Thursday, October 26, 2006

On the literary value of a good desk

So much is written about writing craft -- I have a shelf full of books on poetics and two shelves full on the craft of prose (prosetics?) -- yet very little is written about the things on which we write. I don't mean keyboards or papers but the actual surfaces, which increasingly come to my attention as they distract me from my craft or art.

For years I labored day and night at a desk that met my wrists with a sharp edge. It wasn't knife-sharp, but it wasn't rounded either. It created not exactly a pain, but an annoyance every time I picked up a pen and wrote on my legal tablets. In other words, it entered into all my first drafts. Who can say what such an effect causes? Perhaps I wrote better, edgier first drafts than I might have if lulled by a rounded corner beneath my hands. Perhaps I wrote less often, unconsciously shrinking from the minor but persistent pain.

I now sit at a desk with rounded edges, ready file space and width beyond my wildest dreams. It's a desk made of real wood veneer (don't laugh) and accommodates within reach two stacks of file trays, an all-in-one fax-copier-printer, telephone, pencil cup and even one of those thingies you can stick on all the bits of paper you don't want to look at but can't afford to lose. Plus a photograph. Plus shelves for more photographs and cabinets for paper supplies. It is my dream desk.

Have I written more or better poetry while sitting here? Yes. Is it the desk? Who knows, but it hasn't hurt -- my wrist, that is -- in quite awhile. Things get put away, or left open, as the need occurs.

A good desk, like a good title, may be one of our best poetic devices. So how's your desk?

2 comments:

  1. Interesting point. My desk is my grandmother's table. It's perfect.

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  2. I think ergonomics are critical to craft. The outer environment should be as transparent as possible -- no discomfort, or distraction. Good point!

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