Friday, 26 September 2014

The Mind and the Fountain Pen

"Also I wish to add to my collection of valuable observations upon the true nature of human life. My book will certainly run to many volumes, embracing every known variety of man and woman. I fill my mind with whatever happens to be the contents of a room or a railway carriage as one fills a fountain pen in an ink pot."

Virginia Woolf, The Waves, fist published 1931.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Hugh's Fountain Pen

"And Miss Brush went out, came back; laid papers on the table; and Hugh produced his fountain pen; his silver fountain pen, which had done 20 years' service, he said, unscrewing the cap. It was still in perfect order; he had shown it to the makers; there was no reason, they said, why it should ever wear out; which was somehow to Hugh's credit, and to the credit of the sentiments which his pen expressed (so Richard Dalloway felt) as Hugh began carefully writing capital letters with rings round them in the margin, and thus marvellously reduced Lady Burton's tangles to sense, to grammar such as the editor of the Times, Lady Burton felt, watching the marvellous transformation, must respect."

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, first published 1925.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Pen or Pencil down your vote for Scotland

Pic: Lisa Ferguson from Edinburgh Evening News

As passions are running high on the issue of Scottish independence, the reliability of the pencil is called into question too. The very nature of graphite is causing concerns. The fickle pencils are not considered appropriate to mark the ballot paper on such a momentous occasion. What if some behind-the-scenes erasing takes place? NO supporters disguised as independent officials and armed with erasers well-hidden under their traitorous sleeves can alter the referendum result under the very eyes of YES representatives. "The real vote of 18th September may be nobbled," fears the Independent Scot. YES voters can not possibly rely on the pencils polling stations traditionally provide. Let us not forget too that the very first pencil was an English invention going back to that dark and stormy night of 1564 in the Lake District. Och, never trust the English and their fickle pencils. Pens on the other hand can absolutely be trusted to keep their own on paper. And is it a coincidence that one of the first self-filling pens was invented by none other than a Scot, Thomas William Thomson? So YES voters say NO THANKS to the pencil. But fear not because an Electoral Commission official has confirmed that Yes You Can use your own pen to mark the ballot paper.
So bring your own pen, Scots. (Just vote wisely).

Good luck.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Inkwell of Cavafy

Courtesy of Wikipedia

C.P. Cavafy

The Inkwell (1895)

Honest inkwell, sacred to the poet,
whence an entire world emerges,
every figure that draws near you,
comes back with some new kind of grace endowed.
Where did your ink discover such tremendous
wealth! Its every drop that trickles 
on the paper sets one more diamond
amongst the diamonds of our fancy.


The pen you moisten resembles a hand
moving around the clock of the soul.


Honest inkwell, sacred to the poet,
from whose ink a world emerges -
the thought betakes me now how many worlds
will perish in you, if deep sleep
some night the poet overtakes.
The words shall always there remain; but what strange hand
will seek to find them and bring them to us?
You, faithful to the poet, will refuse it.


Κ.Π. Καβάφης

Το καλαμάρι (1895)

Του ποιητού ιερό, τίμιο καλαμάρι,
που απο μέσα σου ένας κόσμος βγαίνει,
κάθε μορφή κοντά σ' εσένα σαν πηγαίνει
γυρίζει με μια κάποια νέα χάρι.
Πού ηύρε η μελάνη σου τα μυθικά
τα πλούτη! Κάθε κόμπος της, εις το χαρτί σαν στάζει,
ένα διαμάντι περισσότερο μας βάζει
μέσα στης φαντασίας τα διαμαντικά.


Η πέννα όπου βρέχεις, ωσάν δείκτης μοιάζει
που στο ρολόγι της ψυχής γυρίζει.


Του ποιητού ιερό, τίμιο καλαμάρι,
που απ' τη μελάνη σου ένας κόσμος βγαίνει -
μ'ερχεται τώρα εις το νου πόσος θα μένη
κόσμος χαμένος μέσα σου, σαν πάρη 
τον ποιητή μια νύκτα ο ύπνος ο βαθύς.
Τα λόγια θάναι πάντα εκεί αλλά ποιό ξένο χέρι
θα ημπορέση να τα βρη να μας τα φέρη!
Εσύ, πιστό στον ποιητή, θα τ'αρνηθής.


Find all the poems of C.P. Cavafy in the official site of the Αρχείο Καβάφη (in Greek) and Cavafy Archive (in English). The Inkwell is one of Cavafy's repudiated poems. Translation of The Inkwell is by Palimpsest.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The old penholders

The old penholders rusting and gleaming with their sharp nibs at the ready are bunched up oh so symbolically like the sum of possibilities that were: what could have been. It seems that they haven't been used enough, or have been dipped in the wrong ink, or neglected because of laziness, ignorance, lack of imagination, lack of paper, absence of ink, insufficient light. One only needs to clean them up, polish the nibs, dip them in fresh ink but wallowing in regrets seems much easier. And therefore on this day I sit and stare at the old penholders and the sum of possibilities that were.