understands that technology is a wondrous thing, but nothing quite beats finding a real letter with a real stamp on it amid the credit card solicitations, pizza coupons and seminar catalogs.