End of a Notebook

Poetry, Writing August 9, 2014

Sometimes I watch how other people use paper.

It upsets me when I see  someone write only one side of a sheet or write on alternate lines of ruled paper.

I grew up writing on every inch of paper I could find, not out of worry for the forests but for paper itself. I used, for the most part, very ordinary notebooks. Once I found an empty notebook from my mother’s college days and I used that. It was very yellow. Today I buy Moleskines (which, from the looks of the graduate classes I’ve been attending, some writers use all the time) only when I know they will be carefully used and preserved. Typically I only buy their daily planners or their most ordinary softcover notebooks to copy out my favorite poems.

You could say I have a kind of disgust for ill-used notebooks.

And then I have a stack of paper of all kinds: junk mail, receipts, old assignments no one will want anymore. I write on their empty backs: notes for poems, grocery lists, lists of things to do. I use post-it notes very sparingly. I think they’re dangerous.

It turns out there are older relatives in my family who use paper in this same way. I can’t say whether I learned this habit from them or if it simply runs in the family like a, I like to think, good gene.

Here’s an example from my college days. Notes from a college guest lecture on the Israeli-Palestine conflict written on foolscap:

College Notes

 In 2011, during the second year of my MFA, I started a notebook of poetry notes. I had begun work on a long poem (which is now The Robing of the Bride) that needed a lot of shaping. Later I used it to work on my thesis proper. Since I hardly used a third of the notebook, I kept using it after the thesis was done. It is only now that this notebook is nearly over. Out of lavishness I am leaving a few pages empty.

It may seem strange that a writer would use only one (regular composition) notebook for nearly three years, but, aside from being rather sparing with my use of paper, I never wrote in it regularly. I rarely carried it around with me and most of my scribbled ideas for lines are recorded on my computer or on scraps of paper. I used the notebook more for organizational notes, questions about what I have done or intend to do, and most especially, to re-write my poems by hand as a way to arrive at their best forms. Body over mind, one might say.


These are revision notes for a poem that appeared in MiPOesias. Feels a bit naked to show this, at least in part because of how much space I use here. Maybe poems get more paper?

There are more scans from this notebook here.

My new poetry notebook is purple.

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