The beauty of writing by hand

By Jessica Durston - 26 January 2022

Arts and Culture
  • Maurice Spillane

    Maurice Spillane

A monthly column from Maurice Spillane of Poetry Swindon.

My friend, Ruth, has a beautiful hand, as the idiom goes.

She sends invitations and thank-you-notes in hand-written copperplate.

At first reading it’s like looking at a piece of art, the second reading is required to absorb the message.

I thought of her recently when a news report announced a trial to digitise hand-writing in school exams - the end of hand-writing for students. I was apoplectic. Why, oh, why?

In my business career, when I signed a contract, I’d send a hand-written note of thanks and did the same with the envelope. I always got a phone call to say thanks and “ lovely to get a hand-written note.”

As a writer I’m welded to my fountain pen.

Watching words create themselves in ink on paper is a joy. Crossing-out and finding a more apt word is a pleasure. Drawing a mind-map to explore a piece of writing to create a page that nobody could interpret is amusing.

Looking back on several drafts is fascinating. Only when a poem is ready for a collection is it ever typed.

And what a month for writing. Valentine’s Day is upon us and a poem to a loved one, hand-written of course, should be everyone’s objective.

As an aside, my own wife tends to react, playfully, with: “Not another bloody poem.” You can have too much of a good thing.

If composing is too much for you just personalise an existing poem and hand-write it yourself. Just don’t publish it! Here’s a delightful starter poem, “A Marriage,” written by Welsh poet, RS Thomas, to his wife:


We met

under a shower

of bird notes.

Fifty years passed,

love's moment

in a world in

servitude to time.

She was young;

I kissed with my eyes

closed and opened

them on her wrinkles.

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