Finding the Ell In Your Writing / by James belflower

If you've never scaled your page size down in Microsoft Word when writing, give it a try. As I began a new manuscript a few years ago I happened to scale my pages down to where the words were only shapes. I was able to consider it from a distance. This experience was much more important than I realized at the time.

Complete manuscript of James Belflower's Ell

I'm putting the finishing touches on this manuscript today. Titled Ell, it explores the idea of vulnerable architecture through verbo-visual poems about Philip Johnson's Glass House, a rectangle of eighteen foot high glass walls. The house is completely transparent except for the Brick Cylinder, which sits off center and hides the shower and toilet. The house is an extreme example of Mid-century minimalism and ascetic living. Attempting to articulate the importance of inhabiting the surfaces of architecture, the house became an important analogy for the construction of individual pieces of my manuscript. It allowed me to consider the project as a process of inscribing space. Like the glass walls themselves, this larger view made the text transparent, in the sense that it showed me the surface of words--that moment when they are more visual than verbal--rather than concealing them behind semantics. It also demonstrated how important the space of the page is to my writing. So give it a try, scale your pages down and consider the rapport your poems share when the words transition into graphics.