Against forgetting

I write a lot of things down. In part this is because I no longer remember anything. If I do not write down that I need to talk to the window cleaner, it might be another month before the planets align to remind me while I am in the bath and far from the world of pencil and paper. In part, as I have said before, I have the stationery thing. Also as I have said before, there isn’t much doubt in my mind that ‘being a writer’ is a way of staying in touch with memories of the gorgeous Caran d’Ache pens and pencil cases of my childhood. I have evidence. My first published poem mentions the writing paper ‘I very much liked using’ that my mother used to bring back from her trips to Switzerland to see her family.

Writing about writing is a thing. But writing about writing instruments is even better. Elco is a brand I seem to remember. Etoile (?) is another. They were pads of letter writing paper, 100gsm, with a textured, slightly bumpy surface which really gripped the ink of my fountain pen. Magically, it also made the ink shine. The cover of each pad was a faded navy blue, with a Swiss flag appearing to flutter in its uncluttered sky. They now reside in the loft, in my old school trunk. (If the University of Somewhere wants to offer me a large amount of money for this archive, I am open to offers.)

The writing things down goes on. I have filled at least two bigger-than shoe boxes of small 90mm x 140mm notebooks from the last ten years. They reside, gathering dust, on the top of a book shelf in the room where I do my work. (I am loathe to say office as it is also a sitting room, which contains a TV and sofas. I am writing this now on one of them.) Occasionally I get them down to look at what I was feeling and thinking and reading and noticing thirteen-plus years ago. (I know I said ten. I lied.) At the moment I have a ‘new’ pile of them on my desk, 20-25 at a guess, each of them dated. They are not quite ready to go upstairs into the boxes. That’s because I need to re-read them in case there is a nugget of something (by which I mean possible line of a poem) I might take away and use. I will need to make time for this.

Latterly I have taken to writing down lists of possible titles for blogs (the titles of poems always seem to come much more slowly, if ever). I will need to sift through these as well. From memory I have been ‘planning’ an essay/blog on Frank O’Hara for at least three years. (When PhD students from the University of Somewhere get round to finding out, I am sure they will  let me know.) I have not got round to writing it yet, obviously. All I keep doing is writing down the title, so I don’t forget.

7 Comments

  1. what is it about stationery? I’m obsessed with it and everyone to whom I mention this says they are too. And now you. What I might have written in a notebook but didn’t is a memory – somewhere in Wembley possibly, definitely after dark, being driven but can’t remember by whom and feeling really depressed. To my left there was a lone, I think, brightly lit Rymans and I felt instantly better, more positive. Reason to carry on. Crazy. (I love very expensive Moleskines)
    And I would love anything you wrote about Frank O’Hara – yes please.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Meg. Everyone I mention stationery also has the same reaction. Except those who don’t. It’s a bit like Brexit in that regard. I have had a Molsekine phase and now avoid them (useless with fountain pens). But hey. As someone says on their pen blog somewhere, there are worse addictions, right?

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  2. Thanks Anthony. My friend Barbara has a theory about blogging. She says: “Every time I read one of your blogs I think ‘That’s another article Charlie will never write.'” I wonder if the same might apply to poems(?)

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  3. Stationery! I love it! Call me old fashioned but I can’t even think without scratching on a paper. I can’t function without a paper notebook. And I draw, so I am one of those who is responsible for the death of trees 😦 but I just can’t stop!

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  4. I just came back from a workshop making a hardback notebook. It’s not half bad for a non crafty person but it has blank pages. Somehow blank pages just fill up with moany journaling. Only lined pages invite poems. I had better try making another one at home, with lined pages. Or use one of the stacks of notebooks already waiting ! I’d read your comments on Frank O’Hara, by the way.

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    1. Oh no, Linda. Plain, plain, plain. Lines can never produce a poem. Not in my book, anyway. Everything is now plain, the work notebook, the small notebook, the poetry notebook… The only lines I admit are the Clairefontaine Seyes exercise books for my morning pages. If you will forgive the pun, rules are rules.

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