The furniture you see in this room belongs in a pressroom. It is also the furniture you’d see if you walked through my front door. These are typecases and they are filled with lead type. In the foreground, you see the paper cabinet, which is full of broadsides and paper for current and future printing projects. And that’s my press, a 1921 Chandler & Price, languishing in the far corner. What you can’t see: my desk, bookshelves, comfy chair, dining table, bed, dresser, sofa. You’d see these if you pulled-back-to-reveal. That’s because I live in a one-room studio in Vancouver with my husband of ten years. We are very close. I choose to show you my typecases because, technically, I should set type in this corner of the room but really I begin writing here. I like to work standing up and this furniture is perfectly slanted, like a drafting table, and exactly the right height. I learned to work this way while working as a printer’s apprentice at Barbarian Press in Mission BC. At first, a printer’s apprentice is made to stand for hours on end, day after day, as she disassembles text and puts it away. So I stood, for months, taking apart and putting away and turning to the notebook beside me to write (by hand) lines, notes, and what-have-you. It’s a very good way to work, especially since the act of writing can be particularly sedentary. Which is to say, I also work on more expected surfaces as well.
I have a desktop computer (Mac) onto which I copy my handwritten notes and lines and continue composition. I also use a laptop computer that I take with me whenever I’m away from home or just need to get away from the studio. I have always carried a notebook with me wherever I go. Now I try to carry a notebook and the laptop. I am hoping this will shorten the amount of time between note taking and composition. At a certain time when writing, let’s call it revision, I find it better to work in an electronic space. The work I do there is a lot more like sculpting than writing. It is a process of taking away and moving around and mucking about. Sometimes you get lucky and a piece presents itself to you but, more often than not, the work requires revision. Some writers I know are very into spontaneity and the lack of artifice spontaneity can bring. Sometimes I’m that writer, sometimes not. I don’t know if I could tell you where or how.
Elizabeth is the author of two books of poetry: Curio (BookThug, 2005) and Home of Sudden Service (Nightwood Editions, 2006) which was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for poetry. Her work has appeared in anthologies, literary journals, and on film in Canada, the U.S., and abroad, and has been translated into French and Chinese.