The Three Rs of Poetry: 3. Writing
Back on 16 October 2016 my weekly post talked about re-learning how to read as I became the owner of a pair of OrCam glasses that will read text aloud. Then on 27 November I brought the poetry of mathematics into my post, when I considered how many copies of my Dressing Up pamphlet I wanted to have available for sales at poetry readings. This week I'm going to turn my attention onto the third R, that of writing.
Putting Pen to Paper
I look back on my 21st century life and marvel at how little I've put pen to paper, in the sense of actual ink to actual paper. My world has been dominated by computers and printouts and it was inevitable that once I lost my sight this would be pretty much inescapable.
Before I owned an actual PC computer I had a Brother Word Processor whose principal purpose was to type up my final year chemistry project dissertation on the Stern-Volmer Quenching of Rhodamine 6G. It served equally well the following year when I typed up the dissertation for my erstwhile university friend, Dan 'Gwallt' Davies' mechanical engineering final year project, which I recall related to the Lear Fan jet, or Lear Fun jet as my brain called it; that was a rewarding project because it paid for my weekend at the Swansea Beer Festival that year. On to more sober subjects I then typed up yet another project dissertation, this time for my Auntie Anne, all about Methodism in the churches of Lancaster; if I recall I was paid in book tokens for that service :) ... I'll be keeping track of how many people visit those Wikipedia pages about Stern-Volmer, Rhodamine 6G and the Lear Fan jet!
In between those dissertation projects I also typed up all the poetry that I'd written at high school and in my university years, and, because the Brother WP had a 3.5 inch disk drive I was able to transfer them all onto my first "real" computer, an Acorn Risc PC700 (chosen because it had the industry-standard music publishing software, Sibelius), and thenceforth onto 486 and Pentium processor computers, and the tablets and laptops that I use to this day. I wonder how many of those poems I would have access to, physically or visually, if they had not made it into electronic storage.
I do miss the ability to scribble poetic musings on small yellow Post-It notes, which used to be stuck to all surfaces around my office room. I also wish so much that I had still got copies of my first "serious poem" which was about the Flying Scotsman steam engine, written for GCSE English homework at Harrogate Granby High School back in 1988. Also lost somewhere in the paper mountain of the world is a short story I wrote in 1989, about a snowflake called Snowbloe, which I remember had a short poem within it (describing Snowbloe as he floated down from his cloud). The teacher, Mrs. Hesketh, loved that short story and suggested I enter it into the WH Smiths Young Writers Competition, where it didn't triumph, but it gave me the belief that my writing was something that other people might enjoy reading; I consider that as one of the fundamental reasons for me being a writer to this day and, I hope to track down Mrs. Hesketh so I can send her a copy of Dressing Up to say thank you for giving me that first push.
Signing on the Glittery Line
And here I am. With copies of Dressing Up waiting to be sold at readings and sent to people who have requested them directly from me. I looked online about how other authors sign their books — which ones prefer to simply sign their name and the date, and which others write something more personal or relevant to what the recipient has talked about to the author. I was keen to try and write a couple of sentences in addition to my signature and date, so I sat down with a sheet of scrap paper and started to practice a few such sentences.
And therein lies the problem. Having not written anything other than my signature and the date on official forms for the last 9 years, I find it incredibly difficult to write in a straight line ... obviously the heavy drinking part of being a poet doesn't help this! (don't panic, I'm to all intents and purposes teetotal these days). So when I tried a test signature with the words "thank you for coming / to Abergavenny" then 9 times out of 10 "to Abergavenny" angled upwards, skewering the thank you through its midriff. I decided to be brave and attempt a real-life dedication on a copy for Nell Nelson of HappenStance Press and I intended to write "Nell
A million thanks
on a multitude
and I got as far as Nell and started to write 'A' and the mechanics of forming a letter A defeated me. I ended up with something that I gather looked like a strange loop. At that point I came to the conclusion that to attempt anything more than a signature and a date was probably unrealistic, especially in the tumult of admirers clamouring for a signed copy of Dressing Up as I tour the world ;)
A friend suggested I try glitter pens with metallic ink which might allow me to feel where the previous line was, therefore allowing me to stay a comfortable distance from the line above. She tried this out for herself with a group of friends including a visually impaired person (all of them shutting their eyes as they wrote), and they could feel where the previous line was on the page — all looked promising. I went into a stationery shop to buy such a pen, and the assistant seemed to understand what I was looking for, and promptly sold me a pen that seemed to write in slightly shiny ink, but no noticeable glitter or texture to it (not even to a sighted person). I think back to the days when it was a nightmare trying to track down which printer ink cartridges were compatible with my printer, and I didn't imagine that buying a pen could be twice as hard!
I love the idea of signing copies of Dressing Up in ink that has itself got all dressed up, but alas it appears unlikely to be a pragmatic solution. Maybe when you're reading Dressing Up you can exercise your imagination and pretend the text is glittery as you read the poems :)
#DressingUp #Poetry #Glitter #Reading #Writing #Arithmetic #HarrogateGranbyHighScool #CinnamonPress #HappenStancePress #Chemistry #JetEngines #Methodism