Category Archives: Birth of Writing

The Origins of Poetry

quill & pen 2

The Ancient Greek timeline of poetry lasted from the 7th to 4th century BC, and are believed to be the first civilisation to commit their poems to the written word.  They went on to produce most of the classic forms of literature, drama and poetry, and their great poets handed down their observations to the next and next generations.

Hesiod the 7th century Greek poet who wrote of a farmer’s life and Theogony, a genealogy of the God’s.

Pindar a 5th – 6th century lyric poet credited with writing ode’s to their victorious athlete’s.

Sappho a 7th century poet and she wrote of passionate love songs in a lyrical form.

The Ancient Greek’s period of culture ended when they were conquered firstly by Alexander the Great between (356-323 BC) and then again by the might of Rome in (250-150 BC).

The Romans went on to develop their own style of literary and poetic works, using the Greek form as their base.  From these humble beginnings the creation of a modern style of literature so began.

During the 11th – 13th centuries, the mighty Popes of the Holy Roman Empire and the Middle Ages banned creative and artistic expression.

People wanted to express themselves, and so in the mid 11th century a group of troubadour musicians in Southern France sang and wrote lyrics.  They were much influenced by the ways and lifestyle of the Arabic civilisation and Omar Khayyam and Rumi, having been inspired by Latin and Greek poets, and not of this land.  With an understanding, the musicians and poets went forth and created a refreshingly new style by the 13th century.

Early troubadours started life as singing poets, but the true masters included the likes of Bertrand de Born, Arnaud Daniel, and Marie de France, and their style of works influenced the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer and Dante Alighieri.  It was not uncommon to see the delivery of news, and performance styled sketches in a lyrical manner.

This has been referred to as the Provencal Movement of the 13th century and by the mid 14th century; most troubadours had fled to Italy and Spain to join the Sicilian School of poets.

For Frederick II let it be known he required poets to write about courtly love, and so it was between 1230 and 1266 many canzone’s (An Italian lyrical form of varying lengths, intended to be set to music, mainly based on romantic themes) were written.

A group of Sicilian poets in the court of Frederick II, were able to turn verses of love into a spiritual heartbeat, a style that would show its face during the Elizabethan and Shakespearean times.

With the 12th century, Sicily integrated the languages and cultural influences of Arabic, Greek and Latin, creating the perfect form for their lyrical poetry.

It all started with Cielo of Alcamo, a court poet, who created a form of lyrical poetry.  From these early beginnings, the court poets used lyrical poetry and the canzone style which became the standard verse of the day.  Yet like all new styles, someone was waiting in the wings to change it, and in this case it was Giacomo de Lentini, who re-invented it into a sonnet.

Giacomo de Lentini, proved himself to be more than that of a poet, for it was he who went on to create a new language: Italian.

With the help of Sicilian poets, they abolished repetitive and what has become known as interchangeable lines.  They also believed poetry was for reading, not as an accompaniment to music and created a 14 – line sonnet structure, which is still used by many poets to this day.

The works and styles of Sicilian poets came to the attention of Dante as the 14th century loomed, who spread them through Florence, and the literary heartlands.

As the Renaissance period burst into existence, shining its light upon a new era in time.  Scholars from many European countries keenly watched with interest, as a cultural awakening was taking place across Europe.

As the Italian Renaissance waned, its greatest poetic export was that of ballad and sonnet, which found their way to England with the assistance of Thomas Wyatt.

Christopher Marlowe-1585
Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) was responsible for the creation of the unrhymed verse, as used by him for his plays.  He died early, and so William Shakespeare fashioned the style of the blank verse in a form which would meet the requirements of his plays.

Sonnets swept through England during the latter part of the 16th and early 17th century, through the writings of Edmund Spenser, Philip Sydney and William Shakespeare, each adding their own individual touches.

Poets of the Elizabethan era had more freedom in their writings, and so the human side became the new genre in writing.  One could say that the Elizabethan times, showed a slight resemblance to the early works of Ancient Greek.

