Columbia Library columns (v.9(1959Nov-1960May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.9,no.2(1960:Feb): Page 5  

Why I a?n Presenting my Papers to Cohimbia             5

struck by how many of them are written in pencil. They are writ¬
ten with a wooden pencil, which is the only kind of pencil I still
recognize as a true pencil; a pencil you can sharpen, and it smells
like cedar, and you can get your hands dirty with its graphite.
Ever since I was a child I have kwed to write with a pencil. All of
my poems arc written with a pencil, most of my stories are, the
only play I have ever written was written that way; my autobiog¬
raphy, of which Mr. Barrett spoke so kindly, was written that way
too. It is a lot of trouble later on, but I would rather copy some¬
thing on a typewriter than compose it on one. At first I did a great
deal of scratching out and replacing words and lines with others.
Eventually I got to erasing, so that the later manuscripts do not
yield any evidence as to first thoughts; only the last thought is
there. My critical books were not written this way. They were
written on a typewriter, without much change. The first draft
was the last draft. But all of the other works were written with a
pencil, permitting me to make all the changes I pleased, and some¬
times I changed every word.

I also, since I was a child, have had a weakness for writing in
bound books, not on separate sheets of paper that can get disar¬
ranged and come out of their clips. .Many of my manuscripts are
so written. For years I used to take home—I used to steal from the
University, I suppose—examination books, blue books. They had
only eight or sixteen pages, but to me it was very charming to
write in them. For about r^venty years I wrote all of my poems
in them, merely for the reason that it was convenient and agree¬
able. But latterly I have supplied myself with more substantial
blank books. Sometimes they have been business books, ledgers,
sometimes they have been books which I persuaded a young friend
of mine who is in the publishing business to have printers supply
him in the form of dummies. They are nicely bound books with¬
out any words in them except the ones now to be written. That is
all I really want to say about the nature of these things. You see,
I do not call them papers because I think of them as books.

I make no claim for their value, or even for their interest. I am
  v.9,no.2(1960:Feb): Page 5