Thursday, January 22, 2015

On paper clips

In academic life, paper clips are like pennies — always there. When I need a paper clip, I just look at my desk — there are always a few clips around. (Five as I’m writing.) I find clips in my shirt pockets and at the bottom of my Lands’ End bag. When I find them holding together pages several years old, they have often left on the paper a deposit of rust that cannot be removed. When clips do not rust, they leave their imprints, ghost clips made of shadow. I remember on at least one occasion in college getting back a paper that I was sure the professor hadn’t read — the paper clip was still in place, and there was no sign that anyone had turned the pages.

Taking paper clips seriously has made me look strange to people who should know better. At Bob Slate Stationers I asked a salesperson what kind of paper clip it is that doesn’t rust. (Stainless steel? Brass?) She referred me to someone else: “He says there’s a paper clip that doesn’t rust.” But lady, it’s true.

Taking paper clips seriously has also made me look strange to people who don’t know better.

When I hear “paper clip,” I think of something made of metal, though lately I have been using plastic-coated clips. They remind me of the wire I used in science-fair projects involving batteries and tiny light bulbs. Coated clips add interesting touches of color — pink or purple looks especially zany holding together pages of a critical essay or book review. These clips have a shorter life: after holding together a thick sheaf of paper, they are bent forever. They are the paper clips of the future, to be used once and discarded.

Paper clips are in some unprovable way more mature than staples: teachers staple exams for you, but they don’t provide paper clips.

A related post
Paper clips (A prose poem)

[Found in an old looseleaf notebook, from a writing course I taught in 1990-something. The assignment was to write about a small subject. I did the assignment along with the class. The other topics, all of the students’ invention: a chip clip, colors (black, blue, red), crayons, flowers, a fork, a full moon, the number 76, a paintbrush, paper, a Q-Tip, a ring, a toothpick. Remember the Lands’ End canvas briefcase? In 2015 it comes in only two colors, and reviews are mixed. I now suspect that coated clips are the only ones that do not rust.]

comments: 2

The Crow said...

Love this: "...ghost clips made of shadow."

I treasure phrases, sentences, other expressions from the heart (yes, that's where they reside or are created) which snag my attention, make my brain do a double-take then settle into some quiet corner for me to stumble across when I need something beautiful to think about.

Thank you, Michael.

Michael Leddy said...

You’re welcome, Martha. As I transcribed, that phrase felt a little over the top, but I liked it. And I was surprised to see it, along with the rest of this writing.