Last Friday at ten in the morning I walked into Asquith Publishing in the Toronto Reference Library holding one of my USB memory keys. I walked out at eleven o’clock – one hour later – clutching a bound and printed copy of a book.
Exceeding vanity, I can tell you!
Nothing special about the book itself. The cover is plain white with black lettering. The back of the cover is a photo of blossoms doing what they do well (blossoming).
Nothing special about the poems either. (Well, OK! they ARE special; I wrote all of them)
This was an exercise; a vehicle for learning.
I wanted to know about the mechanics of the procedure for getting a book printed.
Now you can download text from Gutenberg Free Press and have it printed as a book; an ideal way to obtain an out-of-copyright and out-of- print version for your bookshelf or toilet cistern.
Or you can take thirty of your poems and tell yourself that because they are poems they don’t need to be copy-edited, proof-read etc., that they can just be arranged neatly on a page and then printed.
Which is what I did.
A rag-tag collection of poems I have written over the past twenty-five years.
And since Asquith issues a draft copy for minor corrective work, and since I have made major corrections, it follows that I have learned a lot.
Once this is out of the way I can give some serious thought to serious work on the four or five books that have been spinning at 5400 rpm Lo! These past twenty-five years …
I did not learn English.
By the age of four I was writing, reading, speaking and understanding English.
In high school I had five years of “English” leading up to the matriculation exam. A condition of entering University was a pass in English. We studied English. Undoubtedly we “did” grammar, parsing and the like. We studied plays by Shakespeare and stories by Henry James and so drearily on for one lazy afternoon after another.
I disliked studying English and much preferred Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry.
I spent three of my first five years in computing helping to design computer languages, and helping to build compilers to translate those languages into machine code. I continued this as a hobby up to and including this year, so I can use words like Lexical, Syntactic and Semantics with ease.
But I did not learn English; it just “came to me”.
Now I am helping out at the Better English Café Tuesday nights. I sit at a table with six or seven foreign students, each and every one of them wants to improve their English. They ask me questions about words and I try to answer their questions as best I can. I make notes on a piece of paper and once I am at home I grab dictionaries and books on writing style and try to get at the real answers I might have given had I learned English.
I am learning English.