Genevieve Ella Wood was born April 10, 1918 in Utica, New York. For the next 92 years (almost!), until February 5, 2010 in NYC, she climbed trees, scaled and flipped baseball cards with the boys, discovered the music in poetry, romanced, went to college (University of Wisconsin, Northwestern), and joined the Navy. She was in the first group of women inducted into the Waves in World War II where she served as Morse Code radio operator. Later, she worked mostly in publishing. Starting in her post-Navy years, in the early 50s, she wrote…and wrote…and wrote. She never seriously sought to have her poetry, plays, novels, and other work published. Most of her work was never seen even by her closest friends and colleagues, although it stands with some of the poets she most admired—Edna St. Vincent Millay, Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker, and others. Purple Scooter Poetry is proud to bring her buried treasures to light.
Gen Wood was a private person, a soft-spoken, gentle soul who liked her solitude and her evening “spirits.” She had a caustic wit and tongue, loved love and was intrigued by the nature of it. She couldn’t abide pretension, hypocrisy, euphemisms, or shrillness. She seldom showed emotion openly—her emotional life was in her writing. She was passionate about words, rhyming, and the sound of words.
She speaks about love and death and life with direct unique language and imagery that is often breathtaking. Her laugh-out loud humor, playfulness, and double meaning are delightful. She loved the ocean, and much of her writing reflects that. Her work shows an acerbic wit and wry humor, a powerful sense of the absurd, and is always honest, sensitive, and intelligent. She prided herself on telling it “like it is,”—and sets a high standard for simple, lyrical language.
On the Crest of a Wave: Selected Poetry of Genevieve Wood
119 pp, published by Purple Scooter Poetry, September 2010
This volume of poetry introduces Genevieve Wood, whose work spanning nearly 60 years was unpublished during her lifetime. Part I, called Growing Up and Growing Down, contains 45 poems from a few lines to a few pages in length. The selections range from somber and sad, to delicate and sweet, to profound and funny. ORDER NOW >
Life and Death in Thirty Syllables
An infant cries at a funeral
wanting only the breast;
An old man dies at a christening
not wanting final rest.
The wealth I count
Is the wealth of you—
I'm a modern Midas who
Turns emotion into gold
Love unseen and wealth untold...
The charms I love
Are the charms of you—
I dream, and let them trickle through
My eyes, that turn to molten gold
Your charms, a fortune to behold...
The Midas Touch
Is the touch of you—
And such return I never knew
From precious metal bought and sold—
I touch you and I turn to gold!
Editor Weds Editor
When first these literati met
They took one look and murmured, “Stet!”
Their offspring should be famous, quite—
Lightface, boldface, set flush right!
I shall not send thy valentine
Until thou firstly send me mine;
Methinks I’d better cautious be—
If thou love me, then I love thee.
Squib and Variations
[and see the Squib Case, 96 Eng Rep 525]
Mullins and Blaise, delinquent friends,
Burned infinite candles at infinite ends.
Unearthing an antique Roman candle,
Naturally, Blaise, because of his handle,
Lit it…waited…scoffed, “Some dud—“
And tossed it at his pal—“Catch, bud—“
Hot Mullins for injuries inflicted,
Proceeded to have cold Blaise indîcted.
Which solves the enigma, I don’t suppose,
Of how fast friends become fast foes.
La, Ann, what a conviction.
[Ed. note: A squib is a tiny piece of dynamite. This poem is inspired by a case in English law.]
Part II, called Castles and Sand, contains six long pieces that develop themes large and small of importance to the writer – a dramatic interpretation of a case at law…a tribute to a teacher who mattered greatly…a novelty performance piece about a hermit named Herman, a cacophony of delightful sounds and rhythms…two themes on love…and a surprising flashback to childhood.
Case Of Novel Impression
(excerpts, 7 of 29 quatrains)
Pedestrian the circumstances.
Commonplace, the trial.
The sentence, without precedent.
A novel case on file.
Plaintiff’s counsel, well-rehearsed,
Well-versed in peroration,
Delivered in funereal time
This lyrical summation:
“His driving urge, to beat the light.
How fast his motor idled.
Horsepowered, at the starting gate.
Restrained. But wild. Unbridled.”
