Tale of a Vandal Ink User: Poetry and Ink

April being poetry month, I read a lot more books than these two, but they were standouts for me:

The first is a nourishing book containing a wealth of poems. Jane Hirschfield, Ted Kooser, Naomi Nye Shabib, Joy Harjo, Mark Nepo, Ross Gay are only a few of the poets represented. I love this anthology and know I will pick it up, again and again, to read poems at random. One of my favorite poems is by Tony Hoagland. In “The Word,” he writes,

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you  have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli,” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight”
—excerpt, “The Word” by Tony Hoagland, How to Love the World, Edited by James Crews, Storey Publishing, 2021, ISBN 978-1635863864

We all need a moment of rest.

Hannah Vanderhart’s What Pecan Light came to my attention because I follow her on Twitter. A lot of new poetry recommendations come to me from poets on Twitter.

What Pecan Light is an important book worthy of our time and contemplation. This tiny volume faces both family and collective history with open eyes about what it is to be a Southerner in the face of lingering Confederacy and racism. Hannah looks frankly not just at collective history but their family history as well.

In one poem, she writes,

…I looked

at my family tree and wanted
to cut it down. To saw off limbs.

Cut roots that go too deep in the
—excerpt from “Confession,” What Pecan Light, by Hannah Vanderhart, Bull City Press, 2021, ISBN 978-1949344066.

Don’t be fooled. This is not a depressing, dark book even as it shines an unflinching light on whiteness, chicken farming, and what is true about the past and the present. There’s a lot of love in these poems.

In the poem, “The Supper Book,” she writes,

Somewhere along the way the word supper—meal had as the sun slips down—was lost./Supper: softer than dinner. Everyone settling like hens in the coop. If there was good-/ness in that house, it was the cornbread on the table…
—excerpt from “The Supper Book,” by Hannah Vanderhart, What Pecan Light, Bull City Press, 2021, ISBN 978-1949344066.

This is another book I’ll return to. The best books—the ones you read more than once, more than a handful of times—bring us poetry illuminating our understanding of who we are, push our collective story forward, and help in some way to heal our communal trauma.

What About the Ink?

Years ago, I began a series of posts called “Writing Down the Inks” when I was determined to lower the costs of my ink consumption. The chart below shows the ups and downs of a five year period:

Eventually, I settled on Sailor inks as my choice for colors and Pilot Blue-Black for everyday use:

In the Fall of 2015, I discovered Platinum Mix Free ink. Today my ink stash looks like this:

This set of inks, most significantly the Platinum Mix Free set, has worked out very well.

The Aurora Black came with the Aurora 88 pen. The Leonardo Blue came with the Leonardo Officina Memento Grande. I haven’t used the black ink yet, but likely will, as it’s said to be the gold standard of black fountain pen ink. The Leonardo Blue is almost gone. It’s a very nice ink with shading qualities, but I won’t replenish the blue because I don’t need it.

Pilot Blue-Black is used 99% of the time in my Pilot Decimo.

Pilot Blue-Black on Rhodia No. 18

The nine bottles of Platinum Mix Free may sound like a lot, but those nine produce a large variety of inks by mixing colors together. In my color mixing, I use six colors to create recipes: Earth Brown, Leafy Green, Aqua Blue, Sunny Yellow, Aurora Blue, Smoke Black. I tend to say away from the red shades: Silky Purple, Flame Red, Cyclamen Pink.

My Platinum Mix Free recipe “Olive Oil” is my everyday writing ink, my signature ink.

TWSBI Eco 1.1mm stub nib (old Staples Bagasse notepad, Platinum Mix Free “Olive Oil”)

Sailor Sei-Boku is used in the Decimo or Platinum Kanazawa for notes and when I want to change the color up. While it’s a great ink, it may not get replenished when it runs out.

Sailor Sei-Boku on Rhodia No.18

I always keep a bottle of Waterman Mysterious Blue—formerly Waterman Blue-Black— on hand.  Years ago, the ink was recommended by more than one vintage pen repairer as a gentle, safe ink to use if you have to troubleshoot a pen or for trying a pen for the first time.

Inks have different chemical properties. Some inks are dry, some are wet, and some are just right. Some inks clog your feeds, some inks eat vintage pen sacs and some smell. *ahem* Others have written about ink properties ad nauseum over the years, so if you’re curious, spend some time reading at Richards Pens to learn more.

Blah blah ink.

When the Montegrappa Chile Pepper pen came into my possession, I inked it with Waterman Mysterious Blue. There were issues with that combination. If the pen sat unused for a day, the pen was a hard starter. That is, when nib was put to paper, there was no steady flow of ink. When no ink appears, you have an irritating pen you stop using.

Fair or not, I pretty much blamed the hard starting on the pen’s steel nib. Why? I’ve seen far too many steel nibbed pens with poorly aligned tines, bad nib grinds, or “baby’s bottom.” There are other reasons a pen can be hard-starting, too, but the Chile Pepper had no discernable issues, including baby’s bottom. And so I wrote off the steel nib and plastic feed as poor delivery systems for ink. (Yes, this is a definite bias I have developed.)

Later on, when I inked the Chile Pepper up with PMF Olive Oil, the pen wrote perfectly every time. Like Sailor Inks, Platinum Mix Free inks are on the wetter side of inks and flow well.

Thank you, Platinum Mix Free. The Chile Pepper is fun to write with because of you.

Aurora 2Cart and Montegrappa Chile Pepper LE

The vintage Aurora 2Cart also had a writing issue—kind of bizarro opposite from the Chile Pepper. The first ink I used in the 2Cart was a PMF recipe, “Santa Fe Brown.” The ink feathered badly no matter the paper. I tried the 2Cart with other PMF inks and also with Pilot Blue-Black. The feathering continued. When a pen doesn’t perform properly, it’s no fun to use.

The pen sat idle until I realized the ebonite feed was sending more ink to the nib than it could handle. The PMF inks and (surprisingly) Pilot B-B were too wet for the feed and oversaturated it, a major cause of ink feathering. And so, out came Waterman Mysterious Blue. No more feathering.

Look at the word “Platinum” below for the jaggedness in the “P” especially. That’s feathering. Makes the writing look sloppy, and my scrawl needs all the help it can get. The Waterman sample looks crisp.

Aurora 2Cart: Santa Fe Brown feathering. Waterman Mysterious Blue, not feathering (forgive the ink smear that was me).

The Aurora 2Cart is fun to use again. Thank you, Waterman.

☮ →Note: The cost of my ink—not the consumption of ink—has been greatly reduced since leaning on PMF and Pilot BB.

Thanks for reading, dear friends. Please use a non-disposable pen that makes you happy. Meanwhile, stay kind and curious!

See you anon,

“Poetry is an egg with a horse inside.”
Third grader, as presented by Henri Cole to his students