Letters as Tools

Chefs have knives, carpenters have screwdrivers and saws, painters have canvas. Writers have letters and numbers. And so do journalers. I’ve long been fascinated by letterforms and shapes, by the rhythm of numbers and the flow of typefaces.

For a while, I had an ID bracelet that had the alphabet on it, along with the punctuation marks and the numbers from zero through nine. That, I realized, were the tools for everything I wrote. Twenty-six letters, 10 numbers, and six punctuation marks. It fit on a small bracelet, and all the speeches, letters, memos, bad news, good news and announcements in the English language were written with those. It was a humbling realization for a writer.

lettersMy art hinges on words and numbers, too. I’ve always expressed myself with writing, and letters and numbers have always been important in art, whether in found poetry or in collage.

Now I’m exploring writing as a background for collage. Part of this is an exercise in visual poetry, part of it is using writing as a collage element.


What I liked about the collage I did is that I wrote part of the background upside down, so it doesn’t make you want to read it, it’s just a pattern. The large words “Day” and “Night” complete the idea of “dream” and writing down your daydreams or your night dreams makes sense. But what is almost hidden is the small phrase “they are assembled and already in existence,” which completes the cross bars of the A, G, and H in the words Night and Day. It’s a reward for spending time looking closely at the collage. Another discovery.

This feels like a starting point. Again.

If you’d like to explore your journal’s content in a way that includes both art and writing, as well as confronting your inner critic, please join me on May 18 and 19 at the Minneapolis Center for Book Arts or July 22 through 26 in Madeline Island, Wisconsin.

–Quinn McDonald teaches what she does. Sometimes she knows more than other times, but she is always curious about what’s out there.