Defendant’s counsel, less well-versed,
Less prone to demonstration,
Pointed out some facts of life
–And those, with hesitation:
“Uh…the evidence indicates,” he said,
To the mixed unanimous jury
“That defendant had a record…speed…
But—decedent was in one—awful hurry.”
Emotional, deceased’s appeal.
The jury’s hearts were wrung.
Defense appealed to reason, so
The jury’s heads were hung.
Judge Featherstone instructed them:
“A clear-cut case. Don’t be misled.”
He gulped some water, squelched a belch—
“Try not to hang yourselves,” he said.
Lines On A School Teacher’s Shako
And a beige
And a cinnabar bee
Adorn the chapeau
and Shelley Bee.
Who? Him? Herman? Hmm...
But listen…Herman’s voice is in his hammer…
Harken…it’s a human-sound thing…
His rhythmic pounding makes a manly music
And the muted heart of Herman seems to sing…
Low and sad, bong, bong!
High and glad, dong, dong!
Hit or miss, the breezes bring
His metal chords upon the wing…
(click here for a reading by actress Patricia Conolly of the entire work)
Part III, Hobeau, was written in 1981 (17 pages) as a tribute to the poet's father. This celebration of Father’s Day takes on new meaning that lifts the spirit and imagination. It is an intensely personal “mini-memoir” filled with insight, loss, joy, and rich remembrance.
The kind of guy…if you gave him thirty-six sticks of licorice in a
shoebox for Father’s Day (not only he liked licorice, you
loved it) he’d laugh like a maniac, going around showing
the neighbors—who echoed his glee, but couldn’t match
“Jesus H. Christ, Cigarette,” he growled to his scheming,
red-headed kid, as they sat on the porch in the sun,
devouring the foot-long, sticky strips, “how’d you ever
think of this?”
The kind of guy…if you jumped off a roof and sprained your
ankle, he knew how to tape it up. Fast, neat, firm—gentle.
How’d he know that? “Rode the rods, kid, in my hobo days.
Lots of accidents, jumping freight trains—sonuvabitch!
Lots of laughs, too…”
Less said about the trip back west, the better. Three days, two
nights—or was it two days, three nights—on a sardine
train. Screaming kids, shrilling mothers. I learned to doze
on an up-ended suitcase in the aisle. No dreams, no
feelings, just aching for the moment when I could fall back
into my bunk bed. And anxious to get back to the sanity of
duty in a crazy war.
But, what remains to be remembered of my father, after thirty-
seven years? His signature—big, bold, with artistic
flourishes. His shoes—how they always shone! He might
have done a stint as shoeshine boy, along the way, so
professional his energetic brush-and-cloth technique. So
vast his pride in the results. Mirrors, they were.
A brownish snapshot of him, undated, astride a
motorcycle, rakish cap askew. The man always drove
something, no matter what his financial status. We landed
in Upstate New York in a second-hand Saxon, with yellow,
Once Upon A Purple Scooter
116 pages, published by Purple Scooter Poetry, November 27, 2010
Imagine a time when there was no x-box, no play station, no cell phone, not even a TV! What would a bright, independent 10-year-old girl do? That time is 1927 and the girl is Theodora Zane. Theo is a tomboy with bright red hair. She hates to dress up and thinks her brother is a sissy. She adores her dad and ignores her mom’s sensible suggestions. She has a crush on her best friend, 16-year-old Samantha. And she manages to get into trouble most of the time. Spend one day with Theo as she travels around town on her beloved purple scooter—shooting marbles, trading baseball cards, brawling with a boy twice her size, visiting the airport to see Lucky Lindy, discovering secrets behind closed doors, and having her first brush with tragedy. ORDER NOW >
Once Upon a Purple Scooter, written in the 1970s, evokes a special time in American history, when the world was completely different. But the experience of growing up—the yearnings, the thrills, the loneliness, and the intrusion of harsh reality into everyday life—has not changed.
Excerpts from Once Upon A Purple Scooter
“Today, sitting astride the peak of the roof, turning her face to the sun, closing her eyes, Theo was at peace. The shingles were warm against her legs. And it was Friday—which meant that tomorrow was movie day, the best day of the week.
“The next best thing to movies was the penny candy that went with them. Ten cents’ worth of candy never lasted through the whole show, but you had it during the first part, when not much happened. By the end, you were too excited to eat anyway.”
