Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Candace de Taeye : My ( Small Press ) Writing Day

I do not have a room of one’s own. I usually write in an ambulance.

I have worked as a paramedic in Toronto for more than 13 years. I sometimes write in between calls, sometimes I knit instead. I’m trying to aimlessly scroll less on my phone.  If I’m writing it might be in a quiet corner at 45 station.  Here my partner and I have scavenged a mint green card table, a single wooden chair and small floral upholstered footstool from the curbsides of Rosedale. Admittedly there is not much ‘in station’ time for medics downtown. So, more often, I write in the passenger seat of the ambulance,  after I have disinfected the stretcher and restocked our equipment for the next call, while my partner finishes up the documentation.

I try to always carry a hardcover 5”x 8.25” journal- this is where I accumulate all the poem ‘fodder’. I scribble overheard bits of conversation, signage, questions that graffiti asks, a phrase from whatever book I might be reading, or ideas that have come to me more organically.

On days where I feel I might be lucky enough to compose some new writing I bring a soft cover 8.5”x11” cahier. These larger pages are where first drafts of poems are pieced together and hashed out.  It’s then easier to flip back though the various clusters of notes in the journal for ideas. I use the pen that is in my uniform pocket, the same one that is utilized for vital signs and medication lists. I am working on a manuscript of ‘work’ poems. Writing during the down time at work seems like a good way to keep the material authentic.

The city is vast as is the variety and pace of the people. Their spaces and their stories exist in such close quarters and are always bumping and mixing with one another. A lot of my own narrative is listening the stories that people want to share, and entering thousands of spaces that most other people will never see. From the private homes of every demographic, to bank vaults, bath houses, shelters, prisons, places of worship, back stages, even the undersides of subway cars. Everybody gets sick, injured or dies eventually. I do not wish to exploit other people’s histories, or claim them as my own. I do think I have a very unique privilege in being invited into these spaces while in an act of service to others.  Helping might mean defibrillation and CPR in one instance and making sure your cat is fed and you have shoes and a coat and your house keys for when you return from the hospital in another case.

I want to share my story, not unlike most writers. Though I have trouble writing myself into poems. They often come off as too surreal, abstract, a jumbled mix of source text and voices- just like Toronto. I’m working to get inside of more of my poems.

Candace de Taeye:  Lives in Guelph where her home life is the all-encompassing chaos of life with two small children, an array of aging pets underfoot, the detritus of toys, fur and mystery stickiness. She has had poetry most recently published in Arc, BAD NUDES, Carousel, CNQ, CV2, Grain, JoyPuke, Meat for Tea and Vallum. She has a chapbook Roe by PSGuelph, and a chapbook The Ambulance Act forthcoming from Frog Hollow Press.

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