I wrote more pages about Hannah and Jeremy. I’ll post it later this week depending on how far I get, but it got me thinking about the poems I have bouncing around in my brain too.

The way I get at a poem is different from the way I’m getting at Hannah’s story. I’ve written some short stories, I’ve outlined a few novel ideas, I’ve scribbled a ton of poetry, and I’ve definitely vomited a volumes of personal journals, but how I go about each is starkly different.

I have to write poetry by hand. It doesn’t feel right if I do it any other way. Last year when I was in Ireland, I got a little lost in Galway around sunset. It was after dinner, and I’d only brought my phone and a clutch with some money, my credit card, and my ID. I didn’t mean to take a wander. I meant to get to a pub that had been recommended. So much for plans. As I walked, a poem, or something like a poem, was bubbling up inside me. In the last rays of light, I sat on a stone wall and composed it the only way I could without even so much as a receipt to write on. I used my phone. I needed to get the words out before I lost them, but it felt all wrong. Later that night, I copied the poem from my phone into my journal. The wrong was righted.

A few weeks ago, I was forced into a similar situation because I didn’t have anything to write with or write on and the idea was bursting. Again it felt wrong. I sometimes use my phone to remind myself of phrases or ideas, but the full composition of a poem has to happen with pen and paper or it doesn’t feel pure. Maybe that’s because my poems have frequently come from an emotion that was overwhelming me. Maybe it’s because the things I usually create electronically are academic in nature, whether they are analytical papers I used to write or assignments I construct for students. Typeface seems too impersonal for my poems. The whimsy of having little bits of paper scrawled with lines hidden away in the pages of something else or tucked into a corner of my wallet seems more poetic than notes saved on my phone or files on a flash drive.

When it comes to fiction though, especially Hannah’s story, I rely on Microsoft Word. I can’t imagine trying to piece Hannah together by hand. Maybe because I imagined this story a hundred different ways for at least a year before committing to write any of it. Maybe because it’s going to be longer than anything I’ve ever written before. Maybe because it isn’t one of the first three novel ideas I have, two of which I’ve vaguely outlined by hand, one of which I’ve written a short story version of by hand but then typed. I don’t know, but as I go along, I cannot fathom trying to hand write any of it. I am dependent on seeing it on screen as I write and revise and reread and reach for the right way to tell the story playing in my mind.

Personal journals can go either way, which kind of nullifies my theory about my poetry being too emotional to type. If nothing else, my journals are emotional or at least thoughtful about my emotions. I’m just as comfortable writing down my personal reflections as I am typing them. Typing them usually means I’m going to make them available for public consumption, so there’s some self-censoring that happens, but less than you might think. What’s the point in self-examination if you aren’t doing it honestly? Whether I make that public or not, it has to be worth my time, so why hide something? That said, there are always things that I know about myself that I don’t publicly reflect on, not because I don’t think them but because either they are too painful or I don’t give a shit what anyone else might think about them or both. Those kinds of things I might hand write or keep inside my skull for me and the voices (ha ha, I don’t actually hear voices in a schizo kind of way).

If I want these brewing poems to make their way out, I guess I have to step away from the computer. Who says kids are the only ones who need limited screen time?


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