There’s a choice of how to write–do I write poems in my journal with a pen or on the keyboard, saved as files?
The keyboard is faster, of course. My fingers race across the replaced keys, hearing the different clicking like the thump of new pointe shoes the ballerina has not yet broken in. There’s a pause then, and I take out a word, replace it with a sleeker one, more compact, stronger. It has to do a lot of lifting.
It builds from there. Each correction strengthens the whole ephemeral structure, which exists only on the screen. If the word’s not strong enough, it’s wiped away. But the trouble here is, there is no trace of what came first, or second, or what I wrote at 8:14 or what was more important at 8:27.
Writing in the journal saves each choice for more consideration. Words that shifted, stay in place, a slightly wavy line running through it, like a false horizon behind which the meaning sinks.
But all the thoughts and edges, all the trails of ideas remain. It’s like the evolution progression that shows a fish and then a fish with legs, and then the land amphibian, crawling into the future.
Of course, the journal page is messy, proof of my mistakes, of how I change my mind. Revisions keep the memory alive. Words are pulled and whittled, and fitted back into place, a tighter fit, a smoother finish.
The ember of idea is coaxed to flame. The old chips of words nestle in the page, kindling to dry out damp ideas and lukewarm thoughts. There is hope of revival.
There is no evolution on a keyboard and a screen. Just memory of what was there before. A messy page is proof that I’ve been working, but proof also that I am slow and effort is tedious. But in my mind, it is the hero’s journey, the understanding what it takes to write a solid poem.
—Quinn McDonald is in a three-year program to become a poetry therapist.