Pens and Gifts

My friend got some kind of promotional offer several weeks ago, which involved buying me a monogrammed fountain pen. He ordered it weeks ago. It arrived in the mail to him today, around 3:30 or 4:00pm — exactly when I used my missing pen last. He was planning on giving it to me later, but instead it’s going to be sent to me soonish, and I’ll not be without a pen for very long at all.

The pen brand is Montefiore: Mountain of Flowers.

It’s been my experience that my writing style changes each time I change pens. My first fountain pen was a Waterman, of course, and I wrote journal entries with it for several years, exclusively. The point bent under the weight of years of words, but it refined my handwriting to the point that people look at it and sigh at the elegance of it. Then I bought a new pen, the second pen, and about the same time I started writing poetry. It was pretty crappy stuff, but the pen didn’t last long, although it coincided with a recognition that writing in different books, on different sizes of paper, changed the structure and foundation of my writing.

The third pen started the process of writing sonnets and other formal verse, a process which has continued for quite some time now. The epic began with my fourth pen, and has continued through all successive pens. That one vanished on a beach in Hawaii, the year and month I became a pagan in my own heart. The fifth pen came after the fourth pen’s point bent in two directions, and became unusable. It began the process of writing odes, the first one of which dates from about then. I lost it at Starwood one year, I think it was my third. I bought my sixth pen with money from my freelance writing jobs, so it was less about a change in my writing style and more about a change in my relationship to writing. I also began writing the Arthurian Cycle with it, now that I think about it — I learned how to string sonnets together in lengthy sequences with that pen.

I began writing the New and Full Moon Sonnets with the seventh pen, though it broke almost immediately, but not in a way that made it unuseful — it became a tool for writing notes and commentary, and for planning things. I began writing my first play with it, the Argonautica: Jason in Colchis.
The eighth pen replaced it in June of this year, when a student gave me a pen because he knew it was such an important tool. I should check in on that student, and make sure he’s doing OK, actually. Was there a change in my writing? Maybe that I was asked to be a Boy Scout counselor, and began learning the names of plants and animals and trees, and developing a deeper relationship with nature during that time. My writing became a lot more nature-centered this summer, and grounded in the reality of the names and types of things. I also did more drawing and calligrams with this pen, a lot more diagrams and a lot more magical workings with this pen.

Now that eighth pen has gone missing, and the ninth pen is soon to arrive. Each pen has opened up a new style of writing to me, and a new way of using my pen in the world. Nine is a pretty powerful number, and it may be that this changeover is happening precisely so that I can control the discipline and change between writing styles more clearly and concisely. It bears some thinking on, and some conscious play with new forms and new styles and new patterns or patternlessness. I’m not quite sure how to take this direction yet, but it seems like an extraordinary opportunity.

says that he meant the pen specifically as a gift to thank me for reconnecting him with his writing, and with the world of writers at Java Hut and elsewhere. One possibility is that the pen will re-open the connection and grace that comes from relating to other writers. As I said in an earlier entry tonight, I had a lengthy conversation with Dave G this evening about the role and rule of words and wordlessness in our lives, and the power of making words mean something. I bet this conversation has a lot to do with what the ninth pen is going to represent in my poetry and my writing in general. It occurs to me, also, that I’m expected to start being an editor and commentator on others’ words — as an English teacher and as an editor. So there’s another level of strength and virtue to draw upon there, as well.

12 comments

  1. You will improve with time and patience. It took me four or five years of three pages a day to get good with a fountain pen. I hope you’ve found my efforts worth your time. 🙂

  2. Have no ph33r

    Indeed, the Montefiore, despite the florid name, is in fact a rather humble pen. Still, it will write with all the beauty of its master.

    I write my poems at a keyboard that cost $10. I even sometimes compose them using a simple text editor (such as Notepad) or even – ghasp – paper. The tool is not the art.

    A famous trumpet player, Dizzy Gillespie, was giving a master class one day at an inner-city school. A young man came up to the teacher with his beat-up old trumpet and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Gillespie, but I can’t play like you cuz my trumpet is junk”. Dizzy took the instrument to his lips and played an amazing passage, high, bright, and clear. “Nothin’ wrong with your instrument”, he said.

  3. Have no ph33r

    Indeed, the Montefiore, despite the florid name, is in fact a rather humble pen. Still, it will write with all the beauty of its master.

    I write my poems at a keyboard that cost $10. I even sometimes compose them using a simple text editor (such as Notepad) or even – ghasp – paper. The tool is not the art.

    A famous trumpet player, Dizzy Gillespie, was giving a master class one day at an inner-city school. A young man came up to the teacher with his beat-up old trumpet and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Gillespie, but I can’t play like you cuz my trumpet is junk”. Dizzy took the instrument to his lips and played an amazing passage, high, bright, and clear. “Nothin’ wrong with your instrument”, he said.

    • You will improve with time and patience. It took me four or five years of three pages a day to get good with a fountain pen. I hope you’ve found my efforts worth your time. 🙂

  4. 9 pens…

    You have some lovely language here…. I would love to see this journal entry re-incarnated as a poem, whatever the form …. 9 is such a mytho-poetic, druidic sort of number after all! 🙂

  5. 9 pens…

    You have some lovely language here…. I would love to see this journal entry re-incarnated as a poem, whatever the form …. 9 is such a mytho-poetic, druidic sort of number after all! 🙂

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