Editing Modernism in Canada


Author Archive

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!

June 30, 2010

Scans and Trainees

I have recently discovered that working in the McCain Building’s lovely EMiC office makes one accustomed to (relative) luxury: plenty of desk space, sleek Mac computers with two screens and the ability to attach the mouse on either the right or left hand side—a war which Vanessa and I wage daily—and natural light. By contrast, the small, enclosed Killam library scanning room and its dinosaur of a PC most definitely constitutes roughing it. Also, the Powers that Be at in the library also need to learn the difference between making a room air conditioned, and making a room into a walk-in freezer. I get odd looks carrying coat, scarf, and gloves to work when it’s 30C outside, but they are all must haves.

All part of the day’s work in the treacherous, thrill-a-minute world of scanning works by Dorothy Livesay!

Last week was a break from the zen-like repetition and solitary pursuit that is image scanning, as we had a few new trainees to the scanning room. They won’t be joining the EMiC team but, as one of the resident scanning “experts” (please note the scare quotes), it was my pleasure to walk them through the process of multiple switches, passwords, finicky focusing tricks, and other preemptive troubleshooting issues. Aside from one light which absolutely refused to function, I think it was a success; teaching it to someone else made me step back to consider the process which has become almost automatic since I was trained back in September.

(Of course, half an hour later, they returned to let me know that they’d likely be using a different scanner after all, but it was fun all the same!)

This week, as the periodical I wanted to scan next was absent from the library shelves, I turned from scanning images to editing some of the scans that Kate and I have spent the last few months compiling. I’ve never used Photoshop before today, but fortunately I remembered something of Macromedia Fireworks from a computer class I took in high school. The clone stamp tool to erase imperfections from the images—of particular use given the age of these texts and the propensity of some people to underline library books in pen—is the same between programs, at least.

Although my focus is on Livesay’s poems and articles within the periodicals, the cover art on some of the issues is lovely. The covers are also the pages most frequently marred with pen or library stamps. Below is one of the images that I tweaked today.

BEFORE: a section of the original, unedited scan:

AFTER: the same section after rotating, cropping, and removing the library mark.

Fairly basic stuff, still, but I’m pleased with how it turned out. If anyone reading this has any Photoshop tips they’d care to share…? Right now, I am still working out some issues of brightness/contrast and the coloration of the scans—some of the originals look a bit washed out, and I’d like to fix that in the edited copies. I’ve tried colour matching to other scans and the results have, so far, been fairly satisfactory, but any other suggestions would be welcomed.

Happy almost Canada Day!