One man and his pencil – a special relationship.

I own a number of pens, ball point, felt-tip and fountain, and they all have their function in my life. Also, a lot of my time is spent at the computer and I’m perfectly happy typing away all day. There is, however, a special relationship in my working life and that is the bond between me and my pencil. There is something especially intimate and natural about writing poetry with a pencil and I have a number of little note books which I keep with me and where I do exactly that. Over the last few years I’ve written over seventy Fibonacci poems, many of them published in the specialist Fibonacci poetry journal, The Fib Review, and most of them begin life in this rain-spattered book. It’s interesting sometimes to look back and see how these little syllable-count poems began.

I have a number of pencils but the one in the photograph has been companion for some time now and, silly though it might sound, I’ve grown attached to it. I feel that we know each other very well and I respect the way it puts up with my terrible hand-writing and the often intense pressure I put on it when I write.  It is also tolerant about being chewed during those thoughtful moments when, in olden times, I might well have simply lit a cigarette. So this little pencil and I are friends.

I have my rather superior pencil sharpener too – it’s a souvenir from the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice and, over time, it has sharpened but also whittled down my pencil many times a day until now I’m brought to a sad moment of parting.

My old friend is now getting so small that I fear it’s reaching the end of its working life. Just how much smaller can I make it before it ceases to function as a writing implement? What do you think? Is it time to chuck it? Should I retire it to the back of my stationery drawer or just throw it into the bin? I have plenty more pencils so I should stop being sentimental perhaps.

Recently I was given a posh Edwardian propelling pencil as a birthday present. It’s made of silver and is elegantly ornamented so it’s the type of pencil that should be used on special occasions like noting down a telephone number, scribbling an aide-memoire, making a light-handed and desultory doodle or, best of all, it’s perfect when I’m in the mood to write a gentle and thoughtful poem conceived in tranquillity. If I’m in my usual writing gusto though, the leads just break on first contact with the paper.

No, my little pencil does that job best but I know that I am going to have to make a decision. Which of these lovely new pencils, another present, should I choose next? It’s an important moment because whichever it is, it might be with me for a long time and through many writing adventures – both good and bad. Farewell little pencil.

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