Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sitting around the kitchen table after lunch today, we (Iseult, the fantasy writer from Dublin, Valerie Ritson from Dublin writing a novella, and Celia Purcell, a poet from London) were discussing the advancements in technology that have so changed the way that we can connect with each other, get our work out to a wider audience, and -- in the case of writers -- the world of publishing. When I first began working at Cambridge University Press (a while ago, but not that long), they took all the new editors on a tour of the printing plant. Next to the room that held the only computer, which was used to reproduce photographs, was a very large open space that housed all the typesetters working away on their trays of hand-set lead type. As we came into the room, one of them walked past us with his tray, tripped, and dropped it, scattering`his 16-pages of individual lead letters all over the floor! Now, if we chose to, each of us could be our own typesetter at our own press -- publishing our own books without dropping a letter. The opportunities for our art, once created, seem almost limitless, and yet, the hard work, discipline, and passion needed to create remain the same. And that will always make the process worth doing, no matter how much more technologically easy it becomes.

Blog Off
(To be sung to the Irish aire "The Patriot Game")

Oh, come all ye writers
And list while I sing,
For the love of the writing
Is a terrible thing.
It banishes freedom
With the speed of a flame,
In making us slaves to
The authorship game.

But now there is Blogging
And I'm scared to death.
I've only just learned how
To manage the Net.
The Web that is worldwide
Lives in virtual space,
And now with this Blogging
We're in a new race.

Oh, Blogging, oh, Blogging,
I don't like your name,
It sounds like an illness
Or something profane --
Like a hard-drive condition
Or a boil on the brain
That hooks you and drives you
A little insane.

But Iseult's a wizard
She doesn't feel pain,
When it comes to all Blogging,
She'll teach Sue the game.
Anam Cara will soon have
Its very own Blog,
While Valerie and Celia
Have their own Blogging fog.

So come all ye writers
And list while I sing.
Send your first Blog in winter
And keep going in spring.
Blog through summer and autumn
Blog from morning 'til night
Blog and Blog 'til you're Blogged out,
And you'll get Blogging right.

Valerie Ritson, Dublin

A Prayer for Pen and Paper

Snug in, rug around, seat tilted
for the right angle and everything told.
My computer, a slim hymn book of the nuclear age
with shiny ideas in Bold.

But I can't start my document --
or get back to where I was yesterday,
i.e. lines that are personal.
This is Microsoft's way.

Margins seem appropriate enough,
Times New Roman, a grand script unfolds.
But if I key in now, where will these words be
tomorrow, or when I'm old?

To be honest, it's shit scarey to find all this dialogue
not even written by my fair hand
and capitals manifested out of nowhere.
We haven't got to broadband.

Now there's a thing. Messages from Dad,
Lloyd's Bank and Dr. Akaro from Nigeria
with fifteen relatives sadly mislaid,
who wants my details, sounds familiar --

so where's Blogger for God's sake,
the numerical code I spent all night working on?
Yahoo tickle my toes kind of thing
from which Silicon Valley makes a song.

Where is the guy who started this whole damn shoot
from a black box in his garage?
Who is probably on some fab beach now
worked out with subterfuge.

While sipping enigma from a straw,
will he spare any thought for people like me
with banana fingers, Dylan's rage?
I long to find my poem about the sea.

Celia Purcell, London