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.