John Milton
John Milton

The Greatest Renaissance poet would have to be John Milton (1608-1674) who wrote Paradise Lost, which was published in 1667.  An interesting fact though, by 1652 he was blind and worked as a Latin Secretary to one Oliver Cromwell, assisted by Andrew Marvel (1621-1678) a Metaphysical Poet.

Nearly a century later, a new breed arose, the Metaphysical Poets who wrote of nature, philosophy and love, starting with John Dryden.  They were known as men of learning, and they wanted to show off their abilities to one and all.

Metaphysical Poetry concluded when William Blake bridged the gap between it, and that of romantic poetry.  Poets were known to look beyond the obvious, a style which would influence the American Transcendentalism, like those of Samuel Cowley, Andrew Marvell and Katherine Philips.

England’s time had arrived with the dawning of the Romantic Poets era, a period which lasted between (1790-1824), yet went on to produce many works written by the masters which we still read to this day.

These poets included the likes of:

William Blake
William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827) An English painter and poet, who enhanced his work with illustrations as can be seen in his works “Songs of Innocence.”

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) An English poet, whose heart showed much support for the French Revolution, which shows through his works, and a love for the English countryside.

Lord Byron (1788-1824) A romantic poet, who supported Italian Independence and the Greek revolt against Turkey.  Often remembered for his sexual scandals, which saw the English society turn their backs on him.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) Writer of romantic poems, and remembered for; “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Percy Shelley
Percy Shelley

Percy Shelley (1792-1822) Writer who got himself expelled from Oxford University for co-writing “The Necessity of Atheism.”  Yet he went on to write “Ode to a skylark,” and other poems which reflected his idealism and radical thoughts on politics.

John Keats (1795-1821) Another of the English poets who wrote “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “Ode to a Grecian Urn.”

They wrote together, travelled together and lived together.

They made nature a more important part of their works, with more expression and passion, as to challenge the minds and imaginations of their readers … in so doing they planted a seed, which would flourish into a relationship.

Another poet who would be remembered for his works would be Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) for “The Lotus Eaters.”

A new era replaced the Romantic Movement in 1836; the American Transcendentalists, for they believed in expression of their thoughts through the written word.

They changed people’s ideas on poetry, and studied utopian values, spiritual exploration, and into the artistic side.  Their ideals brought authors, poets and social leaders to their door, and so they grew.

The 19th century saw the American; Gerald Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), put forward natural speech and Walt Whitman (1819-1892) create the free-verse style of poetry.

French poet; Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) put forward the idea that poetry should contain an air of vagueness and music within poems.

The first Surrealist Movement manifesto was drawn up by Andre Breton the French poet in 1924, asking poets to explore the world of dreams, sub consciousness and hallucinations in their works.

American poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) promoted the works of W.B.Yeats (1865-1939) and T.S.Elliot (1888-1965).

In 1948, with the Second World War over, we saw the emergence of what became known as the Beat Movement.  The style was based on characters and interests, who desired to live life, as they wished to.

It was the beginning of the narrative free verse written by Allen Ginsberg, it was all about free expression.  In 1956 he published a collection of works entitled “Howl.”  So it was that these beat poets as they had been referred to, created a new appreciation in the love of poetry.

As the interest grew, more beat poets surfaced, like; Joanne Kyger, Herbert Huncke, LeRoi Jones, to move the art of poetry further forward.

The history of poetry has had a long and mixed relationship with the reader as the styles have changed.  For in the early days, the definition of poetic writings focused on nature, love, drama and song and later concentrated on repetition and rhyme and how it would read and sound.

Poetry has been used to expand the literal meaning of words, to evoke an emotional feeling or a sensual response…

Poetry has often been referred to, as a way a poet, can create poems as a need to escape the logical side of life.

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Writer’s Tools

Fountain Pen Set

As Writer’s we like putting pen to paper, so to speak.  Have you not wondered where the fountain pen, biro or pencil originated from?  These instruments which we use daily…

The idea of writing instruments designed to carry their own ink supply had been a theoretical idea, but it was not until the beginning of the 1700’s, that the theory was being put into practice.

THE FOUNTAIN PEN: The first fountain pen was designed by M.Bion a Frenchman in 1702, but it was more than a 100 years later in 1809. When American Peregrin Williamson, patented his design in 1809.

