ABOVE: Copies of the fourteen-strong sonnet collection ‘A Quiet Land’, written, designed and created by me (Becci Louise). Copies will be on sale at the Nomad Bakery in Caversham, Reading, on Tuesday 20th December at £4 (inked copy) and £5 (Embossed copy). Each copy also comes free with a personalised fifteenth poem on parchment vellum paper in an envelope at the back of the collection. I will be able to take card payments!
It is twelve days until Christmas and my Facebook feed is filling with exciting adverts for glorious gadgets with alliterative taglines and far too many exclamation marks. Because the internet has become creepily voyeuristic, it seems to know that I might be interested in gadgets that I can write on, things to replace notebooks and pens, a tablet that doubles up as a journal, that I can sync to my phone and my laptop, paper-white and interactive with no blue light so it’s not harmful to the eyes. I’ve got to admit, I’ve been scrolling through this list of sickeningly expensive tablets and technologies with that same zombie earworm repeating itself in my head.
Want, want, want…
They do look cool. They look exciting, new. Maybe they would revolutionise my writing life, maybe they would help me produce the next masterpiece that would catapult me to the dizzy heights of canon-hood alongside such celebrated poets as Kate Tempest, Carol Ann Duffy, Imtiaz Dharker…maybe, as a result of this magnificent technology, I would produce a book of words so fundamental, original and beautiful that nobody would be able to read it without weeping frantically into the pages and saying “yes! This is what it is to be human!”
Probably though…probably not. And I am a real sucker for beautiful ink pens wound around with bronze dragons, for glossy notebooks with fine parchment paper, for leather files and folders and hosts of unnecessary stationary. There are other ways to be materialistic, let’s not pretend! We all do it, don’t we?
This notebook! This will be the one! I will write my masterpiece in this!
Well, if I’m honest, I haven’t yet. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against this technology. I’m all for progress, for new ways to make writing into an experience, to make it accessible to those with alternative abilities, to appeal to new generations. Let’s face it, less paper, less tree-death. But then, it does take an awful lot of plastic and energy to build these tablets, which need to be charged at the wall, thereby soaking up our fossil fuels until we can find alternative sources of energy. They do not decompose. And much of our paper (though not all, I will not lie) comes from sustainable tree farming such as those harvested and replanted across the vast valleys and hills in southern Scotland. So there are pros and cons on all levels.
So I have decided, as an artist and artisan, to look back on some older practices this Christmas, so that I can fully appreciate my own position as a writer and create things that might have personal, simple and beautiful meanings. I hope this is not reactionary. It is not instead of or in spite of the advent of technology, but as well as, to show that new things do not have to destroy the old, but can work and grow alongside it.
So. I have been working on a collection of fourteen sonnets, crafted and sewn into a bespoke poetry book using saddle stitching, stamping and embossing. It is paper. It is made with the biological technology of my own brain and my two good hands. It is written and made with love, arranged with the power of creative energy and produced with personal, artistic pride. It speaks of the mind, of the human experience, and of the things to which there is often no monetary answer; old age, loneliness, mental suffering, that quiet land of humanity into which we all tread occasionally but rarely speak of. And at the back of each collection is an envelope into which there will be fitted a fifteenth poem. But this poem has not been written yet, because this poem is yours, it will be written in your words, to tell your truth for yourself or for someone else who might need it. These are pieces that are written through conversation, eye-contact, the subtleties of the face and body and the billions of years that have shaped language through the instrument of our anatomy.
They are not expensive! £4 for a stamped copy and £5 for an embossed copy. If you are Reading based, I will be selling my first batch at the Nomad Bakery in Caversham on Tuesday 20th December while the bakery is open. I like discussion in my poetry. I also like cake, and tea. I would be more than happy to share some of the bakery’s fine home-baked goods with you over a chat, a book and a poem for you that has yet to be written. Come and find me! I’ll be the one surrounded by paper and stamps and most likely covered in ink, keen to share my poetry with you in the most personal, human way I know.
And no, sorry, I don’t have a kindle version.