staring at a blank page

Nothing is more intimidating than a blank page.  Sigh.  Come to think of it, a blank page might as well be the metaphor of my life, wehehehe.

To digress. Years ago, I bought this really pretty poetry notebook.  It’s a poetry notebook for dummies, actually.  I don’t think real poets use notebooks like those, hahaha. On some pages it had quotes, tips and some jumpstarts. But I still have yet to write my first poem on it.

I used to keep several drafts of poems written in longhand in thick Mead notebooks.  I have lots of those.

On more inspired days, I used to write at least a poem each day in those notebooks. Now I type directly on my PC.  I miss those analog notebook days. While working on my poems, I relish going through the earlier drafts, seeing the words stricken out, the notes I’d scribbled on margins (some unintelligible even to me), versions of poems unravelling in successive pages.

Maybe that’s what I missed in my pretty poetry notebook, that kept me from writing on it.  It doesn’t allow for drafts–you’re supposed to write a new poem on every page.  In my ugly Mead notebooks I literally saw a poem take shape–the writing can  be described as almost physical as a poem evolved in parts or as a whole, with all the markings on the page, or coffee stains, even. They say a poem never truly is finished written unless it is published. Hmm, I wonder where my pretty notebook is now.

I love notebooks and sketchpads. I love anything that has paper in it, I suppose.  Three years ago, I’d been very lucky to get sent to Shanghai on business, and our erudite host/client very kindly showed us around the wonderful city, showing us what was quintessentially Shanghai, including the Bund and the very fashionable Xintiandi District.

But it was the trip to Fuzhou Road–the booksellers’ and stationers’ row–that I love and remember the most. I felt awestruck like Harry Potter when he first went shopping for his school supplies. On this street, a giant multi-storey bookstore sits beside quaint little bookshops selling repros of Chinese literary classics and scrolls. Turn around the corner and you find yourself in the middle of a street lined with printers’ shops and stationers’ stores selling all stationery, calligraphers’ and printers’ supplies imaginable—ink blocks, brushes of all thicknesses, papers and wrappers of all kind, patterned paper-covered wooden boxes, fabric-covered wooden boxes, reams and reams of wonderful, wonderful paper—for writing calligraphy, for sketching. Curiously, there were even wooden drawing mannequins. Cash-strapped and wary of the baggage limit then, I was only able to take home sheets of thick cream-colored paper for sketching and for printing rubber cuts.

I still have a couple of moleskine notebooks begging for attention.  I need to have a theme.  Like travel. That would be nice.  Architectural details, people, scenes.  I loved the idea of the journal in The English Patient movie. So romantic. But sadly, I have not travelled much lately. And there’s not much possibility of that, I think, in the immediate future.

What I know for sure is that I’d like to capture ephemeral things in my sketchbook. No grand themes like Mother and Child, or anything pretentious like that.

But, what ephemera?  Soiled nappies?  Scattered toys? Blobs of spit-up? Creepy.  Am sounding too much like I’m gonna stick my head in an oven and turn on the gas next. And ooh… I just remembered that Sylvia Plath did have doodles of coffee cups and stilleto heels in a bonus chapter in my copy of The Bell Jar.

Must one necessarily be suicidal to be creative?  Hahaha.


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