John Scheffer obtained a British patent for his design of 1819, for his idea of a half quill – half metal pen.

Then in 1831 John Jacob Parker patented his design of a self-filling pen, but it was the design of Lewis Waterman, who patented the first practical fountain pen in 1884.

If it had not been for early fountain-pen inventors; using the hollow channel of a birds feather to create an ink reservoir, to replace the constant use of dipping into an ink well. The Romans created a reed style of pen, from the hollow tubular-stems of marsh grasses. By cutting one end to create a nib or point, with which to write with, they filled the stem with ink, and squeezed the stems, thus forcing the fluid into the nib. We would never have started a creative revolution in the design of new pens. Another design was to use a reservoir made of hard rubber, and fit a metal nib at the bottom. Unfortunately this did not have the required effect of producing a smooth writing instrument.

It was Lewis Waterman an insurance salesman, who was inspired to improve upon the early fountain-pen design, by adding an air hole in the nib, and three grooves into the feed mechanism.  His mechanism consisted of the nib, which made contact with the paper, a feed to control ink flow.  The aim of the barrel was to hold the nib, protect the reservoir, which in turn the writer holds.

By now we had reached a stage in pen designs, where they all contained some form of internal reservoir to hold ink.

The pens would have an internal reservoir, which would consist of a self-filling rubber sack, opened at one end.  To fill with ink, the reservoir was squeezed by using an internal plate, and then the pen’s nib inserted into the ink.  As pressure was released so the reservoir would fill up.

The period between the late 1800’s through to the mid 1900’s, saw a battle as pen companies, each sought to become the brand leader in reservoir pen designs.  The earliest known design of that time would be the Eyedropper, which had no internal filling mechanism.  Most open by unscrewing a section of the pen, after which the barrel is filled with ink using an eyedropper.  As long as the seal was tight, no ink should leak out.

Parker introduced the Button Filler, which had an external button connected to the internal pressure plate.  Then Walter Sheaffer responded by designing the Lever Filler, a slight variation on the Button Filler, for it used an external lever, that fitted flush with the pen.  Back came Parker, not to be outdone, with their Click Filler, using two protruding tabs, to deflate reservoir, and they clicked when reservoir was full.  Then Waterman introduced the Coin Filler, with slot in barrel, and by use of a coin, one could deflate and fill reservoir.

Some of the early inks were known to corrode the steel nib tips, which led to the introduction of a gold tip.  However, gold also had its problems; it was too soft, for the purpose of writing.  To overcome this design flaw, they used Iridium (A hard yellow-white chemical element that occurs in platinum ores) on the tip of the nib.

Early nibs were available in straight, oblique and italic designs.  As the years went by, and the need to communicate grew, so did the demand in pens, and a larger selection of pen nibs; wider, longer and shaped.

Everything changed in the early 1950’s, with the introduction of a new range of fountain pens, without the need of a reservoir.  They would revolutise the design for the future.

The reservoir had gone, to be replaced with a disposable ink cartridge, originally made of glass, then later of a rubbery plastic.  When they arrived on the scene, they were an immediate success … sixty years on and they are still going.

Ballpoint Pens - Wikipedia

THE BALLPOINT PEN: Laszlo Biro a Hungarian journalist, observed newspaper ink dried quickly, and was smudge free.  His creative juices were activated, and by 1938 he had invented the first Ballpoint pen.

The thicker ink used for newspapers would not flow unaided, which led to a small ball-bearing being fitted to the pens tip.  The idea was, as the ball rotated it collected ink from the reservoir and placed it on the paper.  So simple, yet so clever.

In 1940, Laszlo Biro and his brother George emigrated to Argentina, and applied for a new patent in 1943, and sold licensing rights to the British, as the Royal Air Force needed a pen that would not leak at high altitudes.  The success of this pen brought it to the forefront of pen design.

Laszlo and George Biro went on to form the Eterpen Company and commercialised the Biro pen, which was hailed as an ultimate success.  One of its main advantages was that it only needed re-filling once a year.

