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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Since you asked,

Reen, I write in notebooks first. As I mentioned in the post below, I have several. Usually a small spiral bound that I carry in my bag or pocket. This is for stray thoughts, "poem ideas," chapbook concepts, overheard snippets, accidental poems*, phone numbers and email addresses, ad hoc business cards, reading notes, etc.

I started two other spiral notebooks in the class I had with Harry Mathews. One for freewriting, and one for assigments, the latter of which has evolved into a notebook for drafts. The freewriting notebook is steno sized, the draft notebook is large format--whaddayacallit--ledger sized. I'd always had a notebook for drafts, but never a freewriting notebook. To be honest, it doesn't get used much now that that class has been over almost 6 months. But it's nice to know it's there.

I have two hardbound blank books right now. One for notes on poetry I'm reading (I've always had something like this, but moved to hardcover when I started a poetry journal for David Trinidad's class in 2000). One just for titles. In the one for titles, I also slip in articles or newstories, etc. that might inspire me to write something. Like an article on the history of the wire coat hanger Shawn sent me a couple of weeks ago. There's something permanent about these hardbound books (and they are usually so pretty) that I don't like to use them for anything less than "finished." A title, a good one, when it comes, seems worthy of preserving this way. As do my thoughts on other people's poems, or lines from those poems, or whole poems by other people. I think this spiral bound/hardbound thing must be telling. Spiral for me equals messy process. Hardbound equals more self-assured, or not myself at all!

In the hardcover category, I have a bunch of handmade notebooks and gifts and even purchases that truly seem too gorgeous to blight with my marks.

I also use a secret blog as a notebook to catch stray lines and poem ideas. Right now Shafer & I are using that blog to post poems for our collaborative chapbook. That way he & I can check in on each other and read the poems from wherever we happen to be.

Once I get a draft down, I move to my computer, where I type the poems into whatever manuscript I'm working on. New poems from the Shafer/Shanna collaborations, for instance, go in to the MS for Miracle Fortune Fish (my new MS) and into the MS for Big Confetti (the chapbook MS).

(Did I even show you my typewriters?) We collect them. And between us we have about 14. They don't all work. We each have one that's been cleaned and serviced and the others are objets d'art that will be torn down for parts as necessary. Shawn wants to strip one of the Letteras down to the naked steel as a variation on the turquoise. And I have two plastic Letteras, a Valentine, and a Spanish made dark turquoise one. The rest are steel 22s or 32s, most in shades of turquoise, one lime green, and one brown. Most are Italian, a couple are Spanish, and one is from Mexico. I think. I had a Smith-Corona that couldn't be repaired. And a small Skywriter (also Smith-Corona, but travel sized) that I gave to Debbie Benson with love.

Anyway, I move to the typewriter when I'm working on revisions, which I type from the computer printouts. This is my favorite part. I type more slowly than on the computer and generally screw up alot. By the time I get a perfect copy, the poem has likely wriggled out from under me a few times, some words and line breaks have been moved or replaced. And sometimes the stanzas take new shapes. My hands are occupied, I'm reading the poems while retyping them, and my attention is concentrated on the physical task of typing. When the attention's away, the poems do play. The damn things straighten themselves out, or seem to.

Once I have the clean typewritten revision like I want it, I file it and retype it into the computer, updating the MSS.

Occasionally I will work directly into the computer, skipping the notebook stage. But usually not. I seem to "write" best when I'm not in front of the damn thing. On the fly.

All of this applies only to poetry. If I'm working on a prose piece, I'll take notes and photocopies and keep them in a notebook or folder, then work directly into the computer. There it's about speed. Getting the sentences down before they get away.

*My favorite kind.

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