I have a beautiful ‘Paperblanks’ notebook that is dedicated to first drafts and notes for the War collection of poems that I am currently working on.
It was a brave step to start writing in it because I am one of those peculiar people who loves crisp new sheets of paper and collects unusual or beautiful notebooks but actually writes on old envelopes or tatty scraps so that I don’t mess up the pretty stuff!
When I’m writing fiction, or should I say prose as opposed to poetry, I write directly on to the computer. With poems however I always write longhand and only generate an electronic version once I have stopped editing and fiddling and searching for just the right word or phrase.
Not only do I write longhand, but it has to be in pencil – I can only think poetically in pencil. I have often wondered why that is and have decided it is so that if I get it horribly wrong, I can rub it out.
I have also noticed that the handwriting I use for poetry is much fatter that that I use for say shopping lists, though not as exuberant as that I use when signing a birthday card. There is undoubtedly a science to all this but actually what I am doing – or rather what I am not doing – is writing!
So, back to the notebook. I am pleased with my progress this week in that I have headed pages for 4 new poems – What Price Pomegranates, BFPO Parcel Shopping Basket, Roadworks and Female Cricketers. An idea for a fifth is percolating. It comes from the discovery that the Afghan insurgents call our soldiers ‘donkeys’ because they carry such heavy loads. I’m not sure where that one is going yet, so I have not risked writing it in the notebook.
Roadworks is about soldiers being tasked with completing over 100 metres of road building per day, which they have to undertake whilst wearing full body armour and headgear. The cricket one is about the dreams of the national Afghan women’s cricket team – yes there really is one now – to compete in and even win the Asia cup – they train in a stadium that until recently was used by the Taliban for punishments and beheadings.
These four headings are written in pencil, fatly, at the top of four double page spreads in the notebook. They look good. The lines beneath the headings are crisply, cleanly empty. Unsullied, because all the notes and free-writes and clusters of ideas and words I would like to use in the poems are scribbled on odd scraps of paper in an envelope tucked into the back of the book!