The Biro brothers neglected to apply for a U.S.Patent.  As World War Two was coming to an end, so a new battle was just starting: The Battle of The Ballpoint Pens.

For it was in May 1945, the Eversharp Company joined forces with Eberhand – Faber acquiring Biro Pens of Argentina and rebranded the product as Eversharp CA (Capillary Action).

Milton Reynolds saw the Biro Pen whilst in Buenos Aires, and returned to America with a few of them.  By October 1945, Reynolds had copied the Biro design, thus breaking Eversharp’s patent rights, and started the Reynolds Pen Company.  The release of this pen was an overwhelming success.  It was released on the 29th October 1945 priced at $12.50 and went on to sell $100,000 worth on the first day.

Eversharp sued Reynolds for breach of patent rights.

By December 1945, England’s Miles-Martin Pen Company had stepped in releasing their own design of the Biro Pen.

Advertisers claimed these pens would write for two years before the need to refill.  Sales rocketed, but it was not long before problems arose; some leaked, some worked some of the time, and others were known to fail all together

The consumer was dis-satisfied with the ballpoint pen, and sales nose dived, and by 1951, the ballpoint pen died a consumer’s death.

In January 1954, Parker Pens tossed their hat into the ring, by introducing their version of the Ballpoint Pen, known as the Jotter, which worked, so the battle for the ballpoint pen had been won.  Then in 1957 they introduced a tungsten carbide textured ball bearing in their pens.

A French Baron named Bich, removed the h from his name, and started the BIC Pen Company in the 1950’s, and by the end of the 50’s had acquired 70% of the European market.

By 1958, BIC a major player in the pen market had acquired 60% of Waterman Pens and by 1960 owned Waterman Pens outright.

BIC Ballpoint Pen Company dominates the market, selling cheap pens, whilst the likes of Parker, Sheaffer and Waterman sell the expensive Ballpoint Pens.

Pencils Rubbers Sharpeners

THE PENCIL: In 1564, in an area of Seat Waite Valley in Borrow Dale, England; Graphite which is a form of carbon was discovered, and so the first pencils were produced.

The main break through into the world of pencil technology came in 1795, when French chemist, Nicolas Conte used a mixture of fired clay and graphite before housing it in a wooden case.

Pencils got their name from the old English word meaning ‘brush’.  Conte’s method of Kiln firing powdered graphite and clay allowed pencils to be made to any hardness or softness.  The variations have changed over the years: H – 2H – 3H – HB – B – 2B – 3B and so the list goes on.

In the early days, pencils were sharpened by means of knives, similar to that used to shape feather quills.  Then in 1828 a French mathematician, Bernard Lassimone applied for a patent on an invention to sharpen pencils.  Then in 1847 Therry des Estwaux invented the first manual pencil sharpener, and the design is similar to that found in most stationers to-day.

John Lee Love an American designed the “Love Sharpener” a simple design yet portable.  The pencil would be inserted into an opening within the sharpener and rotated by hand.  Shavings would remain within the sharpener.  This was patented in November 1897.

In the early part of the 1940’s Raymond Loewy the first electric pencil sharpener, released by the Hammacher Schlemmer Company.

According to French scientist Charles Marie de la Condamine, South American Indian Tribes were using a form of rubber for attaching feathers to their bodies.  So it was in 1736, he brought a sample to the Institute de France in its natural form, for further studies on its possible applications.

Sir Joseph Priestley scientist stated in 1770 that he had observed a substance being used to wipe pencil marks from paper.  This same substance was brought back to France by Condamine.  Early types of rubber had their limitations, for it had a tendency to rot and crumble.

In came Edward Naime an English engineer and in 1770 he introduced rubber onto the market.

Charles Goodyear stepped into the frame in 1839, with his process to stop rubber crumbling, and make it a long lasting product.  He named his process: Vulcanization, after Vulcan, the roman god of fire.  In 1844 he patented his process.  Now that rubber had become a stable product, rubber or erasers became a product for removal of pencil marks on paper.

What I find quite interesting though.  Before we started using rubber or erasers to remove pencil marks from paper, our ancestors had used breadcrumbs.

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