I enjoy looking at the rooms of other writers on The Guardian’s Writer’s Room site. Most of the rooms (usually the ones of successful authors) consist of a desk, a cushy executive swivel chair, a laptop, and bookshelves. But if you were to remove the knickknacks, personal mementos, and straighten up the clutter, most would end up looking like the office of a tax accountant–very professional and businesslike and–well–boring.
I write on a wooden folding desk with a matching folding chair in a small garret (attic is too utilitarian sounding) room on the second floor of the house where I presently reside. The white bookshelf next to it is filled with a supply of hardcover notebooks I bought at the dollar store. The books on my desk are the The Oxford Thesaurus, The Poet’s Guide to Life: The Wisdom of Rilke (which I finished reading last month), and Judson Jerome’s The Poet’s Handbook. My coffee cup is on the left. I prefer using a dip pen (a Tachikawa wooden pen holder with a G-nib) and a bottle of black Pilot ink when I compose my poems The necessity of having to refill the pen by dipping it into the bottle of ink helps slow me down and reminds me to take my time and not be in a hurry. The long black pen standing upright in the bottle is a Pilot cartridge quill pen that I found at a local office supply store. The small wooden box off to the side holds extra nibs and wooden pen holders.
What I like most about my desk is the writing slope on which sits a favorite notebook opened to an old draft of a poem. Two years ago, while watching the BBC series of Jane Austen movies, there were two scenes, in either Mansfield Park or Northanger Abbey where the ever-so-critical-to-the-plot missive is written on a Victorian writing slope. Being an amateur calligrapher for several years, I was aware of the necessity of using a slanted surface (about a 90 degree angle), but never considered using a slanted surface for normal writing. I searched online, but could only find an acrylic one offered on a office supply store, one built to order by a craftsman for a about $200, and a couple of antique ones on eBay with high bids.
“When all else fails, build it yourself” as my mantra, I drove down to the DIY store and bought a small unfinished table top the size of a large cutting board, two grades of sandpaper, two ornate wooden bookshelf supports, a short piece of decorative wall molding, a can of lacquer, brush, and a box of wood screws. That afternoon, I sanded every surface, attached the legs, glued on the molding, then applied a coat of lacquer. Never use a cheap brush when lacquering. If you do (like I did), you end up picking off the wet surface all the hairs that have fallen out. I waited a few days until everything dried, then applied another coat of lacquer. After about four hours of work and $25, I had my very own writing slope.
It is easier writing on a slanted surface and therefore less fatiguing. Now that I’d quickly grown accustomed to writing on one, I find it awkward writing on a flat surface.FROM MY GARRET WINDOW From my garret window, high above The rooftops and the trees, I idly sit And gaze out on the world, pondering on Love, Truth and Beauty as the clouds sunlit Drift lazily in the clear, azure space, Listening to the Dawn as she awakes, Untangling herself from Night’s embrace, Singing her hymns of praise as daylight breaks. With pen poised above the snow-white pages; A patient farmer waiting for his crops, I labor not for earthly fame or wages, But for the manna that from Heaven drops. For on bread alone, a man’s soul does not live, But on each divinely breathed word He deems to give. (© Poeticmeditations 2010. All rights reserved.) A personally signed copy of this poem can be ordered at PoeticExpressions.