Kate Hoyle is a poet and visual artist from Moraga, California. Her work has been published in Tupelo Press 30/30 Project, The AUDACITY and Smokelong Quarterly. Her five poem series, On America, is currently touring the US and South America on exhibit in U2’s Joshua Tree World Tour. You can see more of her work at katehoyle.com
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Working on Pen to Paper was interesting for me because it brought Burchfield’s handwriting into a larger context. While some artists took time and care in crafting letters to friends, Burchfield had little concern for the elegance and precision of the written word.Read More
BY RAGS EDWARD
Papers are selected, painted and torn down. Then they are folded into gatherings for pages.
Harmonious hand-painted materials are selected for applying to the cover boards, inside and out.
Bees wax for the sewing thread, leather straps cut and a hand drawn binding map for guidance.
A luscious bloom of watercolor to illuminate your handwriting.
A stack of my hand bound half sized journals with inset photographs and hand painted paste paper covers.
A stack of my full-sized hand bound journals with leather straps and hand painted paste paper covers.
From hand to bound, pages to contain my every thought.
In this essay on deleted pasts and new beginnings, Aine Greaney takes us around the world in an old composition notebook: the only one she brought with her when she emigrated to America. With the start of the new year just behind us, we find this piece more timely than ever, as we revisit filled pages from the past, and look toward the blank ones of the future.Read More
BY CHELSEA FLORIO
For as long as I can remember, I have loved language. Whether it's studying foreign languages (from Arabic to Elvish) or learning the rules of my native tongue (English) and playfully finding new ways to break them, I am completely enthralled with learning about the ways people communicate.
Above and below are journal entries spanning the last several years in which I played around with writing in new ways. Many of them are my attempts to learn how to write left-handed because I've always seen ambidexterity as one of the neatest skills on the planet. Interspersed are my attempts at learning Morse code, which I find to be a delightfully mysterious and pretty much forgotten form of clandestine communication. Neither of the skills I've been trying to acquire when very bored are really that practical, but it's a fun way to pass the time.
BY ALI OSWORTH
The Pen Thing started with my mother. She kept a small yellow notepad in the kitchen, and she would write on it with a blue felt tip pen—the edges of it smooth and round, curving a u-shape up to the tip. It had metallic flecks in it—the barrel of the pen, not the ink. She had other colors—red, green, and black—all kept in the junk drawer, scattered around with twine, two rulers with marker all over them, and my father’s construction-strength tape measure. She made lists and wrote notes to my brother and I with these pens, always only these pens. She’d start her letter B from the bottom, way below the soft straight line when she wrote her name, Berit. The first letter almost looked like a heart.
When I sought out one of her pens, standing on my tip-toes to reach into the junk drawer, my mother would warn me: don’t grab the permanent ones. Back then, I thought it was because if you wrote on your skin with permanent marker, it would never come off. I was convinced that’s how my grandfather got his Navy tattoo. And so I used Crayola for longer than was reasonable. But now I know: she didn't want anyone else using Her Pen.
The first sign of The Pen Thing came in college when I bought a pack of three extra-fine-tipped Sharpies. After first use, I ignored every other writing utensil I possessed. I think I was looking to make an indelible mark upon the world. They resembled my mother’s pens — the felt tip ones — but differed from them just enough that I felt like I was individuating. I kept long lists of verbs I could use in my acting training — “You can’t just feel — you have to get on stage and do.” — all written in Sharpie. I wrote on my scripts in Sharpie. After college, I started keeping a journal and I wrote that in Sharpie, too. It didn’t matter that it bled to the other pages. Sharpie was the most permanent, and I feared death. Sharpie was the most consistent, and I feared change.
Someone borrowed one of My Sharpies once and wrote on the rubber sole of their sneaker with it like a heathen — the tip was no longer the sleek, immortal ink delivery service that attracted me so to the Sharpie. It was frayed. I began to carry around My Sharpies and other Sharpies — a whole box that I could give away when someone asked if I could lend them a pen. "Keep it. Don't worry about it, I have a whole box." I won't want it after you've used it, were the words I did my best to keep to myself.
