July 13, 2006
Last night I was at a mothertongue reading at the Black Cat here in DC (yes, Tara Betts was *amazing*). A woman was preparing for her open mic stint by running her fingers over lines scribbled in a journal. The journal's cover was ornate, red leather molded with the Sacred Heart of Jesus (you know, the flaming one). "That's a nice journal; I bet that's from Florence," I said, and it was--a gift from the woman's friend. "But," the poet confessed, "I had it for months, and I never actually wrote in it. It's so fancy. It just didn't feel like...me. So now I use it for the dirty stuff." Sure enough, the poem she read from it was a sinuous erotic encounter--thumb licking, head turning, sighing and sweating. She had a little black notebook tucked in her jeans pocket for the more straightforward stuff.
I sympathize. To give a journal to a writer is safe, like giving something adorned with an apple to a teacher. But really, we tend to be very picky about where we write and what we write in. I have stacks of untouched journals from well-meaning friends. I bet I'm not the only one.
Cornelius Eady finally convinced me to keep a notebook; for every previous professor I had just created a mock-journal at the last minute, scribbling out retroactive drafts from the poems I had created on a computer. The magic book, for me, had a hula girl on the front who danced when you shifted the cover in the light. Today, I can thumb back through it and see the antecedents of poems that have long since evolved into print. I love that. But sadly, I wrote out the last page a few months ago and have yet to find a suitable replacement. I'm looking for decent heft, a line wide enough and tall enough, a cover that is colorful but not distracting. There have been a few contenders but nothing quite right, and now there's growing pile of orphaned journals with just two pages used.
Too hot! Too cold! Where's the one that is just right?