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Handwritten is a place and space for pen and paper. We showcase things in handwriting, but also on handwriting. And so, you'll see dated letters and distant postcards alongside recent studies and typed stories. 

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This Poem is a Launch of Owning Who One Is • Carolyn Ingram

Brett Rawson

Note from Handwritten: We were connected to Carolyn Ingram by our partner in the pen Karen Benke. There was a poem Karen couldn't get out of her head. It was Carolyn's tightly lined memory of struggling over the shape of her letters as an elementary school student. What made Carolyn's experience unique is that she has a condition called disgraphia, a neurological disorder marked by impairment of the ability to write by hand (and spell). It is still very much a part of her every day. The contours of this poem bring us a little closer to Carolyn's world. Intermixed into the poem, with Carolyn's permission, are italicized excerpts of our exchanges with her over the past few weeks, which we think offers a slice of light into a new world of the handwritten word.

First Grade

I couldn’t write
my letters neatly;
day after day
I alone was kept
back to achieve
the proper spacing
to aim the tails
in the right direction.

As a person with disgraphia who loves the brain connection to writing by hand, and often can’t decipher what is written, this poem is a launch of owning who one is, at an early age.

I can still feel
the knot of shame
in my stomach's pit
unable to write
3 “b’s” in a row
without squishing
or reversing, or having them
all fall as they do
dangling off the line.

There is one lingering yearning. For years I wrote on yellow pads with pencils—the graphite slowness of forming letters and words with a pencil is one trick that helps—because I could feel the way creativity and the muse meet when the mind, heart and hand connect. I wish I could do that. So much is lost and unreadable, the act of writing itself is so frustrating, that mostly it is better to write on the computer, to capture the words and thoughts and feelings. And I’d love to be able to send legible notes via snail mail. One of my secret little joys is that my adult daughter loves snail mail and communicates that way with many of her friends. 

The letters and I tried.
We did. But the paper
only filled with more
smudges and holes
from all my erasing
gone bad

Armed with nostalgia for the days when I tried harder to write by hand, and the knowing that handwritten is a closer connection to heart-based creativity, and the reminders from you and Karen, perhaps I will find that this journal is just the one, when coupled with just the right pencil.

Oh what does it matter
what side of a “b” or a “d”
the stick is on?
Or what side of the ruler
my father used to spank me
or in which hand
he held it?

Today, everything aligned and I started the morning with a handwritten poem, feeling that different flow in the intimate connection of the words moving through me, to my pencil, to the white, wide-spaced legal pad I had chosen. When I transferred the poem to a word document, there was only one word I could not decipher. 

My left-handed letters
would never march
or stand in line,
and neither would I


Carolyn Ingram's first forays into storytelling came when her older sister demanded bedtime stories, and she's been engaged in the art of interpreting, imagining, creating, analyzing, and sculpting language ever since. She's been a bilingual kindergarten teacher in the orange groves of central California, a psychologist guiding clients to untangle and come to terms with their own life stories, now a coach supporting her clients to figure out what is next, and how to get there; a poet capturing bright observation, family history, and daily encounter and weaving them into nest-like poems; and the mother to a daughter who shares the writing tendency, and who, in fact, wrote this bio for her.