Editing Modernism in Canada


September 11, 2010

An EMiC Year in Review

A year ago, Dorothy Livesay was just a name, vaguely connected in my mind with Canada and poetry. I had read a few of her poems in my 2000-level Canadian Literature class, but her writing had started to blur together with that of the other, briefly studied authors from that and subsequent English classes at Dalhousie.

This past year, my focus at EMiC was on Dorothy Livesay’s works: tracking down volumes we didn’t have in our office and scanning the ones we did. I learned to use a scanner that is probably worth more than my life, and how to coax a computer older than dinosaurs into running as smoothly as possible while simultaneously running Photoshop, Scan Wizard, and My.Dal. As I discussed in my previous post, I also learned how to use Photoshop, even if it was only to a basic extent (although, since then, my skills with correcting lens distortion have improved considerably).

At first, scanning these books was a very zen process that allowed me to focus on the coursework for my MA: in the minute and five seconds it took to scan an average page, I could read a paragraph of a novel for one of my classes, or draft a sentence for a research paper or seminar. While I loved working on the project itself, I wasn’t a Livesay scholar in particular, or even a Canadianist in general: Livesay was a name half-remembered from a second-year textbook.
And then, while checking a scan to make sure that the page number aligned with the file number, I read this:

A Tale
Only three things:
The hoarse cry of a crow,
A violet crushed,
And you, on the stairs.
Only three things.

And then I read this:

Not what you are
but what you are to me:
a stranger who’s at home
inside my eyes
shoots rainbows
down my spine
laughs at my absurd
long second toe
and wags the world away
upon my tongue.

And finally, this:
O dear my dear
too long did I rehearse your going on
and now it’s happened
I am chill, I mourn—
I hold a wooddove in my hand
his pulse with mine makes moan

My work at EMiC probably suffered in the last two terms for wanting to read every poem while scanning it (sorry!), and my harddrive has filled up with scans of poems that would echo in my thoughts for hours after my EMiC work was done for the day. Dorothy Livesay began to appear on my bookshelves at home, instead of just in stacks of books to scan at the library.

Going into this project, I was not a Canadianist. My university transcript still indicates that I am not, but because of EMiC, Livesay’s works have gained a prominent place in my literary affections. Training my replacement intern and turning in my key at the end of last month was a bit sad, but I’m very happy to have participated in this project. Livesay is no longer simply a name in a textbook to me—next, I’ll have to tackle P.K. Page!

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