Thursday, March 30, 2006

Juliet got me thinking, about how we organize our work as writers--not just poems, but journals, scraps, ephemera. Because it seems important somehow for artists in general, and writers most of all. It may be that latent librarian in me, but I've always been a little obsessed with archiving—even scrapbooks….(not in that frou-frou housewifey sort of way) but just keeping clippings and various stuff in photo albums. Highschool. College. Writing stuff. Until I started blogging, I'd kept written journals in those marble mead composition books since 1994. I lost a nearly full one in 1996 when my backpack was swiped in Mississippi, and feel sometimes like I lost a year, or a limb. Since summer 03’ it’s all been online-first xanga then here.

For poems , I've managed to keep a file folder for each year's poems and scraps. I used to keep drafts, but it gets a little paper crazy, so now I toss them. I actually have one for high school poems (pre-1992) one for college poems (1992-1996), one for grad school poems (1997-1999) and now yearly ones. I occasionally go back to laugh at the high school and college ones, and occasionally with other years to scavenge for usable stuff in poems I've trashed. The high school poems are handwritten on various kinds of stationary and notebook paper, and explore various unrequited crushes and generalized teen angst. I had a fondness for yellow legal pads in college, and regular old notebook paper. I banged out a lot of drafts on my electric typewriter (utilizing lots of whiteout and correction tape.) My poems were really short and minimal, political often, and some typed two or three to a page on very thin, nearly transparent typing paper.

In grad school, I have the original drafts on notebook paper and the word processed versions (I used a brother desktop publishing machine then, which was significantly cheaper than buying a computer in those days. ) I was really organized then—probably because I didn’t actually do much besides go to class and write those couple of years. In 2001, when I really began submitting, most of the typed drafts of poems were typed on my work e-mail, and then sent out to e-zines. I must have trashed the original drafts, mostly (and still) written on whatever scrap paper is lying about, the backs other copies of poems I don’t need, work forms, mail. I try to get rid the random ephemera of the workings out of a poems asap, but some of I’ve found here and there in the files. Now, poems usually get typed in first in word files, or sometimes on the blog, depending which computer I’m at. I have a few working notebooks that I collect off bits of things, but I'm not that attached to those, and usually toss them when they get to ragged, recopy everything I haven't used yet into a new notebook, and start anew. I actually seem to have moved away from the notebooks at all of late, and wind up carrying loose stuff around in file folders.

A few months ago I went through everything and it’s like a little archaeological dig into my life. A terrible poem about loneliness scrawled on the same purple stationary I used to write pen-pal letters on. A poem about some professor my freshman year who made some snide comment about feminism written on a Student Government office form. Others on various college class handouts (a lot of them written in class when I was pretending to take notes.) a fragment of a poem written on the back of an archaeology lecture program I was forced to attend once. Several poems printed out senior year of college on the old dot-matrix printer in the lab at RC.

And still, I’m anxious. Blogging for example feels very un-permanent. I fought off the urge of printing things out, since a lot of what I write in my blog is goofing off, and not at all what I’d write in a private journal. There’s also the public aspect of it, these entries being like half-letter and half journal. So I’m not even sure I’d need to keep them. I’m tempted to go back and weed out the important stuff in a word file. Just to be on the safe side if something terrible happened to technology—you know --plagues, terrorist attacks, zombies.

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