345: “A Notebook” (Rita Dove and Peter Medway)

“After all, there’s no need 
to say anything

at first. An orange, peeled
and quartered, flares

like a tulip on a wedgewood plate
Anything can happen.”
                -Rita Dove, from “Flirtation”

“I carry a notebook with me everywhere. But that’s only the first step.”
                -Rita Dove on twitter, Nov. 23, 2012

                I usually struggle with notebooks. Or with finishing notebooks. Or maybe with what I’m supposed to be doing in notebooks?
                Three examples: my big gray sketchbook, a leftover from a high school art class in 2012. These days when I draw it’s usually on scratch paper or the back of other things. The book’s mostly blank. I like the torn out pages in the front, though: like memories of someone else. Then there’s a leather notebook with cool strings to tie it shut that someone gave me in 2009 or so. I like it and I’ve rarely used it. It feels so fancy. Then a plain green notebook from my friend Kent’s table. It reminds me of him, which I like, but I stopped using it between semesters.
                I think notebooks are hard for me because I feel a certain kind of expectation in them. A poetry notebook should have poetry. A sketchbook “should” have Good Sketches. To put it another way, I think, it’s a matter of how I sometimes try to arrange myself—as though there are separate spaces for separate parts of me. A place for saving things I’ve found. A place for seeing trees and playing with their colors. A space for poems. Recently I was reading Peter Medway, a writing studies scholar, and he talked about an architecture student’s notebook that had everything in it—phone numbers, library call numbers, lecture notes and coffee stains, romantic reflections, life confusions, philosophical scraps, autumn leaves. All these pressed together by the book’s binding. I like that. I want to try that kind of notebook, not a place for this or that, but a place touched by the anything of what happens. I’d carry that notebook everywhere to feel how here is part of everywhere, and everywhere part of here. Rooting together. Rolling along. It sounds like a nice first step.

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