25th Trillium Award

At the Desk: Paul Lisson

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Desk One.

For each book that sits on our shelves or rests in our hands, a writer has spent countless hours researching, organizing, writing and rewriting. In Open Book?s At The Desk series, writers tell us about their creative processes and the workspaces that inspire them.

Hamilton poet, artist and librarian Paul Lisson has a workspace like no other. In today's At the Desk feature, he takes us on a tour past the skulls, the working relics and the binary machine — into the heart of the attic, where the ghost (and the ideas) live.

Paul is the editor of Hamilton Arts and Letters, which has just released its special Fourth Anniversary Issue.


First one passes the bones, barbs, reliquaries, and thick oils of Fiona Kinsella?s makings. This sets a tone.

Ainos, a tale darkly told.

Up the stairs, to the attic. Where the skulls are.

Rugs cover floors and textiles cover walls and ceiling to create a Proustian deadening; a barrier.

Four typewriters. Another typewriter. One more typewriter. And the typewriter that belonged to Pearl S. Buck.

Rotary phone.

The essential books remain. The others were sold. The hourglass empties.

Desk One. Where writing happens. There are fast pens and pens that are not so fast. There are grades of paper: fine and less fine, more or less accepting of the ink?s drying. The same is true of typewriters: some are fast and others not so fast. Some go clackity-clackity-clack. Some go CLACK — CLACK — — CLACK-CLACK-CLACK. Each incision requires its appropriate instrument.

Desk One is also the place of editing. The privilege of intimate proximity. Blue pencils.

As Apt Reader I report rare instances of losing my way following Accomplished Writer: John Terpstra, John Porter, Jim Burant, Sima Rabinowitz, Jason Avery, Kim Neudorf, Bart Gazzola, Sally Cooper, James Deahl, Bernadette Rule, Vikram Bondai, David Cohen, Sara Knelman, Caroline Moran, Kåthe von Nagy, Peter Stevens, Samuel Isaac Robinson, Robert Clark Yates, Judith Fitzgerald, Michael Allgoewer, Endre Szkárosi, Anna Jane McIntyre, Martha Baillie, Megan M. Garr and Bruce Elder.

Desk Two. Home of the binary machine. Two sets of wooden hands. An online magazine.


  • Cigar boxes (hundreds)
  • Aromatic Gums, Spices, Sticks (glow as embers and emit)
  • Music (always music)
  • Smoke (Envelop. It is quite a three-pipe problem. It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep. Smoke your pipe and be silent.)
  • Small cups of potent coffee
  • Tumblers of potent murk
  • Nights are never long enough. And there is a ghost.

    Paul Lisson is married to the artist Fiona Kinsella. He is a librarian at the Hamilton Public Library, and editor of Hamilton Arts & Letters. The Ontario Arts Council says HA&L has the ?distinction? of being the first online magazine to receive funding from their Periodicals program.

    Paul is currently working on a book-length manuscript titled The Perfect Archive. He says it is about the way words mask ministerial terrorism.

    Paul?s poetry can be found in the current issue of Mid-American Review and will appear in an upcoming issue of Rampike.

    For more information, please visit him at his website.

    Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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