“Her foot slipped, and she had to use both hands to steady herself. So Willie used both hands to tighten his hold on her neck, shaking her head back and forth, slow, then fast….It hurt now—it really hurt! She felt her face getting hot, and it was hard to breathe. As she raised one arm to try to hit the face above her, both of her feet slipped from the branch. She sat down on it hard, dropping straight to the ground… The first thing Theo saw as the blur went away was the bag of marbles at the foot of the tree. The first thing she heard when the ringing in her ears stopped was Willie’s crazy laugh….”You dirty sonovabitch!” yelled Theo. Willie only laughed louder and swung his legs faster.”
“In a flash, Theo grabbed the bag of marbles, wrapped the drawstring around her hand, and swung the bag at Willie’s drooling mouth. There were “steelies” in that bag—heavy steel ball bearings used in place of marbles when the grass was tall. The bag caught Willie full on the mouth, and with a howl of pain, he turned and ran—across the dirt yard and up the cement-block steps to his front door, slamming and hooking the screen door behind him.”
“She returned to the steps and opened her precious yellow box to make sure its contents were in perfect order. The edges of the neatly filed cards were white, gray, and almost black. The newest ones were white, the gray ones were her favorites, and the almost-black ones were the gambling cards—the ones she liked least and wouldn’t mind losing—their corners crumpled or missing completely.
“The gambling cards were for flipping and scaling. Flipping, Theo explained to her faithful audience, is when you snap one out into the air and it turns over and over until it hits the ground, landing face-up or back-up, heads or tails. Then if you match the other guy’s card, you win his card. Simple.
“Scaling is better, she explained further. You take a card between your first two fingers, like this, see, and scale it out into the wind (she demonstrated with an expert snap of her wrist) and whoever scales farthest gets the other guy’s card. Theo won more cards by scaling than by flipping. There wasn’t anything she could do about heads or tails, but scaling required some skill and she could practice getting better and better at it.”
Of Old Sea Dogs and Herringbone
(in old Churchillian rhyme)
52 pages, published by Purple Scooter Poetry, August 2011
Lewis Carroll Meets Gilbert & Sullivan
“A Russian delegation
Of fishy reputation
Came to visit London Town—
A market of seawide renown….
Offering their salmon, canned
For sober herring, British brand.”
So begins a whimsical wacky adventure on the high seas as arch rivals Russia and Great Britain battle each other, armed with fatal fish, witty wordplay, and preposterous puns.
This hilarious poetically demanding work sprang from Gen Wood’s imagination after reading a 1952 AP wire clip about a non-military deal between the USSR and GB involving a huge exchange of seafood. An unlikely trio—Winston Churchill and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor—embark in a shaky vessel to save the day.
Pray read the tale to see who will prevail. ORDER NOW >
Excerpts from Of Old Sea Dogs and Herringbone
Russian fish for British fish
And winner take the sea—
In ptomaine-tinted salmon
I smell pink victory!
Can barrels of loyal royal fish
Disguise their ramrod bearing
When smoking up the local scene
As Soviet red herring?
Weather’s fair. Fishing’s foul.
Position. North Atlantic
Time is nineteen fifty-four…
Her Majesty was frantic:
“No herringbone is big enough
To suit our enemy—
Go forth, dear Winston,” said the Queen,
“And gently slay for me
A giant herring of the sea—
Oh, gently slay a beast for me!”
An idle king was piped aboard
Great Britain’s ship of state—
No longer banished in disuse
With his unmatching mate—
His enigmatic Duchess,
His ever-loving fate.
Weather’s foul. Fishing’s fair.
Thirty-first day out.
Young Edward caught a nasty cold.
I caught a bit of gout.
The Duchess paced the slanting deck
And kept our spirits high—
You’re fishing awfully well,” she said,
Which was a lovely lie—
We laughed in the teeth of a rising gale
And sang to the tune of a fairy tale:
Mirror, mirror, on the sea
Who is fairest of us three?
One is done in modernistic
One reflects the realistic
One is pure impressionistic
Who is fairest on the sea?
My crew will swear, and so will I,
The ocean gave succinct reply:
Sharkskin, oilskin, herringbone tweed,
None so fair as green seaweed;
A still-life fish upon a plate
Is fairer far than your portrait.
