Poetry has a history of being written with quills and inkpots, then perhaps ballpoints and notebooks small enough to stash at the sound of an opening door. I like to think of Emily Dickinson off in her bedroom, perhaps nibbling gingerbread or looking into the garden. Or Wordsworth striding among daffodils, then slipping out a quiet piece of paper. Here’s Robert Louis Stevenson perhaps penning A Child’s Garden of Verses.
Computers come with a little tapping noise, which I like as company with my free verse, but might bother those who work with clashing rhythms or rhyme. The type of poetry I most like to read can sound intimate, a whisper from one person to another. This is easier to imagine coming from a pen or notebook which can be prettier than computers, which have an aura of an office or classroom, a steely and efficient sheen.
I do find uses for pens. I often begin with window seat musing, jotting down words and phrases, but it’s after I type them in that the long work of revising begins. My computer makes changing words and their order kind of fun. I don’t have to draw so many lines through words, but zap them into invisibility. I don’t have to scribble squiggly lines and arrows, or rip paper and clip or tape it in new ways. I just hit the cut and paste buttons.
I know a poet doesn’t need to wear a white dress or a black turtleneck and beret. I know there are all kinds of writing tools, all kinds of office chairs, rocks, or pumpkins a poet might sit on. Still, even though writing drafts of poems on a computer works for me, I squirm as I admit it. And am curious about other poets: how do you compose in 2010?
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