I started thinking about this topic the other day when Julie Enszer typed out "The Return," by Carolyn Forche, and posted it on the Wompo listserv. I asked Julie for her thoughts on the value of copying out an entire poem. Here's what she had to say:
"One of the things I was thinking about while typing the poem was the ways that Forche sustains the poem and expands it as a lyrical narrative. One of the things that I admire about all of the poems in this collection [The Country Between Us] are the concluding lines of stanzas and of the poems in general. In typing it out, though, I could see how she arrived at those lines. For instance, in this section she is concluding an anaphoric series of 'Tell them,'
Ann Lederer had this to say in reply to Julie's thoughts:
"In addition to being a learning tool, performing this beautiful ritual in longhand feels like a spiritual exercise akin to scribes painstakingly copying out sacred texts in calligraphy, or artists with easels set up in front of masterpieces. Each stroke, each letter is laden with import. In deep concentration, there is almost a sense of possession, a thrill of comprehension when a line break or comma placement counteracts one's own hunch. Not being a musician, I wonder what the similarities of this practice might be to playing music written by another."
And finally, Julie sent this response to Ann's thoughts:
"This is a fascinating observation. In Jewish law, one of the commandments is that each (man) shall write (copy) the Torah."