1. The first picture is my "book table", with discrete piles: to be sold (mostly books dumped at our doorstep my mother-in-law while she was moving); received for review; translation; to be read/being read/borderline abandoned. Note also the baby stuff on the floor. We don't have a nursery per se, so a lot of Kaleb's stuff is in my office.
2. My messy desk. This is its usual state. Every now and then, I file the pile of papers to the right of the computer. The random things tacked to the board become wallpaper eventually. One of them's a ms. of Malcolm Lowry poems the editor wants me to respond to; keep meaning to do that...
3. The big picture. Hard to tell, but my window has a beautiful view of the next door neighbour's chimney. Note all the baby gear. A very candid shot.
DESK SPACE Who (bio, witty one liners)?
ZACH WELLS Writer (of poems and critical prose, mainly); blogger; editor; anthologist; translator; train service attendant; trans-Canadian, bilingual and tri-coastal; son, brother, husband and recently father.
DS When did you start writing, publish your first book (or when are you publishing your next)?
ZW My first book, Unsettled, was published in 2004, after seriously applying myself to writing for about six years. No doubt too soon. I've since published an anthology, featuring sonnets by 100 Canadian poets, including a certain Evie Christie. A children's book, co-written with my wife Rachel Lebowitz, is due out in September. Next year, I'll be publishing a second collection of poems, Track & Trace, and a collection of critical prose, Career Limiting Moves. I've also published three chapbooks and two ltd. ed. broadsides.
DS Where do you write (at your desk/outside/in bed)?
ZW I've been working in the transportation industry since I was 19, which means I'm often away from home, so my writing space tends to be similarly mobile, particularly since I got a laptop a few years ago. I write everywhere: on planes, on trains, in warehouses and hotel rooms. I have a desk at home. Sometimes I write there.
DS What are you working on now?
ZW According to my Canada Council grant application, I'm working on a collection of poems. Every now and then I manage to write one, so they're getting their money's worth. I'm also editing a first trade collection by a very good poet, Shane Neilson, and editing an "essential" selection of poems by the nearly forgotten Nova Scotia poet Kenneth Leslie. Besides that, writing book reviews and commissioning/editing same for Canadian Notes & Queries magazine, the finest literary journal in the land.
I love my workspace. It's simple, neutral and neat. What you can't see in the photo is the window to the left. It faces east. Under the window is a baseboard heater. On cool mornings I warm my feet on it while I'm reading poems. That's how I begin my day.
I spend much of my day at that desk. It faces the south wall. On the left is a small filing cabinet for current projects and research material. Right now it contains the latest drafts of a new collection of poems and the beginnings of a novel.
On top of the cabinet is a bulletin board where I pin fresh drafts of poems, the postcards that I receive from my pop culture mentor (including the ever disturbing "Penguin of Death" postcard), a list of books and movies, a newspaper clipping an artist sent me because she knew it applies to one of my projects, and a tiny ink sketch of a cat who is no longer with us. She used to sit up on the bookcases behind me and watch me work.
On the wall above the computer is a piece by Cara Winsor Hehir of St. John's, Newfoundland. I bought it a couple years back after I saw it on her blog. The female form is bold and strong. When I'm having doubts about my work I just look up.
To the right is a small bookcase where I keep a few reference texts and current reading. There's a black box on top which is full of postcards and letters from writers. A stuffed spider, a gift from a writer, sits on the lid.
On the left side of the monitor are some things that writers have given me over the years: a stuffed cat that's stuffed into a pen holder, a horseshoe off a horse named Willie, a cow-in-a-dress finger puppet inside an Aussie Kangaroo Pouch, three rocks and a little pewter chair. Just looking at them makes me feel lucky.
On the floor just to the right of me is a set of 10 lb weights. When I'm stuck on a line I'll pick them up and do some reps. And beside the desk is a step which I also use when I'm stuck. I get stuck a lot. But that's ok. At least I'm fit.
Of course the best part of my workspace is the wall of books behind me.
Brenda Schmidt's third collection of poetry, Cantos From Wolverine Creek, came out this spring. She lives in Creighton, a mining town in northern Saskatchewan. She can see Western Explosives, Ltd. from her window.