Saturday, April 22, 2006


I have never been a notebook user, a pen to paper writer. I learnt to type at an early age, pre-pubescent I think, on my mother's upright Remington, then almost, these days an antique. When I started writing, typing was the way I went, something about that space betweem the ends of the fingers & the keys.

It gave rise to one of my early foibles. Writing poetry was very much about starting at the beginning of a poem & working my way through it in stages — word, line, verse — that I had to be happy with before I moved on to the next stage, even if I knew how I/it would shape itself. The result would be a building up of sheets of paper, the same thing over & over with minor variations, a different word, a changed construction, a little bit more each time. "Sheets of scattered openings" I wrote somewhere.

But I know exactly where that 'somewhere' was. Because one of the consequences of writing that way was you inhabited the insides of the poems, in a sense built them from the inside out, lived with them, knew every word, every space between them. I can probably, even now, recite them by heart, more than, in some cases, four decades later.

When I came back to writing poetry, less than a decade ago, I worked in much the same way, even though I was now using a computer. I'd print stuff out to look at it, that feel of paper in the fingers, probably mouthing the words. I'd move on if I felt happy with what I’d done, where I was. Sheets of scattered paper still. Still able to recite them without too much reference to the printed page.

Things have changed in the period since then. Not just no longer printing stuff out, but my memory of them. Partially it's because of my prolificy, having the time to write & write & write, & wanting to move on, to spend more time with poetry rather than individual poems. Using the computer as a notebook, & then the blog.

It has to do with the immediacy of publication because no matter what one claims, that is one of the major reasons one writes. In my earlier days there were not that many places one could publish, & so, especially when one is a relative newcomer, you'd shape — to varying degrees of consciousness — your poems to reflect the possible outlets. Only as your reputation developed would you have poems written as you wanted them to be being accepted, & even then, usually about two years after you wrote them.

The electronic age I returned to had widened the variety of outlets & so now, instead of matching poems to the outlet, you matched outlets to your poems. There was more naturalness, less shaping, more letting the poem shape itself. You didn't do those countless revisions, even rewritings, that imprinted every word on your brain.

Why I'm rambling on out all this is because when I decided to put episodes together, I went trawling through pelican dreaming & As/Is & was surprised by what I found. Not just because of the standard of some of it, but because I'd forgotten I'd written many of the damned poems.

& again, because it's now almost a year since I made the compilation, when I finally hold the book in my hands, I'm surprised to discover what are almost new poems to me. It’s no bad thing, because it's pleasure I get from them, not embarrassment, & it's a substantial collection if I say so myself. But I feel that the title page should say "written by this Mark Young & that one & the other one & another one & the one who only appears when the moon rises in that season when the orange trees have fruit on them & looks just like another piece of fruit".

There was a book character I used to like when I was a kid, Professor Brainstorm, who had seven pairs of glasses. One for reading, one for writing, one for looking at distant things, one for the close, one for walking with friends, one for thinking with, something like that. & one for looking for the other pairs of glasses when they'd all been misplaced.

I feel a bit like that.


Blogger rcloenen-ruiz said...

This post so resonates, Mark. Thanks for writing and sharing this here.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Andrew Lundwall said...

i can definitely relate to this post...almost everything you write here rings true for me as well...

i still scribble in a good old-fashioned notebook now and then...but i find that there's a certain momentum to typing that's just not there at all when you jot it all down...

reminds me of the story of kerouac writing 'on the road' on that fricking long scroll (lately for whatever reason i keep dropping kerouac's name for reasons unbeknownst to me...i read a lot of his work in my teens...i don't even like his work anymore...with the exception of 'mexico city blues')...

anyhow...before i continue to ramble on...just thought i'd tell you that this was an excellent post mark...

7:16 AM  
Blogger richard lopez said...

know what you mean, mark. but i still keep a notebook for stray thoughts, poems, lines, scraps and pieces of the texts i'm reading. never learned to formally type, got the gist of it in high school, when i smoked a lot of dope, i would get high, go into the typewriter lab and bang away only for the sure pleasure of writing via keys. and i remember the first poems i've ever written solely on a computer, and now most of my texts are composed on computers.

5:38 PM  

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