The Sharpie era lasted a good long time. My journals are proof: the smudges and spidery bleeds are telltale. It was my father who broke the spell. I was in South Carolina for Christmas, about to finish a journal and start a fresh one. Oh, what a holiday! New Journal Day! I usually had at least two of My Sharpies in my backpack, the one with all the patches from Europe. I scoured it and couldn’t find either one of them, nor the backup unchristened third Sharpie, which I swore I’d left in the front pocket in the same place as emergency tampons.
On that day, my father lent me a pen. It was the one he used to write with in his Franklin Covey planner before he retired — ink black with gold fountain tip and clip, a small Pelikan pelican embossed on it if you look closely. He led me into his library and showed me how to load ink into it. “You can keep it, if you like,” he said. "I'd never steal your pen," I replied. "But I will borrow it."
I took it to the table and wrote an entry in my journal: it wrote like a dream. I filled the yellow journal and sitting nearby was a new red one, and I saw an opportunity to be a continuous person for an entire Moleskin. I walked over to my father. He was watching television with my mother. I asked him if I could steal his pen, and he laughed — he put one hand on his chest and threw his head back like he always does. He never did replace his pen. Perhaps I should feel sad and return his pen. I will not return his pen.
Fountain nibs mold to a person’s hand, you know, just like felt tips. But they are so much more permanent. When a felt tip pen comes to the end of its life, it goes in the garbage. A fountain pen is like having a pet that knows your voice and lives forever. I thought there was something special in that — that the nib on that pen had gotten used to my father and was then getting used to me. Part of me feels like I betrayed my mother in this moment — I did not steal her pens.
I wrote with my father’s pen for seven months. During that time, I lived in the attic of the house my father and grandfather built in 1954. I made it through the whole red journal with that pen. Once, I thought I lost it. I started hyperventilating and my fiancée made me check all the closets. One of our cats pushed it through a crack under a door that looked like it was made for a gnome — it lead to the eaves. When I retrieved it from the dust and the cotton candy insulation, I remember crying a little. But I can’t find the journal entry to prove it.
That’s when I decided that not losing the pen was more important than being a continuous person. So I bought a ballpoint seven-year pen from the bookstore on the corner. It’s called a seven-year pen because it’s supposed to have enough ink to write meters and meters per day for seven years. That’s a lot of years for me to get attached to a pen! But ballpoint — what am I, a madwoman? I chose the one with a bicycle on the clip because I aspire to be a better person than I currently am, transportation- and fitness-wise. I took it with me on a trip to the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree National Park; research for a novel I imagine I will resurrect someday. I wrote fast, drunk with ballpoint power, on the edge of a desert staring into the great bowl of the sky.
It broke recently, that pen. I could sense it happening. The clip came loose and I knew it would crack. It still writes, but it is no longer My Pen. Other people can use it now, if they want to use a broken, imperfect, mortal pen. Sensing it was about to break, I bought a set of Staedtlers triplus fineliners. There are ten of them, each a different color, and I tote them around in the clear case they came in. They’re called “porous point pens.” That means “felt tip pens,” in pen addict speak. My friend asked to borrow one recently, and I looked her in the face and said, “No.” Even though there are ten of them, they are all Mine — the “porous tips” have now bonded with me and I’m keeping them. She has since purchased her own set.
I tried to use the pens evenly so they wore out at the same rate. My journal, the one I just finished, is a veritable rainbow inside. And the clear, easel-prop storage case began to break. I devised a plan that consists of attractive Washi tape and ignoring the death of things.
Since beginning my latest journal, I am using only the black pen in the Staedtler set. It may seem like I’ve thrown caution to the wind, pentropy be damned. But no — it’s because I can get a million more black fineliners. When these pens break and break my heart, the black one, at least, can be replaced. The barrel is a metallic silver; it is triangular, but the corners are round. Smooth. That I am marching ever toward being my mother is not lost on me. Sometimes I write with the fountain pen in the safety of my own apartment, when I need to channel my father. My need to individuate is gone. I could do with a bit of permanence, a bit of history. I could stand to write with the pens and the preoccupations that got used to my family’s hands.
