Thursday, 30 April 2009

Learning To Write

It all starts with a signature. The first thing they’re taught to write is their own name. A reasonable enough gesture. A waxy-crayon seal, braiding their affirmatory identity. The first cheque issued on the overdraft of self. Seminal scratchings of disclosure on the tree bark of life. But soon it’s time to get serious and dead-head the flowery script, with that same old dead hand of regulation. School’s habituation and practice. As it should be, yet, the method by which they’re taught letter formation prompts more questions than poses solutions. As I survey a string of tracings, joining the dots, finger writing in the air, the wipe cleans, those that keep their word, and those which don’t and just blot. All of which I am supposed to support at home. I curly cue the trails and flicks of her spidery undulations. I try and brace the straight-backs of her tall letters against the top of the scaffold. I’m supportive alright. I can see the economy of starting ‘o’s’ at ten past, inducing seamless transitions into ‘d’s’ and ‘g’s’. I honour those ‘h’s’ for planting the seed for joined up calligraphy. But I do consider those ‘f’s’ unnecessarily elaborate and baroque.

Certainly not how I go about it. I am forced to check my own conventions. Uncramping my hand from the fountain pen, I realise that my application is always on its nib, rather than the words it ladles on to the leaves of my journal. It’s as if it were an inky dowsing rod, that must forever contend against me running dry. Inked gush must flow, whatever verbal precipitate settles from it. Why would anyone even presume to maintain a journal ? But for now, I’m only taking a dip into the signature me. More graph- ology than -ic. As I uncover our deviations from the standard arrangement, I wonder whether she will, in time, adapt this received stroke to her own personality. Will she be able to sit down and assert herself with her own idiosyncratic flourishes ? Or will she slip into tramline, baldly submitting to featureless pre-formation ? What hope any animated revelation there ? Or worse, what if her handwriting mutates into a simulacrum of my own ? Her script matching mine, a confluence as incontestable, as the superimposition of our two stained bands of DNA analysis might show. Would my ghostly imprint underwrite everything of hers ? Would she be bound and shackled by the very same lexical building blocks that wall me up in mute rage ? There can be such a thing as too much support. Suzanne, you’re on your own with this assignment. At least you’d better hope you are girl.

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