I hate to admit that I am old enough to have written stuff on a manual typewriter. You know… the ones that if you typed to fast, or just mashed the keys, because it was fun, all the keys would get stuck together. I used to spend a good deal of time trying to get all of the keys to stick at once. There was always one or two that just wouldn’t fit. Now I have two laptops, a work desktop, smart phone and a Kindle Fire, all capable of doing what the old typewriter only dreamed of. Over the years I have used all of these to write one story or another, create project proposals, and essays for school. They are great tools without a doubt. However, for me they don’t work for poetry.
I have to write my poems with pencil and paper. It really needs to be pencil. A pen will work if there isn’t a pencil handy (I keep two or three pencils around at all times), but I just don’t get the same feel from a pen that I do from a pencil. The type of paper makes no difference. I have written on standard paper, sticky notes, note pads, bar napkins, and even the back of “This is your final notice” envelopes. There is a different feeling I get when I write a poem with pencil and paper. I feel more connected to the words, more in tune with the emotion.
Perhaps it is because poems are more visual that this works for me. Poems are living, breathing things. They evolve more quickly than a story does. For me it is much easier to lay out the poem, move things around, rewrite and adjust them as I want on paper, than it is in a word processing program. This might seem counter intuitive since it is actually much easier to edit on a computer than on paper. I don’t actually move anything on paper. I draw lines through words I want to remove, only one line in case I change my mind. I use arrows to indicate this stanza should now go bellow this one. What is that little thing that means “insert here” a carat? I forget, but I use that a lot as well. Before I bring a poem into a MS Word they can look like a bad diagram of some obscure government regulation.
Original draft of 700 Light-Years from Home
I set out once to write a poem totally in a digital environment. I failed miserably. I just couldn’t get any feeling or connection with what I was writing. So now I work exclusively with pen (or other writing tool if I must, yes I have used crayon) and paper.
How do you write your poems? Do you have some special thing you have to do first, some special place you have to go? I would be very interested in hearing from fellow poets on how they write down their poems. Please enter a comment and let me know your method.