Robert Bringhurst

1.1 Letters have a life and dignity of their own

Letterforms that honor and elucidate what humans see and say deserve to be honored in their turn. Well-chosen words deserve well-chosen letters; these in turn deserve to be set with affection, intelligence, knowledge, skill. Typography is a link, and it ought, a s a matter of honor, courtesy, and pure delight, to be as strong as the others in the chain.

Writing beings with the making of footprints, the leaving of signs. Like speaking, it is a perfectly natural act which humans have carried to complex extremes. The typographer’s task has always been to add a somewhat unnatural edge, a protective shell of artificial order, to the power of the writing hand.

—The Elements of Typographic Style

Jane Hirshfield

Modern consciousness no longer conceives of a noble cause that is not haunted, nor of a beauty that is not also terrifying. We have learned that every gift carries its price. Everywhere we look, the theme appears: wisdom, at least in the west, is obtained through transgression and paid for in suffering. The journey into maturity, whether seen in Odysseus or Aeneas or the joined figures of Persephone and Demeter, must pass through the underworld realms of uncertainty, fear, and death, before the green and peaceful life the hero longs for can be restored—and both world and self are irrevocably changed by that immersion.


Susanna Childress

There   needs   to   be   no   right   word       There   needs   to   be   a   wide   hole       a

whole mouth     where the right word       isn’t

The Battle of the Sidebar

So yeah, who cares, but it’s not always an easy thing to do exactly what you want to do when constrained by widgets. As with the many procrustean beds we are forced to conform ourselves to, the widgetized areas of WordPress put you either at the mercy of the available widgets or ultimately I suppose at your ability to write on for yourself, which not all of us are quite on this earth to learn how to do. My goal was simple: get a list of my poems available online to show on the homepages sidebar. Doesn’t seem like something that you’d have to pull North Pole strings to acquire, but at least after an afternoon of seeking a solution rather than grading papers or doing something someone cares about resulted in one rather than nothing. Since you cram a bunch of individual posts into a column the way I used to, and WP wants to excerpt your post whenever it puts it in a sidebar, the eventual breakthrough was finding a widget that would let me put a Page’s contents over there where I was fixated on Posts. They tyranny of minor differences. So thanks very much Carl-Fredrik Herö—may your sons be handsome and keep your widget up to date long into the future.

My next experiment, underway as I write, is to post to the blog using a plain text file marked up in Markdown, saved in a Dropbox folder. If anyone is reading this, then it must have worked in some measure or another. I have been wanting to move all of my writing, or the better part of it, to plain text, and have for some time been drafting in either IA Writer or, as I am now, ByWord. The amount of money I have spent on plain text editors for the iPad is a badge of honor I suppose, but I have yet to achieve what I consider a workable workflow, the imagined system looking like: I can work on any given document from any device I have, and then easily, through a structured mark-up, output them straight into a typset form. As it is now there is still the need to copy the text out for formatting (even in apps like Scrivener and Ulysses, I hear people say, programs I am only just now trying to learn) as I do into Mellel (that fantastic word processors stubborn refusal to be compatible with any editor on the iPad is motivation for moving away from it). So this is all practice, it’s all toward a practice.

Speaking of the practice, I drafted the first poem in awhile this morning, spurred at first by a title, as often happens, a phrase my shrink used on a script for me ensuring they don’t poison me with a generic: *Dispense as Written*. It has very little to do with drugs, or at least no more than everything has to do with chemicals, but I’ve been happy with what happens, as it always happens, when one writes something in the morning and one’s mind—followed by the hand—works on it throughout the day. Makes even the drudgery of sifting through code for where to tweak the padding and auditioning widget plugins tolerable. The poem does make life tolerable; seems like small praise but not many things can lay claim to even that much minor succor. Anything that gives one something to care about.