Coming from the hard-knock world of secretaries and billing clerks, grappling with techno-advances in the workplace once seemed like a song. The turnover for “pink-collar workers” had accelerated for decades, starting with electronic typewriters. A gaggle of complaints flew up with each change, shocks coming every five years, then two, then every 18 months, then to whenever new office management came on board. Things chugged faster and faster, if typing speeds fell thanks to the ickiness of keyboard tabs, the visual bias of computer programs and the neutering of Gregg’s. When writing, I particularly enjoyed word programs and the rapidity of editing or restructuring poems, scripts, or stories. Cut-and-paste, an arduous task in the past, sometimes executed on hands and knees, had become pimp simple. The benefits of dot-communism (as one friend calls it) have been many, despite the drawback of “more paper faster” in a purportedly paperless world. Not so here. Laziness, or failure to make a hardcopy for backup of any worthwhile writing, exacts a horrible price, I unfortunately learned—as much as I loathe filing. Inspired by the blues poems of Langston Hughes and Sterling Plumpp, having composed a few myself, I began a new manuscript post-YK2. Painstakingly weaving my blues from scribbles on bits of paper and years of collected lines, my months of creative work vanished when my hard drive crashed. I wasn’t worried at first, until I realized I had made no hardcopies of the poems and my original notes had been scrapped.

Originally Published: December 20th, 2008

Poet and writer Wanda Coleman was a blatantly humanist artist who won much critical acclaim for her unusually prescient and often innovative work, but who struggled to make a living from her craft. In discussing “my life in poetry,” More magazine, April 2005, Camille Paglia said of Coleman: “She’s not...

  1. December 25, 2008
     Michael Walker

    When a line for something I'm working on hits me while at work, I scribble it down on a yellow post-it, then fold it in half so the adhesive won't stick in my pocket. When I get home I transfer it to the digital original of which I, too, have no hard copy. I'm going to stop throwing away the post-its now, maybe find a nice box for them. We lose a little something with progress, perhaps a lot of something. Sorry for yours.

  2. December 25, 2008
     Karen Peralta

    The thing that's nice about the Internet is I can dash off a quick twenty line poem about my past good old days bicycling in Ohio, polish it up in Word, and then post it to my poetry blog, publish it over at Poetry Publishers, submit it for the monthly contest at and submit it for potential publication at several online literary publications, all within half an hour of time. Yay, yay, yay for the World Wide Web!