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Wednesday, August 25, 2010


For Big Tent Poetry

This week’s prompt
We are going to start this week’s poems with our hands. Really. There is a — forgive me, ahem — “hands-on” portion of the prompt and a writing part. My hope is that if you attend (mindfully, of course) to a manual task it will influence the poem. Maybe it will provide the action. Maybe it will impact the pacing. Maybe it will suggest an image.
So here’s part one: Do something with your hands and really pay attention to the motion of your hands and arms and to the movement of other objects that may be involved. Open something: a dresser drawer, a bottle of wine, the garage door. Fold something: the laundry, a letter, a paper airplane. Scrub something. Touch something. Pack something up: a game, a suitcase, a box. Braid something. Plant something. Chop something up. Make shadow puppets.
Anything will do. As long as it is a manual task. As long as you really, really, really pay attention. It may also be wise not to read ahead to part two; it will make the first draft of the poem more spontaneous if you don’t plan too much or think too hard.
And here’s part two (and it’s brilliant): Write something.
OK. So maybe that wasn’t so brilliant. Unless part one was enough inspiration for you. If it was, get writing. If you need something more, however, hold the task you just completed in mind while you write about one of the following: a kiss, a dance, a swim, a burial, a sacred space or something that’s been injured physically.


At first clumsy, hesitant
Words wouldn’t come easily
Until a single-digit surge
Under pressure, from the Right
Delivered the message LOUD – unclear
Syllables s-s-stuttered across the screen

Middle finger soon joined index
And later thumb....... for spacebar
Later still, five fingers were tapping
Was it the sound of one hand clapping?
Or was it just a classic case
Of the left hand never really knowing
What it was the right hand was doing?

At every opportunity then
I practiced my new-found skill
The only thing I could ever do
With one hand tied behind my back

Day after day
Night after night
Time after time
Time and again

Again and again
Repetition, refrain
Repetition defined
Definition refined

Never relaxing
Often head scratching
Sometimes nail biting
Always typewriting

Left hand going through the motions
Playing an occasional cameo role
But even two decades down the track
The left hand still doesn’t really know
What its partner, the right hand is doing


  1. I had to learn to type on a blank keyboard using all my fingers; now, I use about four! But as more and more of my laptop keys wear off, it still comers in handy!

  2. I like the way you broke this down. How many of us who type quickly and naturally, just like thinking through our fingers, stop to remember that this was a learned process? I know that this summer, when I broke my right index finger, I found a new appreciation for having to learn to type with one finger up in the air. Adapt and shift. Adapt and shift. But it truly was a pain.

  3. Thanks to:
    Derrick; I never had any formal training, and still have to stare at the keyboard when I type.
    Nan; If I broke mine I'd have to give up till it mended.

  4. I took typing classes in high school and never was any good. Of course, those were MANUAL typewriters. You had to practically stand on some of those keys. Now we have a backspace that doesn't display how many tries it took to get things right, and little magic keyboards that read our minds.

  5. Truly interesting to think of how the importance of keyboarding has changed. When I was in school, mostly high school girls who wanted to be secretaries took typewriting, junior year high school. Or perhaps a 'personal typing' one semester class. Today children learn to keyboard in first grade. My grandson just ENTERING first grade is quite proficient already. To me it is as natural as drinking coffee. Takes no thought at all. LOL.

  6. I too learned to type under a shield, in time to a gramophone record: a-s-d-f-g- -l-k-j-h Now I don't even think about it and my fingers sometimes go so fast that the pressure doesn't register on some keys, with hilarious results. Oh those clunky manual typewriters - when I got up speed, all the keys used to jam in a wodge in the middle. My first job entailed typing scripts from dictation at the BBC, 7 copies and no rubbing out allowed, ten minutes away from a broadcast. Glorious invention 20 years later: tippex. Gosh, Stan, you've drawn out some memories with your fun poem.

  7. I am still an one finger typist. Go figure that!

    designed patterns

  8. Up late again, Stan? You're usually the first to post, LOL. I love how you self-trained yourself to type... I'm a nail biter, too, LOL. Excellent poem!

  9. Wonderfully written, Stan! Sometimes, when you're used to typing, you go so fast, it seems instant (From thought to screen). I taught myself to type as well. Awesome post!

  10. Thanks to:
    Barbara; Thank goodness...
    Mary; My 9 year son old is teaching his 3 year old sisiter...
    ViV; Happy to bring them back for you.
    Gautami; One figerered typists unite and take over...!
    Diane; Healthy, wealthy and wise...? Forget about it...
    Weasel; hsgdgdtdt ... that's m,e fast...!

  11. Stan excellent poem and I also taught myself to type...while in high school I did not have the patience nor the desire but now it seems I do an awful lot of it!

  12. I took the one semester of personal typing in 10th grade, I never intended to be someone's secretary. I think my top speed was somewhere between 15 and 20 words a minute with innumeable errors. Then life happened and it was years before I was once again faced with a keyboard. I could actually put my hands in the proper position, but from there it was peck and look, peck and look. Then went to college late and decided to do writing, lol. You learn fast when it's a necessity. But, there are still those moments when I look down and murmur, "Shit, where the hell was I?" because a wonderful line suddenly turns into your one hand fast thingie. Loved the poem and obviously you have brought back an army of memories for all of us. Hat's off!


  13. Excellent look at changing 'things'. I can relate to this!

  14. ASDF SPACE SEMI LKJ....THANKS for the memories Stan...thanks again for your words

  15. Very interesting idea here...and what would we all do without the ability to type? ( I would probably go insane, as my handwriting is illegible...even to me!)

  16. Thanks to:

    Your visits and comments are appreciated.

  17. I took typewriting in high school (a bit before computers became commonplace) never really imagining how useful a skill it would become. I have some older friends who never learned and watching them hunt and peck drives me crazy :).