Local poems, prose by Wilson, Moody | News, Sports, Jobs


A new Snowy Owl Press chapbook commemorates the work of two recently deceased local writers, Lorraine Wilson and Valerie Moody. Both women were part of the Saranac Lake writing community, some of whose members – Ren Davidson Seward, Caperton Tissot, Tom Techman, Yvona Fast, and Maurice Kenny – also contributed to the manuscript. The result is an open-hearted conduit both to certain striking poems and to the women who composed them.

The material here varies widely, from “finished” from work to casual studies, from humorous experiments to meditations on door-to-door proselytes. Together, the poems (plus two prose pieces by Lorraine) pay a loving tribute to the honest and memorable work of a shared community of writers. We need more chapbooks like this – viewed and published locally, full of life and observation that are relevant to their audience.

These poems are generous and technically interesting. In the first lines of the book (“After the elections”), Wilson offers gifts to the President-elect:

I leave you the afternoons in the garden

on all fours

I leave you a canoe and a paddle and an Adirondack river

I leave you a basket of kittens

It’s a playful response to a heavy subject, both charming and specific (she leaves that too “my van morrison, lyle lovett and lucinda williams cds”) and terribly honest: “my tears of regret / my confession at the tomb / my unrequited passion.” I wish I had met Wilson earlier, preferably before his death in 2008. The form she uses here – the titles and indented subordinate clauses – is flexible, conversational, but still rigorous. It is a poetry that works as logic should, with rapid sequences and sounds departing alongside the reassuring flow of ideas.

Moody, who died in 2019, displays a fascinating mix of work in the chapbook. There is the poignant and narrative sketch of the character “Georgia,” facing a page titled “The alligator ate my homework.” Two formal pieces (“A double dactyl” and “A tanka”) who take their ostensible rules towards both humor and insight. I am particularly impressed with Moody’s poem “Help,” which begins with a comic hypothesis – “If you were kidnapped by the Amish at the farmer’s market / I would put on my boots and save you” – but is heading towards reciprocal and threatening ground:

If you were to fall under the spell of a summer tent evangelist,

I would pretend to be the demon freed from your soul.

We could save each other,

Take with us all the rampaging demons,

Start our own religion.

It is wonderful and strange work; the type of writing that makes me want to read more, look for the next Moody’s post, watch its courses and reads. For this reason, the review of this book is a bittersweet gift. We will never see any more work from these women and they will never know how much we appreciated their vision and their spirit. I encourage you to read the chapbook, not only because the poetry is worth it, but to honor an ongoing community of writers and readers who make work like this possible. Copies are sold in stores in Saranac Lake and in Lake Flower Landing.

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