Sunday, April 1, 2012

notebooks (le cahier): poetry month kick-off

my favorite notebooks, on account of their silky paper

i'm sure you already knew i was gonna make a big deal about poetry month.

i won't disappoint.

i just cracked open my third red moleskine paper bound notebook with cream graphing paper pages.  i got a three-pack of these notebooks at the sarah lawrence college bookstore in july 2010.  that same day, i went to the cloisters and took a bunch of notes and sat in the gardens, then returned to the hotel and wrote some poems about stained glass and unicorn tapestries.

by this july i will have filled up three moleskines, one wonderwoman notebook (from target, that i won at a holiday white elephant gift exchange) and one clairefontaine notebook.  i don't write prose or scripts in my notebooks.  i do write poems, menus, quotes from my reading, shopping lists and sometimes to-do lists.

i like to mix all of these genres in each notebook.  when i look back on them they give me a sense of time and place better than any through-written journal could.  for instance, i had forgotten the week we had these menus for dinner:

t-gabrielle hamilton's chrilled cheese with squash soup
th-quesadillas with black beans
s-chocolate walnut picnic cake

i had forgotten that i had read this from the baghavad gita in roughly the same quarter of that year:

kill the enemy menacing you in the form of desire. (3.43)

that i had been at the love feast in oklahoma rehearsing for three concerts with program orders such as this:

stoops improv
eyvind's piece
jessika songs

that i had started, but never finished, a little essay about an inlaid rosewood desk,  how many times my grocery lists called for garbanzos, tahini, and lemons, or that lula had written a note for me to buy her some floral tights.

or that i had drafted 19 poems based on the teachings of the baghavad gita.

because: the tree of life is unchanging and lucidity addicts one to joy.

or that i had called marni and asked her to dictate the words to hildegard's aer aenim volat to me over the phone.  or bought half n' half, cider vineagar, foundation, popcorn kernels, limes, donuts and cocoa powder one day.

i love my notebooks for another reason:  they are a  finite space to fill with writing.  the infinite nature of the word doc can be overwhelming.  the choice of how many pages, words, chapters you can write is overwhelming.  i love to close a full notebook, with every page written on.  (all of my notebooks have doodles from my kids in them as well, as i have them with me in the car, at church, in restaurants and waiting rooms.  so they are inscribed by hands other than my own.)

knowing that i want to finish filling my fifth notebook by july of this year is a concrete and achievable mark to set for myself.  especially since a number of pages can be devoted to listing the ingredients needed to make biscuits and gravy, or ratatouille.  and a few more pages can be devoted to things like:  schedule orthodontist appointment.  go to cecy's violin lesson.  sign the kids up for swimming.  call dmba.  etc.

it's cheering to observe that  life is created through juxtaposition, to see the poetic and the quotidian lying side by side.

like ms. smartytights says
the external trappings matter.

(this month i will be a "guest prompter" at book balloon--offering a poetry prompt each wednesday during national poetry month.  the fantastic janet mcadams is doing daily prompts there, and i'm joining her.  i'm starting my first poem of april today, from her prompt.  i think i'll try to do one a day for the entire month.  are you up to it?  wanna try?)

legwear:  bare legs under maxi dress (even though it's freezing outside.)

inspiration:  daily poetry prompts

looking forward: to traditional conference sunday tamale dinner with the family


  1. I really want to read your unicorn poem(s).

  2. What if I'm terrible at poetry? What if the notable Irish poet Eavan Boland basically STRONGLY implied this???

    That said, I love Claire Fontaine and Moleskin and notebooks in general. I them everywhere. A computer will never usurp them.

  3. I've been writing short "poems" at night, in bed, in a Mahlum architecture firm moleskine (that's the firm that designed my high school--and they send me one every year for Christmas. It's kinda cute--their logo is embossed on the cover very discreetly and elegantly). Poems is a stretch. I'm ready to do it for realz.