My Studio: Katherine Lawrence

Your office is a window that opens on to everything that has passed through your life.

Your office is a window that opens on to everything that has passed through your life. All the years of your childhood, every day yet to come, the centuries that preceded your birth.

It takes courage to enter your home-office. So you arrive armed: a cup of hot, dark-roast coffee, pencil arrow-sharp, a clock that rings at noon. Or midnight.

You hear the voices of your great-grandmothers on their way to market. You listen to the magpie’s cry and the sparrow’s non sequitur. You smell the cucumber relish your mother cooked on a sweltering hot day in July as Elvis Presley rocked the kitchen radio. You taste the spiced aftershave on your high school boyfriend’s neck. You hear the footsteps of your daughter as she visits a faraway hill of earth marked by a flat stone. And just as you feel yourself fall into sadness, a yellow pup comes bounding across the sky and crashes into the poplar tree that shades your office in summer. You knew that damned dog would track you.

Other days you have no choice but to stand from your wooden desk and shut the window tight. You need quiet. You’re a writer. You’ve got to think or the mess of words on your computer screen will disappear with a quick tap of the Delete key. That’s how powerful you are. No, delete that thought: that’s how little you know about writing poems.

More coffee, a couple of yoga stretches on your office floor. Clear-headed? Not a chance. Ready to face the page again? That’s right, you have no choice.

You open the window again but this time just a crack. Enough for one voice, one piece of advice or direction. And here it comes—Does this line serve me or does this line serve the poem? You consider this while you move the words around. You lean into the white spaces on the page, sip cold coffee, contemplate the pause. You search for the feeling-sense of the words, you listen, sniff the air, print a proof.