15 June 2007

A Poet Is Born, or at Least Incubated

By about the third day of eighth grade, I already knew I wanted to do everything possible to piss off my English teacher. In retrospect, it was relatively easy, starting with the fact that I was a better writer than she was. But that's not what this is about. This is about that whole fountain pen thing.

For some reason, I decided the most avant-garde thing I could do to tweak her nipples was to use green pen. I started with ballpoint; this was in the early days of roller-ball pens, in the late 80s, and it was only rarely my $3.25 minimum wage library job would allow me to purchase such abecedarian finery. (Even then I eschewed felt-tip pens as both too sloppy and too casual.) Incidentally, this was also right around the time of lapsang souchong, Howard Jones on vinyl, e. e. cummings-esque poems on my father's new electronic typewriter, and the infamous black felt bowler hat that was worn to the constant dismay of other students and barely-suppressed amusement of my beloved science teacher. (I wasn't good at science, mind you, I was just in the throes of adolescent crushdom.) Whenever possible, with baggy wide-wale cords, my father's ancient Harris tweed blazer with the sleeves rolled up, and anything resembling combat boots.

Then my mom gave me her old Esterbrook fountain pen, and the trouble started. For about five years, I wouldn't use anything but green fountain pens. As you can imagine, this was somewhat problematic, though I suspect it gave most college admissions offices a clearer picture of me than any essay. Also that year, I started keeping a consistent, if somewhat focusless, journal in those marble composition books. I used them for two reasons: the hardbacked writing surface was perfect no matter where I went, and my algebra teacher almost never suspected that I wasn't taking notes. Which just goes to show how much attention he was paying.

Twenty years later, I have a collection of close to fifty volumes, almost exclusively penned in varying shades of green ink, ranging from classic emerald (still my favourite, but increasingly hard to find since Shaeffer changed the formula a few years ago) to sticky Waterman bottle-green, to the occasional foray olive or verdant grass-green when I could still find them for my Diplomat. (or my Diplomat, for that matter; have I mentioned everything I own has been in storage for more than a year now?)

Somewhere in my sophomore year at NYU, I took a walk on the wild side and filled an entire journal in deep lilac, and there are more recently swaths of respectable English-schoolteacher blue, a few traces of brown, and--the summer I spent in Scotland--even a black gel rollerball. The chance of losing my beloved Shaeffer was too horrifying to risk it, never mind that they're utterly replaceable at $8.95.

Occasionally my journals will wander, too. My current one, though still the hard-backed composition style, is bright, cheery yellow, almost offensively so, with art-deco swirls. I've gone through riffs on the traditional marble-pattern in blue, red, violet, and (of course) green. I've even tried, without much consistent success, to keep a few other journals--mostly unlined--but I've found that it doesn't work unless I have a "regular" journal going at the same time, too. Also, I clearly recall the first time I actually used a paragraph. I was in college. Prior to that, I just wrote straight through. Compulsively.

I can't say that it successfully drove Miss Petro crazy, any more than constantly signing out to go to band practice or oboe lessons, but it certainly helped my status as class weirdo in my relatively small and entirely homogenous middle school, while everyone else was fluffing their big hair and drifting in and out of pinstripe jeans and fighting over which member of Duran Duran was the hottest.

My one regret is never having enough gumption to dye my hair green.


Anonymous said...

Aha another fountain pen lover!

My poetry flows when I write with a blue-black ink fountain pen. Those camlin ink are still available!

Betty Carlson said...

"Never" is a long time. Who knows what's in store for your hair?

spacedlaw said...

My favourite ink colour was brown - although acqua was also high in my heart. I still use them today (I have refilleable cartridge and use scented ink too). It still annoys people I work with - although they know for a fact I am "weird".

Anonymous said...

I've only gone as far as a pink pen. But I've done my nails green and they truly were the mark of my eccentricity. Hmm, green hair does sound like an interesting thought (if only to match my green nails LOL).

Karen Travels said...

My roommate is always searching for a good freeflowing pen. Although she only likes black ink to be used.

Once, for Christmas, I made her a bouquet of every kind of black inked pen I could find!!

Great post! I loved reading this!

JHS said...

Love it. We went through roller ball color frenzies at the office a few years ago, driving the boss nuts with deposition notes taken in purple ink. Finally, I had to put myself on pen probation because I bought too many . . . I made myself use up all the old ones, even the green ink that I hate, before buying more! :-) I went through Schaeffer fountain pens in college, too, but then discovered some throw-away fountain pens in law school that were great . . . the deep purple made Constitutional Law more bearable.

Azma said...

Hi! This reminds me of the felt tip picture of a mad professor that I drew below a report of a science experiment I did in Year 7. I also stupidly wrote sarcastic replies to the teacher's comments. He wrote "Did this REALLY happen?" so I put "YES"- it ended with me being punished by having to sweep the whole lab with a dustpan and brush.

Patois42 said...

Why not dye your hair green today? Loved reading your post.

Gill said...

Loved your post.

lisrobbe said...

As a child I used to fill my journal pages with different color inks and rotate page by page. Green was one of my favorites too!

tania said...

Hmmm...it's been mentioned a few times in these comments, so I'd say it's not too late to dye your hair green. It might not piss off your teacher, but it would be fun :)

Great post. I'm noticing that this blog usually gives me that feeling of calm peace that comes with reading fine words beautifully used.