Thursday, August 14, 2014

Poetry Friday and Writing Longhand Vs Keyboarding

Happy Poetry Friday! Y'all are going to start to think that I only read poetry by J. Patrick Lewis. That is not true, though he is so versatile and prolific that I could share new poems here every time I post, and you would still enjoy a terrific variety, a great education in the art of poetry. I recently received a review copy of his forthcoming Everything Is a Poem: The Best of J. Patrick Lewis (Creative Editions, 2014). That's right. Pat is a rock star, and he has a greatest hits album!

I devoured this book start to finish, and I adore it. It collects some of his poems from the 1980s up to 2010. The topic categories include Animals, People, Reading (yes!), Sports (eh--only because I'm not a sports fan), Riddles and Epitaphs, Mother Nature(always my favorite), Places, and A Mix. The forms cover a huge range, from free verse to rhyming to specific poetic forms. If you're a fan of Lewis' work (and if not, why not?), do not miss this collection.

It was tough choosing just one to share, as there are around 60 poems here. But this is one of my very favorites:

What a Day

Out of dark's rougher neighborhoods,
Morning stumbles,
none too
recalling now
the thief,
who stole her work
of art--

--J. Patrick Lewis, all rights reserved

Here I am reading this poem:

Now, on to the question of longhand vs. keyboarding, the conversation Carmela started earlier this week. I come down firmly on the side of keyboarding. I do my morning pages that way (sorry, Julia Cameron), I do my nonfiction this way, and I do my poetry this way. At least, I prefer to. I do sometimes write longhand, usually when I'm on the road and don't have a keyboard handy. (Even then, I often carry a portable keyboard that works with my iPhone and is amazing!)

I feel stilted and uncomfortable writing in longhand. My hand can't keep up with my brain, and I can feel the ideas and phrases slipping away faster than I can record them. It's like being trapped in a cave where all this treasure is quickly draining down a hole in the floor, and I only have a tiny spoon to try to grab diamonds before they disappear. So, give me a keyboard any day!

One thing I don't mind doing at all in longhand is brainstorming. If I'm coming up with ideas or just playing around with thoughts on an existing piece, I'll happily make lists and charts and such. For example, when I was first working on poems for a night collection that will come out from Wordsong, I filled a little notebook with thoughts and possibilities.

And, recently, while doing revisions, I had a typed version with me that I made notes on while riding in a car or when I only had five minutes to work. That's when longhand works best for me, when I'm sporadically jotting notes. Write a few words. Put down the paper and go back to what I was actually supposed to be doing. Oops--new thought--grab that paper.

I will say that when I did Riddle-Ku on my blog for National Poetry Month, I wrote 95% of those while riding in a car along Lake Superior in February. I had a little mini-notebook just for that project, and every time I sat down in that seat and picked up my notebook, the poems started pouring out. For very short poems, I don't mind writing longhand. But...if I'd had my keyboard in the car with me and if my phone's battery lasted longer, I'd probably have been typing:>)

You don't have to write longhand OR by keyboard to go enjoy some more poetry! Poet and teacher Heidi Mordhorst at Juicy Little Universe has today's Poetry Friday Roundup--so don't miss it!

And if you haven't already done so, don't forget to enter our current giveaway for a chance to win the historical middle-grade novel Odin's Promise (Crispin Press) by Sandy Brehl. See JoAnn's post for all the details.



Mary Lee said...

JPL's book is waiting for me on the top of my TBR pile!
Thanks for the peek!

laurasalas said...

It is a poetry master class, Mary Lee. Enjoy!

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

I'm with you, my sistah from another mistah! I've been writing almost exclusively on keyboard since I first learned how to use one, probably going back to 5th or 6th grade. And even then, on an electric typewriter, my hands couldn't keep up with my brain! Brainstorming, notes, etc., - I'm fine w/longhand. (Although it takes some effort to decipher what I write!)

Jill said...

Another book for my to-be-read pile. Thanks for the lovely glimpse, Laura!

laurasalas said...

Yea, Matt! It always feels like everyone thinks writing by longhand is better, more literary (not that literary is my goal), etc. Nice to find a comrade in arms (in keys?)!

Jill, it's just a fabulous collection--enjoy!

Carmela Martino said...

Hi Laura--I LOVE hearing how different approaches work for different writers. Your response to the question is another reason why I tell my students there's no "right" or "wrong" writing process--only what works for you. This sentence from your post:
>>It's like being trapped in a cave where all this treasure is quickly draining down a hole in the floor, and I only have a tiny spoon to try to grab diamonds before they disappear. <<
is the kind of imagery I just can't seem to write when I'm at a keyboard. I wish I could, as that would be MUCH faster. :-)
And thanks for another terrific J. Patrick Lewis post!

LInda Baie said...

Nearly all the teachers at school have students use writers notebooks, daybooks or something like that. I keep a writers notebook mostly for demonstration for lessons now, but I have many in the past that were longhand. Now I sit with the laptop and write, with several sites open that are helpful, like rhyme zone. My hand writing is getting sloppier because of so little use I guess. Interesting that some keep with their yellow pads, etc. Good old habits are touchstones too I guess. thanks for the share of J. Patrick Lewis new book-now on my list!

Bridget Magee said...

Yay a JPL Greatest Hits book! I just put it on hold at my library! Thanks for previewing it with us, Laura. Also, in regards to long hand vs keyboard, I'd say I am ambidextrous - either is fine, whichever is "handy". Hee- hee. =)

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

I can't remember when I was this excited about a "best of" album... and, lucky for us, the hits just keep coming! As for longhand vs. keyboard, I guess I'm kind of a hybrid. I often do first drafts in longhand... at least partially, but there comes a time when I simply must have it on a screen in order to keep going. Or sometimes I type it up, print it out, and then keep going in longhand-- it's like the act of typing it is a reboot of sorts.

Karen Edmisten said...

Love the first lines:

Out of dark's rougher neighborhoods,
Morning stumbles,

Such good stuff.

I used to always write in longhand and then start revisions as I typed up the work. But more often than not these days, I prefer the keyboard for the same reasons you (so beautifully) outlined -- the speed, getting the ideas on the page (screen.) :) said...

I'm just the opposite. I prefer to write longhand because my fingers cannot type fast enough--or accurate enough--using a keyboard to keep up with my brain. I do tend to edit as I transcribe my longhand into the computer, so in a way that saves some time. I never learned how to type, using a typewriter, until high school, unlike kids today who learn in first grade. I guess that makes me dates. :)

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Looking forward to this greatest hits album, and recording its inspiration by hand in my notebook; then redrafting as I type it not long after!

laurasalas said...

I loved reading these replies and seeing our various work methods! This is why I love and joyfully acknowledge that there's never any one "right" way to write. It's all about what works for each of us, and that's often some kind of hybrid approach. We are lucky to have so many options.

And to those of you looking forward to Everything Is a Poem, I am pretty sure that you will adore it:>)

April Halprin Wayland said...

Laura ~ I agree with Carmela--the image of being in a cave as the jewels slip down the!

And thanks for giving us a peek at Pat's "Best of" ~ that amazing morning poem is stunning. Inspiring and discouraging in its brilliance at the same time!

Douglas Florian said...

I loved your review and loved this book!