As most of you are painfully aware, the keyboard generation left behind the act of cursive writing, for the most part. I’ve met a number of people who call cursive writing quaint, but it has no place in a culture of instant publication.
I’ve spent 44 years handwriting in notebooks of various sizes, and for different purposes. As some of you are aware, I’m working on three groups of poems about Lisa: Gray Notebook, a middle section of poems specifically to or for Lisa, and Black Notebook. I had the Black Notebook with me on a trip out West which happened for a specific reason (the place we’d agreed to return to).
Now, a confession: I take various medications to control hypertension, and because of the simple fact of emotionality associated with all this, the meds weren’t working. And you can tell in my handwriting. In certain moments you can see the tremors. And you might be able to see that I’m trying not to give in to them.
I found it interesting that so many people come up to me to look more closely at a page. In the past, that was a sign that I was about to have a confrontation with someone who’d insist, loudly enough for everyone to hear, that I was some sort of FBI agent. Those are the folks who never graduated. And in certain taverns even today, I find myself with cause to wonder that again.
But not in the Sidewalk Cafe in Venice Beach. Literally a bar with a bookstore, it was a stopping point for the Beats and its specific history is worth checking out. Anyway, I liked a certain place at the bar near a corner and the restroom, which unfortunately meant people could also see what I was doing. So they’d stop and say often very kind things about it. They were uniformly nice about the whole exchange. One woman even called it art, in the calligraphic sense. I make no claim about its art except that I hope the words those letters spell come out right. She said, “It almost doesn’t matter what you’re writing,” except of course it matters to me.
It’s sad that people are losing the ability to write this way. I do it for several reasons. First, it’s slower than typing, meaning I have more time to consider the language, establish an almost physical relationship with the pen and paper. Now, I can also do that on a keyboard, as I’m trying to do now, but there’s a difference. This way the mind has to move at a much greater speed to keep up with what’s possible with ten fingers as opposed to five.
Secondly, for me it’s a matter of history and habit. Yes, I have a laptop; but I won’t be without some way to handwrite. Not often, anyway. I know that when I sit down to handwrite, there’s an old relationship present. No matter what happens or changes with me, that won’t.