Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Computer Composition: netbooks

Well, you have probably been told this is a bad thing. Proper writers like to go on about fountains pens and thick cream embossed paper or their beloved old typewriters (although even the latter have started to be replaced in interviews by beloved but very primitive Macs - which fulfills the same kind of function).

Speaking as one of those who rushed out as a teenager to buy a typewriter, the cheapest WHSmith's could provide, I don't have any nostalgia for writing poetry on that thing. I used to religiously write in longhand and then transfer to the typewriter resulting in a lot of e.e.cummings meets Adrienne Rich verse. Some of which was published and placed in competitions! This was the eighties after all....

Having said that, there are times for noodling around with pencil and paper - when you are out on a walk or watching sport or a million unwired moments - but I like composing on a keyboard. There I have said it. Even poetry (with some caveats that I will get onto in later blog posts).

So how come writing on my brand new Aspire One happy netbook feels like writing on the old typewriter?

Well, for one thing, I have got rid of Word (don't get me started on Word btw that is a whole other series of blogs as to how to tinker with it so you can write poetry). Now I only have the Microsoft Word Starter 2010 (with adverts, yuk, I prefer not to use it for anything but its spellcheck) - and I am in a new world of Notepad/Wordpad until I decide what freeware to go with. Wow! Getting to know all the strange lack of correspondence between text files, rich format files and the reshaping that goes on when I get them onto another computer that has Word. (But can't read the 2010 version - sound familiar?)

Another thing is the midget keyboard makes me feel like I am back in typing class. And it makes me type slowly. Not good when you need to drum out 2000 words, I may have to get a USB keyboard which feels a bit wasteful. But possibly a good thing when it comes to writing poetry...at least, an experimental technique if nothing else.

I'll keep you posted.


  1. I left my last typewriter in a cupboard in Adelaide (Australia) in 1996. From time to time I do wonder what happened to it. I find the netbook keyboard rather cramped too (and I'm told long term typing on an ipad is awkward) but the new trend amongst young writers I've noticed recently is reading their poetry (at open mics, etc) off the mobile phone - usually an iphone. I assume they are composing on it as well, and that really is testing on the fingers, but it might create some challenges and possibilities that could be productive for experimentation in poetry.(I will confess here and say I have been known to take the odd note on the mobile.)

  2. Go and seek out a few of these poets for me..would love to hear from them. I have put out a call on twitter too.