THE SEA IS OLD AND DEEP AND WISE
AND CANDID—MUCH TO OUR SURPRISE
“To port! To port! A periscope!
Our rescuers are here!”
“But Edward, dear,” the Duchess said,
“It’s painted red—how queer!”
And I myself was full of doubt—
I scarcely dared to hope
That any good could follow from
A lean and red-eyed periscope.
The conning opened with a bang!
Up came a bear-like head—
His eyes were pale, a washed-out pink,
His whole demeanor, underfed.
His shrunken body squeezed up through
The hatch without a hitch—
A fairly common species of
I will admit I was surprised
The Great Bear used his tongue—
For Bruin usually shoots first
Then asks a man
If he’d rather be shot
Rather be shot
Rather be shot than hung…
“Englishmen!” I shouted back,
“Out on the noonday sea—
As you well know, the maddest dogs
Are not so mad as we.”
They understood us not, I think,
But recognized our tongue—
Father Bear’s triumphant snarl
Was echoed by triumphant young.
They pointed straight at our tall fish
—And Wallis gave reply;
“Oh, that? It’s just an old red herring, Sir.”
Edward coughed. And so did I.
We rowed half-strength, and as we neared
That big and bigger sub,
Our towing line was shot in two
By a trigger-happy bruin cub!
As Toby floated out to sea
Old Father Bear saw red—
I swear I heard him call the cub
Oh, Father Bear was properly apoplectic—
Parentally mad and doubly dialectic!
“Full speed ahead!” he bellowed down—
The sub set out in chase;
We rowed reverse—our only chance
To leave that angry place.
Inevitably, the sub caught up
With our lost fish in tow—
Prepare to dive!” I told my crew,
“I think we’re in for a bit of a blow—
Prepare to launch! All hands below!”
We swam, and carefully ignored
The bullets at our back—
Interspersed with howling from
That communal bear pack,
Which sounded in our roaring ears
Like “Fe, fi, fo, fum!”
As the giant said of Jack.
And while the sound of certain death
Closer, closer hissed,
I thought, “Indeed, an old familiar thrill
To be so shot upon—and missed!”
THE SEA IS OLD AND DEEP AND WISE
AND SALTS US DOWN TO SARDINE SIZE.
125 pp., published by Purple Scooter Poetry, September 2012
Kid Hadaway a play written in 1958-60, is an exposé on pretension. Everything is fair game for Wood’s satirical wit—education and its excesses, love, parenthood, friendship, and marriage, birdhouses and bulldozers, precocious kids, the meaning of “home” and “household.” The texture of everyday life is revealed by chance encounters of a zany cast of characters who enter and depart an unusual house warming party literally through a hole in the wall. Robert Frost wrote that “Good fences make good neighbors” but in this case a hole in the wall works even better.
The black eye-patch vogue of the 50s is one of Kid Hadaway’s most hilarious, striking images. That and the crisp classy Hathaway shirt worn by discerning men and boys at that time.
This highly poetic and literary work is full of rhyme and reason, loaded with musicality, rich with sharp observation and insight, and just plain fun. Its humor comes in many forms, including 14 songs threaded throughout and sung by the characters in solo or duet. ORDER NOW >
At one point the Kid sings this about one of the other characters:
Sally Ball sat on the wall…
Sally Ball was very tall…
So when she tumbled off the wall..
She didn’t have far to fall at all…
And Sally herself laments that:
I’m-m-m so-o-o hom-a-ly!
People tell me
A clever girl
Can always find
A way to make up
For her looks
—Or lack of them—
By reading books…
Cultivate the mental graces—
Brains outwit the pretty faces.
But I’m-m-m so-o-o dumb!
I can’t tell a sentence from
When examinations come
My little brain is frozen numb—
What they ask
Is so much bunk—
I think, I thank, I thunk
The plot of Kid Hadaway unfolds through a variety of unlikely situations, random interactions, and surprising intrusions of 1950's television commercials--all offered up in high style and inventiveness, on a path of unpredictable twists and turns. Everything is what it seems, and nothing is.
Like most plays, this one is written to be spoken, but readers will be rewarded whether they speak it or read it. Even though it was written half a century ago and has not been made public until now, this play has a delightful, engaging quality that resonates in our own time.