In this micro-ritual, Ali Osworth lays out the key ingredients to safeguarding ink's elegance, and her daily quest for grace. For those of you looking to slow down your mornings, taking a look at what's on your desk is a good place to start.Read More
On the top of a mountain in the Pacific Northwest, author Chad Frisk came to a clearing. He didn't expect to write there, but he also didn't expect to be there, which is exactly why he wrote there. Below is the result in its original shape.
A project that weaves together generations, experiences, and handwritten expressions.Read More
BY SARAH MADGES
I am often asked, “What are you going to do with all of those?” in regards to my ever-amassing collection of notebooks.
The tone people adopt when they ask me registers as an accusation, or a warning that they’re going to turn me in to the reality show Hoarders’ producers and stage a televised intervention. True, the amount of notebooks I’ve accumulated makes moving daunting (the journals, both blank and filled-in, take up at least four standard file boxes, and are heavy). But these bound batches of scribbles mean the world to me. Because it isn’t just the words that matter — the content ranging from teen angst to amateur poetry to higher ed revelations — but the format. The tangibility. The way the words look on the page. The way my handwriting sometimes forms tight serpentine ribbons or grows looser and larger when tipsy or tired or both.
The materials matter; even the notebook choice tells a story. Moving chronologically, my notebooks upgrade in quality from flimsy composition notebooks (Harriet the Spy-grade Meads) or one-subject college ruled notebooks I also used for high school Trig, to those ubiquitous ribboned moleskines, or Germany’s analogue, the Leuchtturm, or even the notebook in which I composed this draft—a Stamford Notebook Co. lizard embossed cobalt beauty handbound in England.
The medium change means a few things: 1) I moved up one ladder rung in the service industry and could afford nicer products, 2) I was starting to take myself seriously as a writer, and each double-digit-$ notebook was an investment in that continued pursuit 3) other people were taking me seriously as a writer, and gifting me nice notebooks for holidays 4) I realized the paper quality, brightness, and thickness, all contributed to the actual look of the text.
I began to appreciate the aesthetic of each individual journal entry, independent of the actual written content.
BY BRETT RAWSON
As a kid, I preferred to cruise in crowds and tell stories in front of audiences. I didn't like to read or write. By eighth grade, I had left both far behind: my reading and writing levels were three years behind me. I remember my mother used to turn on the microwave timer for thirty minutes, pleading me to read, if not just look at, any book. I'd say of course, she'd walk away, and fifteen minutes later, I'd approach the microwave, and press five buttons one second apart, mimicking the end of the thirty minute session, and with not so much as a be back later, I'd be running down the street toward a cul-de-sac of activity.
But in between two rice paddies, around the age of twenty two, I discovered the wild noise and absurd worlds that existed inside me. By simply putting thoughts to paper, new universes of ideas came flowing forth. Each night, as I sank into these stories, I found a sense of relief in a new kind of silence: writing by hand. In the beginning, most were about the everyday, but I recall many faraway thoughts. I ran after each, even if it meant brushing up against a vanishing point. I didn't always make it back to where I began, but I also realized that wasn't the point. I was supposed to be, or perhaps get, lost.
A decade later, my closet is the only one complaining about my now daily practice. The process itself is about processing, and during stretches of time when I am not handwriting enough, I feel the difference in my mind. The distraction, echoes, and pressures. They build up if I don't clean things out. There is continuity is all the connections: these kraft brown journals. I have a few that exhibit some decorations, but those are specifically journals I keep to write about writing. When I open up these covers, I walk inside an open. And in that undisclosed place, nothing has to make sense.
Didn't we just discover a new planet? We're always discovering new planets. My telescope is just pointed in a different direction.